Book Highlights: Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly

I learned about this book from an article about Jack Johnson in Outside Magazine:

Johnson’s new album, To the Sea, was heavily influenced by the poet and author, specifically Bly’s 1990 bestseller, Iron John: A Book About Men. The book uses the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “Iron John” to explain the unfortunate state of the American man, who Bly says is indecisive, overly gentle, and sad. The “Iron John” tale, to massively simplify, is about a boy prince who frees a Wild Man (a.k.a. Iron John) caged in the royal castle and flees with him into the forest to be guided through a series of trials. As Bly sees it, modern men desperately need this kind of mentoring.

  • Life-giving versus life-preserving
  • There are no roads, only wind trails on the sea
  • Primitive, wildness, irrationality, hairiness, intuition, emotion, the body and nature
  • Zeus Energy – Intelligence, robust health, compassionate decisiveness, goodwill, generous leadership
  • Deprived by culture
  • Indian – Kali Energy
  • Hindus – Kala Energy
  • There is a pleasure in becoming a slave – never be in charge of own life
  • Initiation – boy to man
  • Ascenders versus earthbound (grounded with burden)
  • Passivity, naivete, numbness
  • The passive man may not say what he wants, and the wife has to guess it
  • A man hopes a woman will tell him if she sees him accepting the direction of invisible forces
  • Each gender drops its own pain when it tries to carry the pain of the other gender
  • Katabasis – descent into poverty
  • Isolation in spirit and soul
  • Connected with our fire of purpose and passion
  • Making a garden, and living in it, means attention to boundaries, and sometimes we need the boundaries to prevent care taking from coming in and occupying all our time
  • Addiction to perfection amounts to having no garden
  • The woman with golden hair
  • Inward/outward warriors
  • Soul Houses
  • Strong Warrior Energy
  • Strategy – cunning, worldliness, intelligence
  • Layers of Soil – King, Warrior, Farmer
  • Significance of number 4-directions, seasons
  • Copper – bridge, conductor
  • Iron – warriorship
  • Shame / Pride
  • Stops being passive, walks on the balls of his feet
  • Colors – White (engagement), Red (intensity), Black (humanity)
  • Distinction between being and being in touch with
  • Building an emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy
  • A man by his very nature is ashamed of sexual desire
  • Mindful / Awareness
  • Imagination
  • Playfulness
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