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His Story: masculinity in the post‑patriarchal world.
Nicholas R. Mann.  Llewellyn 1995. $16.95.
The Grail Castle.
Kenneth Johnson and Marguerite Elsbeth.  Llewellyn 1995. £11.

Llewellyn are the major U.S. Publishers of occult and New Age books. Many of their books are available in the U.K. (As I got one of these books in the U.S.A. I give its dollar price, though it can probably be obtained here.) They have just started a new series on the Male Mysteries, of which these are two of the first books.

Some of our readers may recall Nicholas Mann's earlier books, The Goddess and the Grail and The Keltic Power Symbols. Recalling how much I liked them, I approached the new book with a keen sense of expectation.

Mann is not claiming that the world is already post‑patriarchal, but he is suggesting what masculinity could be in a non‑patriarchal world, and how changes in men's behaviour, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings could help bring about the end of patriarchy. He is very aware of the damage patriarchy has done to women, men, and all of the world of nature. He does not present specific solutions, preferring to leave such matters to the individual, but gives an overview.

The first part of his book discusses the nature and origins of patriarchy, and the prehistorical and historical times where patriarchy did not exist or was of less importance. He does warn us in the introduction that this is not "how it was", but is an alternative view of history which is partly a new mythology. However, this qualification is lost when he talks in detail about prehistory.

In the second part he talks about "re‑creating the archetypal masculine". This is always a difficult task — indeed, it is not clear that there is such a thing as the archetypal masculine. He uses various images, some from Celtic stories and the Grail legends, and also images of the Green Man. He looks at the cycle of the year, which he sees as the story of Twin Gods in relation to different aspects of the Goddess. I found this part very unsatisfying. There is nothing wrong with it (in fact, I work a similar cycle), but he presents a vision that is his (and perhaps also that of people he works with) as if it is the correct account that should appeal to all readers. When he speaks directly from his own experience it is much easier to respond to what he says.

His suggestions about male sexuality are also an odd mix of sensitivity and dogmatism. His remarks on the male concentration on intercourse and ejaculation and the damage this causes to sensations, feelings, and relationships, are illuminating, but his solution is tantric semen‑retention practices, with which I have no resonance.

I was not happy, either, with his account of geomancy and geo‑gnosis. Like many writers, he sees village life as the best. He is very critical of cities, which he regards as unnatural. To me, the challenge is to create cities (or, at least, towns) that are not parasites on the rest of the land. The experience of large numbers of people inter‑relating can be as valuable as that of small communities. Perhaps the answer lies in annual fairs or other get‑togethers, where large groups of people meet but where this concentration of people only lasts for a few days.

Finally, he considers the way ahead, how men can get together and create patterns of change. He reminds us that practical issues and the way of action were not the theme of his book, but that practical work is essential, and that part of the purpose of inner work is to enable us to go out and make a difference in the world.

The Grail Castle, by contrast, is a much more conventional book, which has its virtues as well as defects. The authors use the now familiar classification of male archetypes of king, warrior, magician, lover. (I was interested to discover that this typology was created by Toni Wolff, a colleague of Jung's whose influence on him has not been acknowledged enough.) These are looked at through the imagery in the Grail legends, and other stories from Celtic myth.

This approach seems to me to give more depth to this archetypal account, especially as it gives the authors an opportunity to recognise the power of the sacred (or archetypal) feminine, an aspect that is missing from many similar accounts. As usual, archetypal and personal issues predominate, with no mention of the social ones. Towards the end an anti‑feminist bias becomes noticeable, and spoils the book; while the general tone of the earlier parts made it clear that feminism was not part of the authors' outlook, I had not expected that opposition to feminism would surface. Nevertheless, the book is mostly an enjoyable and valuable read.

Both books are worth reading individually. Together, they are even better, with each making up for the faults and lacks of the other.

Wood and Water 53, Winter solstice 1995
© Daniel Cohen

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