Modern suffering man is the heir to this psychological event which took place culturally some eight hundred years ago.

August 30, 2012

Usually he seeks an unconscious solution outside of himself, complaining about this work, his marriage, or his place in the world.

The Fisher King

Our story begins with the Grail castle, which is in serious trouble. The Fisher King, the king of the castle, has been wounded. His wounds are so severe that he cannot live, yet he is incapable of dying. he groans; he cries out; he suffers constantly. The whole land is in desolation, for a land mirrors the condition of its king, inwardly in a mythological dimension, as well as outwardly in the physical work. The cattle do not reproduce; the crops won’t grow; maidens weep; there is mourning everywhere – all because the Fisher King is wounded.

[...]

The whole Grail castle is in serious trouble because the Fisher King is wounded. The myth tells us that years before, early in his adolescence, when he was out wandering around in the woods doing his knight errantry, the Fisher King came to a camp. All the people of the camp were gone, but there was a salmon roasting on a spit. He was hungry, there was a salmon roasting over the fire, and he took a bit of it to eat. He found that the salmon was very hot. After burning his fingers on it he dropped the salmon and put his fingers into his mouth to assuage the burn. In so doing he got a bit of the salmon into his mouth. This is the Fisher King wound and gives its name to the ruler of much of our modern psychology. Modern suffering man is the heir to this psychological event which took place culturally some eight hundred years ago.

[...]

Much is to learned from the symbol of the wounded Fisher King. The salmon or, more generally, the fish, is one of the many symbols of Christ. As in the story of the Fisher King coming upon the roasting salmon, a boy in his early adolescence touches something of the Christ nature within himself but touches it too soon. He is unexpectedly wounded by it and drops it immediately as being too hot. But a bit of it gets into his mouth and he can never forget the experience. His first contact with what will be redemption for him later in his life is a wounding. This is what turns him into a wounded Fisher King. The first touch of consciousness in a youth appears as wound or as suffering. Parsifal finds his Garden of Eden experience by way of the bit of salmon. That suffering stays with him until his redemption or enlightenment many years later.

Most western men are Fisher Kings. Every boy has naively blundered into something that is too big for him. He proceeds halfway through his masculine development and then drops it as being too hot. Often a certain bitterness arises, because, like the Fisher King, he can neither live with the new consciousness he has touched nor can he entirely drop it.

Every adolescent receive his Fisher King wound. He would never proceed into consciousness if it were not so. The church speaks of this wounding as the felix culpa the happy fall which ushers one into the process of redemption. This is the fall from the Garden of Eden, the graduation from naive consciousness into self consciousness.

[...]

I doubt if there is a woman in the world who has not had to mutely stand by as she watched a man agonize over his Fisher King aspect. She may be the one who notices, even before the man himself is aware of it, that there is suffering and a haunting sense of injury and incompleteness in him. A man suffering in this way is often driven to do idiotic things to cure the wound and ease the desperation he feels. Usually he seeks an unconscious solution outside of himself, complaining about this work, his marriage, or his place in the world.

The Fisher King is carried about in his litter, groaning, crying in his suffering. There is no respite for him – except when he is fishing. This is to say that the wound, which represents consciousness, is bearable only when the wounded is doing his inner work, proceeding with the task of consciousness which was inadvertently started with the wound in his youth. This close association with fishing will soon play a large part in our story.

He: Understanding Masculine Psychology, Robert A. Johnson, 1989.


That’s the duty of a true priest.

August 29, 2012

To make sure young people don’t get hurt too badly in their 1st experience of the sacred.

It’s a wonderful thing to be in the presence of somebody whose consciousness is informed by the visionary world which he has experienced.

But that’s not very frequent.


We are standing on a whale fishing for minnows – Joseph Campbell

September 7, 2010

Doing inner work is part of the road back for franchisees.

One manner is by fishing

THE WOUNDING

There is a young prince in his teens who is out doing his knight errantry, as in the duty of every youth, when he stumbles onto a camp in the woods with no one about. A fire burns under the grate and a slamon lies roasting on the spit. The prince is young, hungry, and impusive, and the salmon smells so good that he reaches out to take some of it to assuage his hunger. The salmon is very hot and burns his fingers, causing him to drop it. When he puts his fingers into his mouth to ease the burn, he gets a bit of the salmon into his mouth. This wounds him so badly that he lies in agony for all the rest of his life but for the last three days..

The young prince, soon to be king of the land, suffers so severely that his is unable ot stand erect and incapable of performing his duty ot the kingdom, which withers under his neglect. Only one thing assuages his suffering; he feels a little bette when he is fishing. When he is occupied with fishing from his boa inthe moat surrounding his castle, his suffering is diminished. Othersise he lies in his litter in his castle suffring a terrible agony. This can be interpreted as saying that a wounded person finds life bearable only when his is engagedin some contact with the unconscious. Poetry, artistry, teaching, adn healing are such activities that assuage the wound of the fisher king. They do not heal the dreadful wound but they make life bearable while one makes his way to the true healing.

The fisher king wound is to be seen on the face of almost any man who passes on the street; the ache of life, the anxiety, dread, loneliness – all are summed up by the fisher king wound…

…To fish in this sense is to do one’s inner work – work on dreams, meditation, active imagination, drawing, music, or poetry – any form of inner work that is rich to one. Even such mundane things as gardening and getting a “runner’s high” are fishing in this sense since they put one in contact with the inner world. Fishing is a fisher king’s only balm to his aching wound.

The Fisher King & the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology, Robert A. Johnson, 1993


If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool. C.G. Jung

September 6, 2010

Young men of substance reach beyond their grasp and they suffer for their ambition.

In that pain, they hold the key to the healing of others.

The Healing of the Fisher King Wound

A true myth always prescribes for the problem that it lays forth. Like any great work of art, it follows the pattern of darkness being redeemed by light. The darkness of our story thus far is the despair and isolation of the wounded fisher king, a suffering that has reached its apex in our own time. And the redemption of that darkness? Where is a cure to be found for so pervasive a problem?

The answer is to be found in a most unexpected place, in the blunderings of an innocent fool who has in him power to release the agony of the suffering fisher king.

The legend of an innocent fool who will one day find his way into the Grail castle and bring the healing to the fisher king has long been known in the land so ravaged by the wounding of their king. In its simple language the myth promises that one day a young man, entirely innocent of his great mission, will wander into the Grail castle, see the magnificent procession that is enacted every night, and, if he asks the one pertinent question, will relieve the fisher king’s suffering and remove the blight from the land.

What a power to have! And what an unexpected place of it to be lodged!

It is Parsifal – not by chance his name means Innocent Fool – who brings this healing power, and we now examine his story that has given him so much curative power.

It is humbling to find that the wounded fisher king is totally at the mercy of an innocent fool to bring the precious healing for his suffering. This is to say that the deepest part of ourselves, the king, can be healed only by a boyish, inventive, capricious, youthful quality.

No one should be expected to see what they are not trained to look for.

But, then again, that is neither proof or non-proof of that level of understanding.

The Fisher King & the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology, Robert A. Johnson, 1993

Painting: The Knight Of The Flowers (or Parsifal), Georges Antoine Rochegrosse


Service above self: Learning to help men (and ourselves) heal

April 29, 2009

fisherwomanThat is a sunfish.

Not much of a fish, really. Tiny, no sport catching them and you’d never eat them. Unlike the pickerel that are common in our lakes.

But it’s great fun with people you love. And very good practice for dealing with life’s pain.

The term fisher king is appropriate since the young prince is so much associated with fish; first he is wounded by a fish (the unlawful taking of consciousness, which was called the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Adam and Eve story), then he is partly relieved of his suffering while fishing. To fish in this sense is to do one’s inner work – work on dreams, meditation, active imagination, drawing, music, or poetry – any form of inner work that is rich to one. Even such mundane things as gardening…

Fishing is  a fisher king’s only balm to his aching wound.

…What young man has not tried some adult task with bravado only to find that he could not accomplish it? The humiliation, embarrassment, and feelings of inferiority engendered by such a venture cause a fisher king wound in him and suffering that is particularly deep and painful. Perhaps it was a brash love affair or trying to climb the sheer face of a cliff or a business venture that he was not skillful enough to manage. A man tortures himself at 2:00 AM with these memories.

It is tragic that many modern men never escape the fisher king wound and live in anxiety and inferiority all their lives.

When a man follows a strong woman’s prescription, he helps heal both his and her wounds. This hints at the “two becoming one” reality of relationships.

The Fisher King & the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology, Robert A. Johnson


To the Grail Castle: Just down the road a little way, turn left and just over the drawbridge

April 29, 2009

fisherkingThe Fisher King.

I recommend the movie and the myth.

The King provides directions for everyone’s healing:

…a place of comfort and safety is not far away. The specific instructions are to go down the road – whatever road one is involved with at the moment – turn left, which is to say go toward the unconscious or the world of imagination an fantasy, cross the drawbridge – the division between our conscious world and the inner world of imagination – and one will be in the Grail castle, the miraculous place of healing…

A detail of the story is encouraging: Parsifal need only ask the question; he is not required to answer it. Once the question is asked the answer comes from a source greater than his store of personal wisdom.

You get to visit the Castle every night when you sleep.

- – The Fisher King & the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology, Robert A. Johnson


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