THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

06: Archetypes cont’d

with 3 comments

The Solution

There are three key strategies for mitigating the problems caused by the men’s movement and their use of archetypes. The first strategy, and one that I find most compelling, is to simply reject them out of hand. I can appreciate that Jung may have had subtler intentions about archetypes, and that today it is also possible to imagine different types of archetypes. However, my feeling is the common understanding of archetypes is ingrained in such a problematic way in popular culture that those more useful levels of meaning will forever be eclipsed, and it is best to redeploy that meaning in an altogether different type of language. The problem, though, is that because archetypes—as a metaphor for understanding reality, rather than a psychic reality in themselves—are so deeply embedded in society, it seems almost impossible for people to shake free of them. As such, we are left with strategies two and three: creating different types of archetypes and thinking differently about the nature of archetypes.

As I mentioned above, while greatest attention was given to Moore and Gillette’s King and Warrior archetypes, they also wrote about the Magician and Lover. In a similar way, while Bly wrote chiefly of the Wild Man, he also referred to other archetypes (albeit not in any productive manner) such as the Mythologist or Cook and Grief Man. Back at the height of the mythopoetic years, some effort was made to redress this balance. For example, Glenn Mazis wrote a book called, The Trickster, Magician and Grieving Man, but it sank largely without trace because its rejection of the hero motif ran counter to the kind of conspiratorial masculine fantasies found elsewhere in the movement.

In a similar way, Aaron Kipnis wrote approvingly of the Green Man as an archetype, a largely pagan understanding of masculinity that combined it with the more nurturing and organic characteristics of what is commonly perceived of as the Earth Mother. Kipnis’ Green Man—described as “a creative, fecund, nurturing, protective, and compassionate male, existing in harmony with the earth and the feminine, yet also erotic, free, wild, playful, energetic, and fierce”—is useful in trying to offer different archetypes, but also shows how difficult it is to erase conspiratorial themes. For example, these counter-conspiratorial characteristics are muted when Kipnis goes on to remind readers that Green Man energy also envelopes carving a phallic staff, copulating on the 30-foot-long penis of the Cerne Giant and having the power of massive erect trees. The reader is stirred in the knowledge that he can be simultaneously nurturing and hard, in every way: with the Green Man, just as with the rest of the conspiracy, the cock is always central.

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Written by Joseph Gelfer

July 5, 2011 at 10:44 am

3 Responses

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  1. I think I agree with your first strategy. In my experience any work that claims to be based on archetypes will sooner or later end up being about stereotypes. Jung may have had some useful things to say but in the laypeople’s version it has usually been twisted to simply support a more poetic version of the status quo.

    Apel Mjausson

    July 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    • Yes, I go down the other road too as there are quite a few people who I respect that find the complete rejection of archetypes as going too far (and there probably needs to be a gentle path between the conspiracy and the counter-conspiracy rather than an abrupt leap).

      Joseph

      July 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      • Yes, there’s a definite need for a gentle path. Thanks for trying to provide one.

        Apel Mjausson

        July 9, 2011 at 9:25 am


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