He – Understanding Masculine Psychology: Robert A Johnson

masculine psychology

Date Read – 25/11/2020

Rating 9/10

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He – Understanding Masculine Psychology

High Level Overview

A book using the Grail/Parsifal myth for an exploration of masculine psychology. Robert Johnson does a great job at sharing the myth and bringing it into the practical world through the lens of modern society. He gives examples from his own life as well as christian stories (Garden of Eden) which resonate with the western world. I haven’t found another booked on masculine psychology that is as applicable to the modern day than this one.



Chapter 1 – Fisher King


– Fisher King – The king of the castle.

– Every adolescent male has a fisher king wound. It breaks them into dual consciousness. The world isn’t all happy and rosy. Metaphoric fall from Garden of Eden.

– One has no right to speak about the oneness of the Universe until they’ve experienced duality fully. Differentiating the outer and inner worlds is necessary before functioning in non-duality.

– Mythically, Fisher King wound is in the thigh. Too ill to live but unable to die.

– Fisher King wound is the hallmark of modern man

– Capacity to realise love and beauty is limited, and no further effort is possible if the inner capacity is wounded. This is the fisher wound.

– Many myths put the cure to our ills in the fool. The Fisher king is healed when an innocent fool asks a specific question. The myth is showing us that a naive part of oneself is where the healing takes place.

– A man must accept that looking foolish and innocent can cure him. The inner fool is the only one who can touch his wound.


“We have to leave the garden of Eden before we can start the journey to Heavenly Jerusalem” – Robert A Johnson



Chapter 2 – Parsifal


– Humble and naive young man of very little relevance. No name.

– Parsifal is the one to heal the fisher king

– Saw 5 knights when out playing which set alight his need for adventure. Set out after the knights to become one of them. The start of maturity. Mother was distraught.

– Mother offered him parting advice – ‘respect fair damsels’ and ‘don’t ask too many questions’ . Also gives him homespun garment. Play an important role throughout.

– Finds his way to Arthurs court. Myth of the castle says that when the best knight in the world appears, the damsel who hasn’t smiled for 6 years will burst into laughter. – This is showing there is a feminine part of a mans psyche which has never been capable of happiness. If Parsifal is awoken in a man, another feminine quality arises.

– Meets the Red Knights who is bold and powerful. Parsifal kills him with a dagger to the eye. Symbolises the leaving of adolescence to becoming a man.

– Red knight is the shadow side of masculinity. Red knight experience is often in the outer world (in competition/sports) but sometimes in the inner worlds.

– If red knight battle goes badly, the man may end up a bully and angry young man or be beaten by shyness.

– Meets Godfather called Gouramond, the archetypal godfather. Necessary for a man as the human father energy has usually dried up by this point.

– Gouramond teaches Parsafal not to seduce or be seduced by a fair maiden and must search for the grail with all his might. Must ask the question ‘whom does the grail serve’?

– Goes back to find mother to find she died of a broken heart. Symbolises a young mans need to leave his mother and developing into manhood cannot happen without being disloyal to her.

– When trying to find his mother, Parsifal found Blanche Fleur (white flower). This symbolises becoming aware of one’s highest motivation in life. Stumbling across purpose and meaning when looking for something else.

– Parsifal frees her domain of intruders by fighting second in command (and later first in command) ‘duelling heroically with him’, sparing his life and sending him to King Arthur. This was the beginning of adding fellowship to the knights of the round table. This myth is showing the conscious manoeuvre of unconscious masculine energy into the centre of one’s personality.

– The archetype of Blache Fleur is the fair lady and carrier of inspiratoin. The very core of heroic action. The mother search led to inspiration elsewhere.

– Jung called Blanche Fleur the Anima. The fountain of life in the heart of man.


“Much of our religious heritage is a map or set of instructions for the deepest meaning of our interior life., not a set of laws for outer conduct.” – Robert A Johnson



Chapter 3 – Chastity


– In the literal sense, Gouramond advice about chastity makes little sense. His advice was to avoid living out the softness of femininity but know of it’s value in the inner world.

– The feminine side of a man is to connect him with the depths of his inner being and to make a bridge to the deepest self.

– If a man is engaging in a mood (or mood engaged him), he has been seduced by his inner feminine. Everything around the man would feel used. Mood not to be confused with feeling, which is a ‘sublime part of man’s equipment’.

– Mood possession robs a man of all sense of meaning, because everything is now ‘out there’.

– A good mood is as dangerous as a bad one. Demanding happiness from experience is the dark art of seducing the interior fair maiden. See this in relentless quest for entertainment and ego’s demands for happiness.

– Separating happiness from mood – A monk may be happy but he never has a good time.

– Enthusiasm = en-theo-ism (to be filled with God). Laughing with joy is to be filled with the joy of god. Laughing at the other end of the scale is to be possessed by a mood.

– If a woman can be more feminine than a man’s mood, she will show the man a dose of reality. Requires a highly conscious femininity.


” Man has only two alternatives for relationship to his inner woman: either he rejects her and she turns against him in the form of bad moods and undermining seductions, or he accepts her and finds within a companion who walks through life with him giving him warmth and strength. If a man falls under the spell of a mood, that is, if he misconstrues her as being ‘out there’, he loses his capacity for relationship.” – Robert A Johnson

“…but slowly learned that moods are a product of purposeful unconsciousness and can be rectified by the very consciousness one worked so hard to evade.” Robert A Johnson



Chapter 4 – The Grail Castle


– The Grail Castle is a metaphor for the imaginery and symbolic inner world.

– The interior womans correct place is the mediator for numinous values of the inner world.

– Men can struggle to release their mother complex, which doesn’t allow them to ‘see the grail’ or ‘ask the right question to heal the fisher king’.

– 6 feminine elements to a man

1) Human Mother

2) Mother complex – Demand to be taken care of. Return to mother and be a child. Poisonous to a man.

3) Mother archetype – The feminine half of god. Reliable, nourishing and sustaining.

4) Fair maiden. Blanche Fleur in grail myth. Gives meaning and colour to life. Jung’s Anima.

5) Wife/Partner – Human companion

6) Sophia – Goddess of wisdom.Wisdom is feminine in nature.


– Cross contaminating these feminine elements cause chaos in the man’s psyche and are all negative. For example, contaminating expecting the human mother to live up to the mother archetype will leave you angry and disappointed as it would be near impossible to uphold.

– The grail is available at any time but in particular at 16 and 45.

– The copied masculinity from a father figure does not hold up in the world and a young mans experiences will show this. He will need another father figure at some point to repair what was transmitted from his father.

– According to Jung we are moving from 3 to 4 numerological and symbolically which is incorporating the feminine principles of our psyche. Moving from perfection into wholeness, incorporating darkness rather than being ‘clean’.

– Throughout history, man has often labelled his dark side as feminine. This has led to things such burning witches at the stake throughout history.



Chapter 5 – The Hideous Damsel


– The hideous damsel represents doubt and despair.

– Often in middle age, men have hit the peak of their careers and yet they now feel like there is no meaning. Kids grown up etc.

– Best thing a woman can do at this point is to be quiet and just be there to avoid projection of the damsel onto them.

– There may be many failures in life, but staying true to the quest. Perfection is not necessary, but consciousness is.


“It is the accomplished man who is most capable of asking unanswerable questions about his worth and meaning of his life” – Robert A Johnson



Chapter 6 – The Long Quest


– The hermit within is the archetype that needs to be drawn upon at middle age with loss of meaning. The introverted nature that has been storing energy during the energetic first half of life.

– The myth ends with the hermit telling Parsifal where the castle is. Up to us to to decide the rest of the story.



Chapter 7 – The Second Grail Castle


– ‘Who does the grail serve’ represents the humility to shift lifes ambition from the ego to the Self /God. In the myth when he asks this, the Fisher King is healed.

– Object of life is to serve the ‘Grail’ / God. Humbling and it removes the notion that we are living life for our own happiness as an end goal.


“One cannot pursue happiness; if he does he obscures it” – Robert A Johnson

“If he proceeds with the human task of life, the relocation of the centre of gravity of the personality to something greater outside itself, happiness will be the outcome” – Robert A Johnson