Robert A. Johnson is a Jungian analyst and a prolific author of books that are well worth reading. This book is a very small book of 82 pages that approaches the task of trying to understand the masculine psyche through the myth of the Fisher King and the quest for the Holy Grail. Here is what Johnson has to say about the Grail Myth:
“The Grail myth speaks of masculine psychology. This is not to say that it is confined to the male, for a woman participates in her own inner masculinity . . . ” (Johnson, HE, p. x)
The Grail myth takes as its central figure, the Fisher King who is wounded and through the wounding, becomes impotent. In a way it is not so different from the wounding to one’s soul with the dawn of consciousness.
Adam, the father of all humans according to Christian beliefs, lost his Garden of Eden where he had no need of clothing, a good education, or a well-paying job when he became conscious of himself as a unique being, different from Eve. Consciousness wounds and it seems the more one becomes conscious, the harder it is to be comfortable in one’s body. The more one begins to understand, the more that needs understanding. It would be much easier if we just kept it simple. But, we all must grow up, mature and become responsible. In our contemporary world, it is not deemed manly to be too preoccupied with male sexuality.
“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.” (page 4)
Rather than continue the journey of becoming a conscious man, once wounded, we retreat from our bodies and focus on finding our masculine energy somewhere out there, an unconscious act in which we project onto others and onto things, that which we unconsciously deny about our own nature. As a result of our wounding, we wound others around us and our world. The need is to join in the quest for the holy grail, a goal of psychological wholeness, a hero’s quest in which we are forced to come to grips with ourselves as men.