Chivalric Romance as Sadomasochistic Erotica

In the following study How Venus Got Her Furs: Courtly Romance as Sadomasochistic Erotica, sadomasochism is shown to characterize the European sexual relations contract in the form of masochistic-chivalry and romantic love. It can also be observed that the same sadomasochistic culture has spawned the rise of gynocentrism, feminism, and the essentially male servicing of these same traditions.

Article reprinted here by permission of Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Titanism: chaos against order

The Gigantomachy (Gods clash with agents of chaos) – Museo Nacional del Prado.

Throughout history we witness the continuing fight between powers of order and those of chaos, a battle that takes place simultaneously within our psyche and in the cultural scene. The optimal position between these two forces is the establishment of a ‘lightweight’ cultural order, a structural edifice that stops short of becoming a stifling tyranny, while simultaneously allowing for a flourishing of human spontaneity that keeps chaos and destructiveness at bay.

Understood via the language of mythology, both monotheism (singular order) and polytheism (ordered multiplicity) provide protections against chaos, although the monotheistic mindset might argue that polytheism is itself a form of chaos – a charge that falls flat on further investigation. Polytheistic culture, with its participatory democracy among the gods, provides a helpful restraint against chaos via the following routes:

  1. Individual gods & their cults apply restraint against over-reach by other gods and their cults.
  2. The Olympian pantheon is governed by the principle of inclusive democracy.
  3. Tragedy in myth serves as a warning against disintegrative practices of hubris, narcissism and lawlessness.
  4. Representation of Titans as forces of unstructured (and deconstructing) excesses are actively suppressed by ordered Olympian society.

Polytheism can thus be understood as a framework embracing a plurality of value systems, social customs, and political structures. In his excellent book The New Polytheism (1974), David Miller contrasts polytheism’s ‘many centres of order’ with the alternative of chaos:

Polytheism is the name given to a specific religious situation. The situation is characterized by plurality, a plurality that manifests itself in many forms. Socially, polytheism is a situation in which there are various values, patterns of social organization, and principles by which man governs his political life. These values, patterns and principles sometimes mesh harmoniously, but more often they war with one another to be elevated as the single center of normal social order. Such a situation would be sheer anarchy and chaos were it not possible to identify the many orders as each containing a coherence of its own. [Miller, 1974]1

To Miller’s observation about intra-warring tendencies within polytheism I would also add that the monotheistic mindset engages in a comparable extra-warring tendency toward individuals and societies possessing contrary religious values, thus rendering moot any distinction between monotheism and polytheism when it comes to a war reflex. The benefit of polytheistic theology, however, is an inbuilt assumption that a variety of gods and their imperatives belong within the overall pantheon – whereas monotheism is more often “jealous” about the right to hold exclusive power.

The chaos that both monotheism and polytheism negate was personified in Greek mythology by the Titans, and I will use the rest of this article to explore the nature of these mysterious and destructive figures.

The Titans were never well defined, certainly not with the sharp borders and contours typical of the Olympians with their respective domains of interest, so on that basis the Titans fall short of the clear structuralism we reserve for archetypes. We could perhaps stretch the notion of archetypes into a rubbery shape, as did one author who proposed that it’s possible to view Titanism as the “archetype of excess,” but this clear definition belies their shapeshifting, amorphous and ultimately form-destroying natures.

Much confusion has arisen within Jungian circles as to what constitutes an archetype. While excessiveness or destructiveness are certainly part of our human repertoire, they fall short of what we might call complex personality structures, acting instead as singular impulses, functions, or instincts. The question Jungians often ask is should we refer to singular functions as ‘archetypal’ in nature? The Greeks for example personified complex figures such as Aphrodite and Apollo which are reasonably referred to as archetypal patterns, but the Greeks also personified instinctual functions such as Phobos (fear), Phthonos (envy), Nemesis (revenge), Oizys (misery), Limos (hunger) etc. which lacked the complexity of the Olympian archetypes. For this article then, we will stick with the practice of naming simple impulses or instincts such as titanic destructiveness as functions, and reserve the word archetypal for the more elaborate configurations.

The very first observation associating Titans with Chaos comes from Hesiod’s Theogony (700 BC) where he tells that upon being defeated by the Olympian order, the Titans dwelt beyond the threshold of Chaos:

“There lies the sources and the limits
of black earth and of mist-wrapped Tartaros,
of the barren sea, too, and of the starry sky,
and they are grim and dank and loathed even by the gods.

There stand the gates of marble and the threshold of bronze,
unshakable and self-grown from the roots that reach
deep into the ground. In front of these gates, away from all the gods
dwell the Titans, on the other side of murky Chaos.”2

So, as Hesiod tells, the Titans have their dwelling in murky chaos far away from the Olympian gods, suggesting that these two forces cannot mix to form a harmonious synthesis.

Jungian author Rafael Lopez-Pedraza provides the first analysis from an archetypalist point of view, detailing specific features of Titanism in the following survey:

“Kerenyi gives us a general picture of the psychology of the Titans: no laws, no order, no limits. For didactic purposes, we can say that, just as the Greeks thought of the Titanic times as the reign in earlier times of more savage celestial Gods, in the ontogenesis of man, there have also been Titanic times. Our adolescence probably contains a large element of Titanism — excess, unboundedness, lawlessness, chaos, barbarism and so on…

Let us push this Titanic element even further. Kerenyi’s view of the Titans, that they represent a particular function, is perhaps what I am trying to get at concerning this Titanic ingredient which exists in us all. However, we are faced here with a difficulty; a function suggests something specific, whereas Titanism seems so disparate and wild…

I have already mentioned the well-defined Gods and Goddesses with their consistent images; in other words, the archetypes. Nilsson again: “Anthropomorphism has, therefore, a characteristic limitation.” If that is so, it is difficult to see the Titans (whose main characteristic is excess) as archetypes with their own inherent limitation, and even more difficult to see them as the images of an archetype. Furthermore, Nilsson states: “The Titans are abstractions or empty names of whose significance we cannot judge.” So to call the Titans archetypes, or even representatives of a particular function, is a bit risky. If we were to follow Kerenyi on this point and agree that the Titans represent a particular function, then the Titans, with their excessiveness, could be called the archetype of excess.

Nevertheless, in poetry and iconography the Titans are personified, represented as forms, enabling us, perhaps, to broaden our view of anthropomorphism and imagine the forms of the Titans as a sort of borderline anthropomorphism. Personally, I prefer to view them as mythological figures representing mimicry and excess, for they are not archetypal configurations. In order to gain insight into this mimetism, jargon and excess, we need a strong archetypal training and point of view; it is only by having those well-defined forms as a background that we can have insight into what is, by definition, formless in human nature…

We have the literature running from Camus’ The Outsider, published during the war (in 1942), to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, to confirm this impression. I connect what Camus and Burgess expressed in their novels, in terms of mythology and Archetypal Psychology, with the Titanic level in man which we have been tracking: no laws, no order, no limits — in short, excess. Once again, it is literature which has opened the door to an exploration (which we in psychology are just beginning) of those levels in man where the Titan lurks. But, following Kerenyi again, we have to accept that, in the history of human life, the Titanic expresses itself where we are excessive. In this sense, the Titanic could be, if not an archetype, then a particular function.”

Note his use of several descriptors of the Titans – such as no laws, no order, no limits, formless, excess, savage, unboundedness, lawlessness, chaos, barbarism, disparate and wild, etc. – which we can use, along with other descriptions, to construct a final picture of titanism below.

The next excerpt is from James Hillman’s article titled And Huge Is Ugly: Zeus and the Titans,4 in which he singles out the presence of destructive excess:

“A sign of the absence of the gods is hugeness, not merely the reign of quantity, but enormity as a quality, a horrendous or fascinating description, like Black Hole, Conglomerate, Megapolis, Trillions, Gigabytes, Star Wars. Whether presented in the images of multinational corporations, polluted oceans, or vast climatic changes, hugeness is the signature of the absent god. Or, let us say that the divine attributes of Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence alone remain. Without the benevolent governance of qualifying divinities, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence become gods. In other words, without the gods, the Titans return.

Are we re-enacting the beginnings of things as recounted by the Theology of Hesiod? The first great task of the gods was to defeat the Titans and to thrust them in Tartarus where they were to be kept away from the human earth forever. Zeus then married Metis (intelligence or measure); lay with Themis (who bore him Hours, Order, Justice, Peace, and the Fates); lay with Eurynome, through whom came the Graces; with Mnemosyne, mother of the Muses, and with Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis. These archetypal principles and powers come into the world only when titanism is safely kept at bay. The cultured imagination and the imagination of civic order begins only when excess is encompassed.

Titans were imagined as Giants; in fact, the popular imagination, says Roscher, never distinguished between Giants and Titans. The root of the word titan means: to stretch, to extend, to spread forth, and to strive or hasten. Hesiod’s own etymology (Theogony 209) of titenes is “to strain.” This straining, striving effort suggests that the major contemporary complaint of stress is the feeling in the Promethean ego of its titanism. (Prometheus is perhaps the most well-known of the Titans, the figure whom Kerényi has called “the archetype of human existence,” thereby pointing to the titanic propensity in each of us.) Stress is a titanic symptom. It refers to the limits of the body and soul attempting to contain titanic limitlessness. A true relief of stress begins only when we can recognize its true background: our titanic propensity.

We may note a difference between titanism and hubris. Hubris is a human failure to remember the gods. When we forget or neglect the gods, we extend beyond the limits set by the gods on mortals, limits given mainly by Zeus through his union with Metis, Themis, and Mnemosyne.

Titanism, however, takes place at the level of the gods themselves. We are not Titans nor can we become titanic – only when the gods are absent can titanism return to the earth. Do you see why we must keep the gods alive and well? Small is beautiful requires a prior step: the return of the gods.


“Despite evidence of flagrant titanism all around us, the Titans themselves are invisible, like the black night sky of Uranos, their terrible father, and hidden by their mother, Gaia, in her deepest womb. They are sometimes imagined as ghosts. They work invisibly in darkness and in the impulses and fantasies arising from the depths. López-Pedraza points out, referring to the mythologists Nilsson and Kerényi, that the Titans – because they are invisible or unimaged – therefore do not have limits. Without image they become pure expansion. Hence, their punishment requires severe limitations: the chains that bind Prometheus; incarceration in Tartarus.

Limitation in our society tends to mean repression. We imagine the defeat of excess by means of tougher laws, harder education, severer systems of management control. However, the cure of enormity through more discipline is but an allopathic measure, a cure through the opposite which often leads to a righteous puritanical totalitarianism. The correction of one titanism can easily convert into another sort, e.g., totalitarian moralism, unless we understand what Zeus is truly about: the ordering power of the differentiated imagination: polytheism.


“Though the Titans may be invisible, an unimaged limitless greed locked inside human nature, titanism is all around. It strikes the ears, the membranes and eyeballs and fingers. Our senses touch and recoil. Repulsed by the huge and the ugly, we close off the world. We grab a bite on the run, drive thru our days. The common world is lost to sense, and too, the words of sense, the common descriptive language of adjectives and adverbs that give texture and shading. Instead, a titanism of acronyms and the justification for the ugly and the huge with abstract imageless reasons named economy, practicality, time-saving, comfort, accessibility, convenience, and national security.4

In this excerpt Hillman provides a further list of signifiers for the titanic impulse, each associated with his core focus on the sequalae of formless excess; specifically an expansive, striving, spreading, straining and stretching toward outcomes of hugeness and enormity, ultimately to demonstrate an existence without boundaries or limits.

Lastly I will give five of the most popular dictionary definitions of titanism, which are as follows:

  • OXFORD: 1. An attitude of resistance to, or defiance of, the established order of things; especially one which is grandiose or romantic but ultimately futile. Compare note at “Titan”. 2. The quality or fact of being titanic; very great size or power.
  • MIRRIAM-WEBSTER: Defiance of and revolt against social or artistic conventions
  • COLLINS: A spirit of defiance of and rebellion against authority, social convention, etc.
  • DICTIONARY.COM: Revolt against tradition, convention, and established order.
  • THEFREEDICTIONARY.COM: Revolt against tradition, convention, and established order.

Based on the descriptions above we can now distil a summary of the traits associated with Titans and titanism, with its driving impetus toward chaos: Titanism is the drive towards destruction of established structures in both self and society in preference for a state of anarchy, chaos and excessiveness.

That, then, is the definition of titanism based on the above sources. While the overall picture is one of destructiveness, it should also be noted that the Titans of mythology created the very first environment, a kind of tabula rasa, on which the Olympians could build their social order. They can be further understood to preside over the process of entropy that works to break down established structures after they become encrusted and repressive – an impetus we have formalised in the philosophical obsession with deconstructionism and post-structuralism. These however are phases of the civilizational cycle, preferably short lived to minimise the suffering associated with violence and breakdown.

We’ve seen the titanic drive emerge at numerous points throughout history, especially in the closing phases of empires, and we are witnessing it again in Western social trends today, destructive trends that are overtly violent or often disguised behind a kind of postmodern deconstructionism which serves as camouflage for what in essence is that same impulse for destruction and chaos. We are witnessing the end of architectural uniformity, responsible individualism, free speech, self-restraint, modesty, manners, social hierarchy, familiar understandings of gender, family cohesiveness, national pride, and many other structures previously enjoyed as norms.

As social unrest increases and our streets continue to burn, we can hope that a well prepared Olympian family awaits in the wings to address the chaos, preferably sooner rather than later.


[1] David L. Miller, The New Polytheism: Rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses, (1974)
[2] Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, Translated by A. Athanassakis, (1983)
[3] Rafael Lopez Pedraza, Cultural Anxiety, (1990)
[4] James Hillman, And Huge Is Ugly: Zeus and the Titans, in Mythic Figures, (2007)

Men, relationships and hate sex


Hate sex. Those two words appearing together come across as awkward, even oxymoronic, for who in their right mind hates sex? Its true that we might hate sex with the wrong person according to our criteria of what’s hot, but very few people in this world hate sex altogether.

The phrase hate sex however isn’t intended to suggest a person hates sex, but rather that they desire it with a person they are currently fighting with or alienated from.

Other variations on the phrase include rage sex, grudge sex, and angry sex, each offering slightly different meanings but often tied together in the act of having sex with someone you don’t feel so good about.

Sex of this kind is widely believed to be more intense than normal sex, and for that reason “We love having make-up sex” is a common euphemism for angry grinding.

The begging question is why would a couple want to have sex if they are experiencing serious resentment or alienation?

One school of psychology provides some answers.

British Object Relations psychologists claim that if relationship bonds are constantly rendered insecure then the desire for sex is harnessed as a way to reinstate vanishing relationship security. When relationships become fragmented, weak or broken, we desire to be more in synch again, more loved, more on the same page. We want to reaffirm that our future together is secure, that we can still walk into the sunset hand in hand, worldview intact.

Instead of that security, we feel the relationship has become tenuous, hanging by a thread, on the verge of dissolving into….. the unknown. Insecurity and anxiety reign. In this scenario hate sex is utilized in the service of fixing weak intimate bonds, an instinctual attempt to repair those bonds through the complex release of hormones that ultimately serve to re-establish love and connection.

The theory that sex repairs a failing relationship bond was first proposed back in 1941 by psychologist Ronald Fairbairn, who announced a deviation from the traditional Freudian formula that humans are primarily pleasure-seekers. For Fairbairn we are first and foremost “object seekers” by which phrase he means seekers of other people to have relationships with:

“Freud spoke of libidinal aims and defined these aims in terms of erotogenic zones – as oral aims, anal aims and so on. What he described however are not really aims but modes of dealing with objects; and the zones in question should properly be regarded, not as the dictators of aims, but as the servants of aims… The real libidinal aim is the establishment of satisfactory relationships with objects; and it is, accordingly, the object that constitutes the true libidinal goal.”1

Fairbairn’s position is summarized, in the words of, by stating that the primary motivational factors in one’s life are based on human relationships, rather than sexual or aggressive triggers. Object relations is a variation of psychoanalytic theory which diverges from Freud’s belief that we are pleasure seeking beings; instead it suggests that humans seek relationships.

The Object Relations theorists view hate-sex as a way to potentially relieve tension over failed or failing relationships, and also as a vehicle by which that relationship might be re-established. The theory is summarized perfectly by Fairbairn who says, “Explicit pleasure-seeking is thus not a means of achieving libidinal aims, but a means of mitigating the failure of these aims.”

“Pleasure-seeking is not a means of achieving libidinal aims,
but a means of mitigating failure of these aims.”

Is it true that sexual pleasure is a way to mitigate and repair failing relationships? The urgency of hate-fucking as it arises on top of a fierce argument appears to support this hypothesis, and if we accept it we are faced with a revision to the goals of our pleasure-seeking culture – no longer is sex an act of pleasure alone but a psychobiological reflex intended to repair relationship damage and foster attachment.

That such damage is rife in modern relationships is undeniable. The misandry, misogyny, gynocentrism and the growth of cultural narcissism are enough to make any intimate bond unravel, including those of biological family. As mentioned in another article the toying with relationship bonds to extract compliance from a partner is a particular cause for weakness.

As cruel as it sounds, withholding affection, sex, approval and love have become part of women’s repertoire employed to coerce men into compliance and servitude (eg. “If you don’t earn more money, I’ll stop loving you”) – a coercion that men often acquiesce to in order to salvage what feels like an increasingly fragile relationship bond. Indeed, one of the core strategies of romantic love is to keep the relationship bond in the realm of tantalizing denial, a formula that emulates the techniques of animal behaviorism, but instead of the model being learned from Skinner or Pavlov, it is taught by grassroots dating culture; the message being to keep your man in a position of uncertainty. Aside from other relationship tensions, this approach to relationships is one that potentially elicits the insecure grudge fuck.

The obsession some men have with sex, porn, prostitutes, sexbots, sex toys etc. raises a question of whether the intensity is partly driven by frustrated opportunities for human attachment, with hate-sex themes arising from unconscious aims of mitigating relationship frustrations. Whatever the case, it’s an open question as to why some men indulge in hate fucking and fantasizing about same. More broadly, we might ask why any securely-attached couple would bother nursing regular grudges and hate in the first place? The answer is, securely attached couples probably wouldn’t!

Next time you hear someone talk about hate sex as if it were fun, just a little “make up” sex as they like to call it, consider how much fun is really involved in a big picture of that relationship. If hate sex is an attempt to repair relationships damaged by emotional manipulation, alienation and abuse — especially if happening on a regular basis — then it’s about as far away from fun as you can possibly get.

*This revised articled first published on June 23, 2017.


[1] Ronald Fairbairn, Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality, pp. 82-83

Further reading:

Don’t Make Love, Make Hate: Have You Ever Hate-F*cked?
Why You Should be Having Sex With the Man You Hate

Servant, Slave and Scapegoat

By Paul Elam

“The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified mis-understanding. ‘Live,’ Nietzsche says, ‘as though the day were here.’ It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal––carries the cross of the redeemer––not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.”  

Joseph Campbell ~ The Hero with a Thousand Faces

♦ ♦ ♦

Anyone suggesting that they have ideas that will actually help men, psychologically speaking, has an obligation to place their philosophy, their rationale, front and center for men to see. I also understand that most practitioners don’t really do that, especially in what I loosely define as the “mental health” industry.

Usually what you get is a short and sputtering list of platitudes about “wholeness,” finding your “inner this” or “inner that,” accompanied by an obscure definition of the practitioner’s approach. It is either that or you get nothing but the bill.

Sometimes, often actually, they will inform you that they subscribe to feminist theory, which is an admission of their philosophy, except to the extent that it should be viewed cautiously, regardless of your sex.

This writing is intended to explain what I do in regards to assisting men, specifically in their more modern struggle for identity and an understanding of where they fit in the world. This is particularly important as the lack of those things may well result in some serious problems. Among them are family dysfunction, substance abuse, suicide, violence, anxiety, depression, shame and a lack of self-respect that often crosses the line into self-hatred.

It is not that the current crisis of male identity is the sole cause of these problems. It certainly isn’t. For example, family dysfunction is a self-perpetuating malady passed down from parents to children. In and of itself it has little to do with modern masculinity. Alcoholism is not a “male problem,” nor is violence or other forms of abuse, though those practicing under a feminist shingle may send that very message.

When assessing problems, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between cause and symptom, between a problem and its source. Does family dysfunction cause substance abuse or is substance abuse the cause of the dysfunction? Is violence at the root of relationship problems or do relationship problems fuel and promote the violence? Do communication problems cause hostility or does hostility cause communication problems?

Are all these problems symbiotic, just a teeter-totter interaction of various pathologies feeding each other? If so, can we ameliorate one problem by successfully intervening on another?

I suggest that there may be some truth answering those last two questions in the affirmative. There are, however, workarounds, back doors if you will, to what may well form part of the root structure of an array of problems with no readily visible connection. The good news about that is that you don’t need to see the connection initially in order to do something about it.

The philosophy here is that solutions begin with a recognition that there is indeed a crisis in male identity and male self-respect. It affects all of us, gay or straight, black or white or other race, regardless of religion or socioeconomic status.

Fifty years of gender politics have thrust all men into a new paradigm of sexual politics with no rule book. We are now three generations of men who have been pummeled with messages of who we are, almost all of them wrong, and who we are supposed to be, almost all of them destructive in one way or another. Our mental health industry is one of the prime proponents of these misguided ideas. They are espoused, for profit, at the expense of our men and boys.

The Old School Archetypes

The classic, historical masculine archetypes of Hero, Villain, Ruler, Warrior, Creator, Sage, Rebel and Explorer, all of which either defined what men chose or what they were driven to be. They provided men a model of what they chose not to be as well. They gifted men with a sense of identity and purpose, a rudder for their navigation of life. To a great degree (with some downsides) they worked. Jungian analysts, in the days before the ideological corruption of the field of psychology would likely tell you that these archetypes are rooted in our biology.[1]

It is also important to note that all these archetypes are anthropomorphic projections of the human male experience. They took root in our earliest mythologies because they were already in play in human life. Strangely, “mythology” told the real story of our lives. Every epic battle, great journey, tragedy and triumph of mythical figures mirrored the internal and external experience of real human beings in some way or another.

And so it went from epoch to epoch.

All that has been supplanted with a new and toxic narrative. To simplify it, we now live in a Zeitgeist where all male archetypes have been reduced to that of Villain, with the expectation that they will assume the role of Hero when needed…and directed.  The ongoing expectations of men to protect, provide, sacrifice and endure have not changed. The change in narrative, however, demands that recognition and honoring of those things ceases in favor of persistent demonization.

Similar changes have happened in the lives of women. The Manipulator, the Bitch, the Saboteur, the Queen and the Damsel in Distress have usurped the timeless archetypes of mother (Demeter), daughter (Persephone), lover (Aphrodite), civic life and learning (Athena), etc.. While all these and other female archetypes are on full social display, the spectrum of those archetypes has begun to degrade into a vacillation between two roles based on immediate perception. Women are universally seen as the Queen, unless they are in distress or claim to be in distress. Once the perception of female distress registers, social consciousness reverts them to being the original Damsel in Distress. It is as though they live in a perpetual state of flux between empowered and helpless, depending on which is more advantageous, just as we see play out today across the geopolitical landscape.

That, too, is ultimately heading for a crisis of identity in women, though for the purpose of this discussion we need not explore that further.

The denial of all this, and the assumption that it has not had a tremendous impact on the psyches of men, has left them in an emotional and social wasteland that produces more of the psychosocial problems already identified in this writing.

This leads to an inescapable conclusion. While men do need assistance with specific problems, they are also suffering in a famine of functional archetypes. Failing to recognize this, even if we seek in earnest to help them with problems symptomatic of that deficit, is putting a Band-Aid on potentially mortal wounds.

If we are to help men, it requires us to enable them to nurture a new narrative of themselves and their lives. They need new archetypes that foster a new sense of identity if they are going to thrive in a new age.

So what exactly is an archetype?

The Greek root words are archein, meaning “original or old,” and typos, meaning “Model or type.” Archetype: Original Model. Archetypes are the old, original models on which men, in the unconscious recesses of their biology, shape and mold their lives.

Perhaps in the days when there were payoffs, e.g. honor, appreciation, respect and status, men’s unconscious movement toward one archetype or another made more sense.

We do not live in those times any more, and we haven’t for most or all of your lifetime. What remains for most men in modern life is a world of expectation without reward, burden without honor and service without self.

Most men know on some level that this is true, but many have a very hard time facing it out of fear. Fear of the loss of social approval, the loss of love and the loss of what they imagine is the only space the world grants them.

Some of the fear is at least superficially warranted. Facing these issues means reaching a level of consciousness sufficient to make you a bad fit in the world of the walking blind. It means a new mythology with new archetypes born of a newer and more accurate picture of the world.

The daunting challenge is that men can no longer afford the luxury of allowing biology alone to write their story. Technology and ideology have rendered that too dangerous. The old model makes men far too easy to manipulate and far too willing to comply with the manipulation to their own detriment. You can find this same story throughout classic mythology so it is nothing new. Those, however, were cautionary tales, the moral lesson from which has been erased from the cultural consciousness. Most dare not speak honestly of Hera and Medea in the modern age.

The results of that resembles a modern genocide of the male soul.

Fortunately, that which has been forgotten can be learned again. And that which has been learned in error can be corrected. The fruits of that effort are the restoration and “wholeness” so easily promised and seldom delivered.

The risks of embracing this on a personal level is actually an illusion. Once you walk the newer path you will most probably find you don’t particularly want to return to the old one. The feigned approval of others loses its luster when the vision clears.

Despite appearances, all of this is really not so arcane. It is actually quite simple. You can start with most any problem in life; relationship and family issues are a good start. Map the mythology that got you there, that determined your actions and reactions. Were you playing the role of the Hero? The Warrior? Were you surrendering to the Siren’s Song? Was the Damsel in Distress a façade with something more sinister behind the surface impression?

Did a faulty narrative of your place and worth in this world lead you directly into a painful wall? And if that is true, do you have the fortitude to face it and change the story?

Imagine the consciously constructed mythology that would lead you to a better place with better people. Imagine the story of you being written by your own hand.

The solutions are not always easy, but they are made much more accessible when you make the decision to clear your own path; when you are at the helm, navigating your own way, when the stars in the sky are arranged according to your own dreams and desires.

How many miserable professional men out there can remember a time when they aspired to be artisans, writers or artists, only to watch those dreams buckle beneath the oppressive weight of a story that they did not write?

How many desperate men are clinging to the role of provider and protector, having become automatons in loveless, abusive marriages that have ground their self-respect into the dust?

How many men have stories that end with a bottle of scotch and a handgun because they cannot breathe and do not know where to find free air?

Men need an alternative to the new mythology’s archetypes of Servant, Slave and Scapegoat. The only thing preventing that from happening is being trapped in or clinging to a narrative they did not produce and which has never served them.

We have seen the results of men living in a world that is devoid of any honoring of men’s roles or even of men’s being. How can men cope in this sort of world?  How can therapists or anyone else facilitate a man moving from this restrictive, prison-like consciousness into a more truly masculine path that embraces his well-being, self-interest and happiness?

That is what my work is about. Not just a place for men to tell their stories, but to author and own them with support and encouragement from other men.

[1]Andrew Samuels, Jung and the Post-Jungians ISBN 0415059046, Routledge (1986)

James Hillman: Gender and Individuality

The space devoted in Utne Reader and The Nation to Katha Pollitt’s well-written piece on gender issues represents the continued disproportionate attention given to this contemporary symptom in our national psychological debate–the virtues of feminism and of the men’s movement notwithstanding. Is gender worth the trees felled for bringing it so often to print?

I have three main objections to discussions of gender and would like to make one recommendation. First, I follow old Alfred Adler in considering all oppositional thinking to be a neurotic mental activity. The male-female opposition was for him the most basic of the polar pairs, and hence the most neurotic. This explains why it is so crazy-making trying to step aside from gender arguments once they are broached in friendly conversations, public forums, or academic articles. You get immediately entwined, for/against, better/worse, and reduced to opposing arguments, which bears witness to Adler’s thesis that one is trapped inside an insoluble neurotic loop once gender enters a discussion.

Second, gender is a class concept, dividing the populace of the world into some three billion folks amassed on either side of a barbed conceptual fence. A class concept does fundamental injustice to the complexities and idiosyncrasies of individuals, who are by definition distinct from one another, and only alike in the most vague and gross ways. To know any individual, you do worst by starting off with the widest category she or he belongs to and do best by being most precise. I cannot ever know myself “as a man,” and can never find my “true manhood,” “essential masculinity,” etc.

The class concept exists only as an abstraction, apart from actual human beings, each one different, none exactly fitting any class definition, unless that definition is to be diluted beyond significance, Even if the idea “man” is raised to a universal archetype, it is knowable only as it presents itself in a particular person. I cannot know “the masculine” or “the feminine,” but l can know myself and you in terms of specific traits, features, behaviors, and quirks. And it is just so that I wish to be known and to know others.

Third, this obsession with the hurt child of the past and with gender by the psychologically interested citizenry continues two massive diversions from the issues at the core of our national malaise, issues such as racism; violence; inability to grieve, repent, and hold accountable; worship of The Economy; retreat to security; our addiction to innocence (denial); and that prime event of the ’90s — our sinking ship. The whole bloody planet—its species, primordial peoples, biosphere, differentiated languages, gene pools—is sliding fast into extinction. As the ship goes down, does it matter whether it’s men or women who are the first to drown? Even Victims can pull an oar.

Oh yes, the recommendation: a ban on gender articles for anyone over 16 years of age.

James Hillman
Thompson, CT

Source: Utne Reader, 1993 edition.


Addendum: Further remarks by James Hillman on the gender question, from alternative sources:

“Another one of the fake issues is gender. We pit men against women and all the bookstores are filled with talk of men against women. It’s irrelevant! — this gender-war. It’s bullshit! It should be men and women against the oppressors.” [Discussion with Stephen Capen – 1996]

And finally, I boast this triumph: a book with a passionate psychological intent whose passion was not diverted into the indulgences of the gender war. As civilization subsides into its own waste deposits, it doesn’t matter whether you are feminine or masculine or any composite of them. We all dissolve together. Far more urgent matters than gender call out to the passion of psychology.” [Introduction to The Soul’s Code – 1996]


JH: when intellectuals spend their time on the gender conflict without realizing that we’re all gonna die together, and that the environmental disasters affect men and women equally, and that gender discussions are irrelevant to the major questions of the time. They’re not a matter of breaking through the glass ceiling. They’re a matter of the planet, a matter of the distortion of economics that keeps the thing the way it is. We’ve been taught that big government is a horror in the last five years. It’s not big government, it’s big corporations. If you wipe out big government, there’s nothing that can oppose the big corporations. Nothing. The rape of the planet is not done by big governments, mainly. It’s done by helpless governments in the face of big corporations. Brazil, for example. And the gender thing distracts us, because it’s personalized, it’s immediate, it’s my own personal battle with my woman, or her personal battle with me. They become magnified by this. And then the resentments of years of oppression.

CP: It’s not just at the level of political exigency, either. I recall your writing at one point that there’s no respect for gender at the deepest levels of the psyche.

JH: Fate isn’t a gender matter. Death isn’t a gender matter.

[CP interview with JH]

Feelings Don’t Care About Your facts

By Elizabeth Hobson

Stories frequently succeed in arousing strong feelings, like when we read a novel and become moved to tears or anger, or when we see scenes in a movie which make our skin crawl, give goose bumps, or make our hair stand on its proverbial end. Such strong feelings, and the stories that generate them, seem to put a lie to the popular phrase “Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings”. The reverse seems more likely in evidence, even when we know that a fantasy novel or movie is not factually real – our feelings remain dominant.

This is why old-world mythologies, complete with kooky beliefs, have flourished and sustained large civilizations – civilizations which thrived and expanded under the guiding influence of those same unfactual stories. Even when the stories promote a geocentric universe with a flat earth, or mythical gods requiring human sacrifices, deadly wars or violence over the divinely mandated length of men’s beards, or whether a woman’s mandated head covering is pleasing to the divine powers. You would think these things would cause a civilization to collapse and die out, however it appears that those more rational civilizations who deconstruct myths have birth rates plummeting whilst cultures based in fanciful stories enjoy explosive birth rates.

Perhaps it’s time to consider the painful possibility that feelings don’t always care about our facts. That’s certainly the case in many cultures, and it may indeed be a default setting of human beings generally – we are story creatures, and facts are often seen as an affront that offends both the stories we believe in and feelings associated with them.

Writing in the year 1984,3 professor emeritus of communication Walter R. Fisher explored these two approaches to reality – the approaches of both story and rationality – and named them 1. ‘the narrative paradigm’ and 2. ‘the rational world paradigm.’

Fisher describes the narrative paradigm in much the same way as I am in this talk; as a reflection of the fact that we use stories to communicate with each other, and to provide a shared map of meaning among a group of people.

Stories help by gathering the scattered bric-a-brac of everyday existence and combining it into a coherent whole, or what we might refer to as a template, that we use to orient ourselves and our goals in harmony with the shared orientation and goals of others. In short stories provide us with a shareable world.

As we have seen, religious stories and folk tales, can be both benevolent by way of organizing the masses into a harmonious moral unit, or they can be destructive as we see in stories promoting warfare against innocent nations, and even those stories which, today, promote gender wars.

What Fisher refers to alternatively as the ‘rational world paradigm’ consists in five presuppositions, which I can paraphrase as: 1. That humans are essentially rational beings, 2. That human decision-making and communication is a form of argument depending on clear-cut inferential and implicative structure, 3. That the conduct of such argument is ruled by legal, scientific and legislative dictates (etc), 4. That rationality is determined by subject matter knowledge, argumentative ability, and skill in employing the rules of advocacy in given fields, and finally, 5. The world is a set of logical puzzles which can be resolved through logical analysis and application of reason conceived as an argumentative construct.

Fisher notes the frequent failure of the rational world paradigm in the modern context, and goes on to conclude that:

This failure suggests to me that the problem in restoring rationality to everyday argument may be the assumption that the reaffirmation of the rational world paradigm is the only solution. The position I am taking is that another paradigm may offer a better solution, one that will provide substance not only for public moral argument, but also all other forms of argument, for human communication in general. My answer to the second question then, is: “Yes I think so.”

Adoption of the narrative paradigm, I hasten to repeat, does not mean rejection of all the good work that has been done; it means a rethinking of it and investigating new moves that can be made to enrich our understanding of communicative interaction.1

The narrative communication paradigm, or more simply the use of stories, has been criticised from a rational perspective when applied to scientific or legal issues, with the charge being that there is no way to make a choice between two equally coherent narratives. This is a valid complaint, but not one that practitioners of the rational world paradigm completely escape – this due to their frequent preferencing of one set of data over another, of placing the accent on one set of findings while neglecting others – a tendency that renders “rationalist” conclusions more subjective than they might like to admit – just like those of the story tellers.

Ultimately the rational and narrative approaches need to work in tandem if we wish to provide strong results, but at present the men’s movement has been wary of narrative approaches due to their tendency to subjectivity and corruption. Unfortunately, storytelling remains the preferred mode of communication and decision-making of the human species, therefore we can’t simply wish it away as irrelevant because that would be to deny the fact that humans have evolved to be narrative creatures – Homo Narrans – who preference communication via stories. It is a biological and evolutionary fact, so it isn’t going away, and hating it will do little to change its biological necessity.

If story is here to stay, then we need to enter the fray. We need to get down into the alphabet soup and wrestle with those destructive narratives perpetuated by feminists and others who would reduce men and boys to a tiny fraction of their lived experience. This can be done by challenging any element of the dominant gender narratives currently circulating – by amending the stories to conclude the male hero is “good” rather than “toxic,” or by crafting new stories altogether that incorporate the positive experiences of men and boys.

That is my challenge to you all today: not to do away with rational or data-based approaches, but to broaden them by offering new endings to the destructive stories currently on offer, re-narrating them, or by telling new stories in ways so compelling and emotionally moving that they displace the destructive ones currently on offer.


[1] Fisher, W. R. (1984). Narration as a human communication paradigm: The case of public moral argument. Communications Monographs, 51(1), 1-22.

Masculinity & Femininity are Plural

By Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig

“It should be clear that there is not only one masculine archetype and one feminine archetype. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of feminine and masculine archetypes. Certainly there are many more of them than we usually imagine. But not all archetypes are dominant at a particular period in the life of an individual. Moreover, every historical epoch has its dominant masculine and feminine archetypes. Women and men are determined in their sexual identities and behavior by only a select number of archetypes.

Behavior is determined only by those patterns that are momentarily dominant in the collective psyche. This leads to a grotesque but understandable error: the archetypes that dominate masculine and feminine behavior in a particular time come to be understood as the masculine and feminine archetypes. And from this limited number of archetypes it is decided what “masculinity” and “femininity” are. This misunderstanding has led, for example, to the assumption in Jungian psychology that masculinity is identical with Logos, and femininity with Eros. It is assumed that the essence of femininity is personal, related to one’s fellow man, passive, masochistic, and that the essence of masculinity is abstract, intellectual, aggressive, sadistic, active, etc. This naïve assertion could have been made only because the masculine and feminine archetypes that were dominant at that time and in that culture were understood as the only valid ones.”

SOURCE: Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig, A., Marriage Is Dead – Long Live Marriage! (1976)

The Dogma of Gender – by Patricia Berry


The Dogma of Gender was first delivered as a public lecture in the autumn of 1977 at the Royal Society of Medicine, London, England, under the sponsorship of the Guild of Pastoral Psychology. The article was first published by Spring Publications, in Spring Journal 1982, and later in the volume of compiled essays Echo’s Subtle Body.

Written by one of the founders of Archetypal Psychology, the article has proven itself timeless over the 45 years since it was first penned, becoming even more relevant today for understanding the fantasies that might be at work in the ‘gender debates’ that rage on unchecked. 

The essay is republished at with permission of the rights holder and author, Patricia Berry

The Religion of Romantic Love


By Joseph Campbell

In theological sermons we are used to hearing of a great distinction between fleshly and spiritual love, eros and agapē. The contrast and conflict were already recognized and argued by the early Christian Fathers and have been argued ever since. An important point to be recognized, however, is that the ideal of love, amor, of the lovers and poets of the Middle Ages corresponded to neither of these.

In the words, for example, of the troubadour Giraut de Borneil, “Love is born of the eyes and the heart” (Tam cum los oills el cor ama parvenza): the eyes recommend a specific image to the heart, and the heart, “the noble heart,” responds. That is to say, this love is specific, discriminative, personal, and elite. Eros, on the other hand, is indiscriminate, biological: the urge, one might say, of the organs. And agapē, too, is indiscriminate: Love thy neighbor (whoever he may be) as thyself. Whereas, here, in the sentiment and experience of amor, we have something altogether new—European—individual. And I know of nothing like it, earlier, anywhere in the world.

The aim in the European “cult” (if we may call it that) of amor was not in any sense ego extinction in a realization of nonduality, but the opposite: ego-ennoblement and -enrichment through an altogether personal experience of love’s poignant pain—“love’s sweet bitterness and bitter sweetness,” to quote Gottfried—in willing affirmation of the irremediable yearning that animates all relationships in this passing world of ephemeral individuation.

It is true that in the doctrine of love represented by the Troubadours marriage was not only of no interest but actually contrary to the whole feeling, and that likewise in India, the highest type of love, from the point of view of the Sahajiya cult, was not of husband and wife, but (to quote one authority), “the love that exists most privately between couples, who are absolutely free in their love from any consideration of loss and gain, who defy society and transgress the law and make love the be-all of life.”

It is almost certainly not by mere coincidence that the greatest Indian poetic celebration of this ideal of adulterous (parakīya) love—namely the Gītā Govinda (“Song of the Cowherd”) of the young poet Jayadeva—is of a date exactly contemporary with the flowering in Europe of the Tristan romance (c. A.D. 1175). A moment’s comparison of the two romances, however, immediately sets apart the two worlds of spiritual life. The Indian lover, Kṛṣṇa, is a god; the European, Tristan, a man.

The Indian work is allegorical of the yearning of flesh (symbolized in Radha) for the spirit and of spirit (symbolized in Kṛṣṇa) for the flesh, or, in Coomaraswamy’s terms, symbolic of “the ‘mystic union’ of the finite with its infinite ambient”; whereas the European poets, Thomas of Britain (c. 1185), Eilhart von Oberge (c. 1190), Béroul (c. 1200), and Gottfried von Strassburg (c. 1210), the four leading masters of the Tristan cycle, have represented the lovers as human, all too human—overwhelmed by a daemonic power greater than themselves.

In the poems of the first three, the power of the potion, the releaser of the passion, is treated simply as of magic. In Gottfried’s work, on the other hand, a religious dimension opens—heretical and dangerous—when he states, and states again, that the power is of the goddess Minne (Love). And then, moreover, to ensure his point, when the lovers flee to the forest, he brings them to a secret grotto of the goddess, described explicitly as an ancient heathen chapel of love’s purity, and with a bed—a wondrous crystalline bed— in the place of the Christian altar.


Excerpt from: Campbell, Joseph., The Flight Of The Wild Gander – 1969