- Wounded Masculinity
Parsifal and The Fisher King Wound
- There is a particular soul need in western minds for good
to triumph over evil in our external world. Seldom do we internalize
this soul need in terms of our own daily actions, thoughts and
feelings. The mythic underpinnings of today's western world can
be found in legends and myths of the 12th century. The medieval
knights, their chivalry and heroic duty was to find out evil
doers and run them through with their sword of righteousness.
"Good" versus "Evil", no less! Dragons and
particularly the "infidel" (unbaptized men) were specifically
targeted as the foe as they were usually holding a land or castle
under tyranny. This sounds so familiar in light of the "Manhattan
terrorist attack", September 11, 2001. The task of this
work is to take the current suffering of man as an interior event
(as something all men have in common) and not to blame someone
outside for this or that. Without looking first at ourselves
as men, there is little chance of enhancing man's consciousness
and ability to relate wholly to one another.
- A retelling of the most famous and effective myth of "Parsifal
and the Fisher King" is the backdrop for this intended healing
work. Original medieval versions of "Parsifal" by Chretien
de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach have echoed down through
time and many versions have been written such is its attraction.
The myth perennially enlivens mans consciousness, fuels his desire
to be whole and is called a "living myth". In the retelling
I have not found it necessary to look at each incident and adventure
of Parsifal, but to choose those aspects pertaining to healing
man's masculinity. I undertook this work as part of my ongoing
healing journey and out of disappointment that there are so few
healthy models for boys and men to emulate!
- A contemporary man's whole sense of self-worth and potency
in this world is often based on his own and others perception
of his masculinity-sexuality. James Wyly (1987) discusses that
the central core to most men is "his phallus, his libido,
his sense of potency and ability to potentiate his own destiny,
to create himself in accord with his inner image". The Parsifal
myth is a medieval "man's story" of restoring unity
to misaligned masculinity and for men to start filling the emptiness
that results from adherence to collective sexual values. The
myth is a tale so worth retelling and reading for today's modern
man. Women will go "ah ha"!
- The quest, or striving to merge with the fountain of one's
life, is our innate desire to be wholesome and happy. In this
sense we are all on the same quest as our hero Parsifal. Men
are indeed modern heroes as each day we set off on this quest
to be happy.
- The main players in the myth:
- The main players are Parsifal, a young man from Wales. The
Fisher King the king of the Grail Castle. Kundry, the queenly,
mysterious, mystic woman (a female counterpart of Merlin). Parsifal's
mother Herzeleide, who carries the sorrow of Parsifal's father's
actions. Parsifal's father, Gamuret, a man equally wounded and
absent in Parsifal's life. The Holy Grail (a unity with God),
that bestows life and love upon the kingdom. The Grail Castle,
a castle and kingdom "hidden" amidst the mists from
all whom cannot see. Lastly, the forces of destruction "the
dark side", that strives to pervert the flowing of The Holy
- The myth:
- At the heart of the Grail Castle a Holy Spear and a Holy
Chalice lay. The two divine implements are needed daily for The
Holy Grail enactment, the eternal task of bringing light into
the kingdom; for that light is the source of the cycle of life
and death. The two divine implements represent the masculine
and feminine principles which when combined in perfect wholeness
produce light into the kingdom of the Fisher King. The Holy Chalice
represents the feminine aspect of feeling and beauty that both
contains and transforms. The chalice in christianized versions
is that which Jesus used at the Last Supper, containing the wine
and later his blood. The Holy Spear represents the masculine
strength required to stand erect' and guard the precious
Grail. The Holy Spear in Christianized versions, is the same
spear that pierced the side of Christ on the cross (perhaps it
pierced Christ's testicles?). Each day every knight of the inner
order (of the Arthurian tradition) would renew his oath to defend
the Grail with his very life and affirm his service to the Holy
- The Grail Castle has fallen upon hard times; the spear has
been stolen. The Fisher King was wounded in his testicles by
the Holy Spear as it was being stolen. The King was described
as being henceforth too ill to live but not ill enough
to die' (the modern malaise). In some versions of the Parsifal
myth it speaks of Grail Castle disunity, as specific knights
use all manner of trickery, temptations and illusions to corrupt
specifically The Fisher King and ultimately The Holy Grail (the
unity with God). Kundry, the mysterious sorceress within the
Grail Castle was also corrupted and trapped as a result of the
demise of the Grail Castle. Kundry was then used to help overcome
good knights, using such weapons as temptation and other alluring
appeals. As myth had it, many knights had tried to win back the
spear but were all corrupted by the forces of the "dark
- The wound to The Fisher King, via a spear through his testicles
(to the tenderest part of the male anatomy), signifies a wounding
to man's sense of potency and his self-esteem. The wounding in
this "private part" of himself will not heal and equates
to The Fisher Kings "Fall from Grace" (the noble part
of the king has fallen from grace). He is metaphorically expelled
from the Garden of Eden (The Holy Grail). Interestingly, The
Fisher King only gets relief from his pain when he is fishing,
meaning, doing reflective work on himself. The Fisher King's
kingdom has been laid to waste, the meadows and flowers are dried
up and the waters shrunken. The suggestion is that any malaise
to the king is mirrored in his kingdom. This implies that if
there is a wound to the "kingly-inner man", then the
whole personality (his whole world) will be troubled! As if by
magic, whenever the Fisher King is healed the lands surrounding
the king will be healed instantly.
- The healing of the king and kingdom will only take place
with the coming of "the good grail knight" an "innocent
fool" (Parsifal) who will restore health to the Fisher King,
his land, its people by asking a specific question. Merlin is
thought to have prophesied that a pure knight who will do mighty
deeds of arms, of bounty and of nobility will ask the perplexing
question "whom does the grail serve"? I wish to emphasize
that Parsifal was attitudinally innocent and pure and not physically
pure in a celibate sense. He was brought up in the instinctual
realm of the forest and would not have acquired puritanical injunctions
against the beauty and naturalness of sexual activity. Should
the "pure knight" fail to ask the question, then everything
will remain wasted and the knight in question will have to leave
the Grail Castle to search and learn. Should he finally learn,
then again he may return to The Grail Castle and ask the question.
The king and kingdom will then be restored to health, as the
waters of life will run.
- Comment: The spear that caused the wounding is so integral
to this myth and the healing process for men. The spear represents
the masculine integrity and feeling aspect which has been stolen
and without it there is no protection, no "holding"
for the Holy Grail to re-emerge. In psychology, author Robert
Johnson has observed that "the Fisher King's wound [to his
testicles] is symbolic of men's difficulties in directly intimate
and sexual matters."
- What's in a name:
- Why the Fisher King name? The fish is such an ancient symbol
of the spiritual mysteries of life, the sign of Christ, Christians
and "disciples" being "fishers of men". In
Celtic myth, a strong link occurs between the salmon and knowledge.
At breeding time, the salmon returns to the place of its origin,
fighting against the flow of the river, in order to breed (to
create). The crude expression that man is born out of the
vagina and spends the rest of his life trying to get back in
there' (return to wholeness) takes on a new significance in this
light. This is understood as a troubled human soul (in man),
perpetually struggling to reconcile itself to itself. Astrologically
the myth is also set in the dualistic Piscean Age (symbolized
as two fishes) of man's current stage of evolution on this earth.
- Parsifal's mother:
- Parsifal's mother, Herzeleide was a "queen of two kingdoms,"
supposedly North and South Wales, which may have meant of spiritual
and material realms. Wales had retained integrity and honor long
before the English Knights emerged with their codes of chivalry.
Herzeleide was just widowed when she gave birth to her son Parsifal.
Herzeleide, meaning "heart's sorrow" left her noble
home to live in a forester's cottage far away. She feared that
a fate, which killed her husband, would overtake her son, so
she raised him to know nothing of knighthood and to be ignorant
of his name and heritage. How many mothers try to instil in their
son's integrity, to guard them from the foolhardiness of their
fathers? She specifically instructed him to be courteous to all
women and not to ask too many questions!
- Parsifal's father:
- There is mystery surrounding the identity and heritage of
Parsifal's father and Parsifal grew up without a father (an absent
father), which is often the case for today's youth. However,
Parsifal's father was allegedly Gamuret and some versions say
he was the Fisher King's brother. The young knight Gamuret decided
to journey to the Middle East to seek his glory and fortune,
as was the want of many a true knight. After winning a great
victory in a tournament he attracted Belakane, the dusky Queen
of Zazamanc; they fell in love and were married. He shared the
throne of Zazamanc for a time, but peaceful court life in a foreign
land was not suited to the young warrior and he stole away (ran
away). Following this, Belakane gave birth to Gamuret's first
son, Feirefiz, the "piebald" (half-cast), Parsifal's
half brother. Mythically the relationship between Feirefiz and
Parsifal implies the great brotherhood of man between all races
- Gamuret arrived back in Europe and while jousting, his gallantry
won him the heart of Herzeleide, Queen of Wales. How many women
fall for the exterior gallantry to this day? Herzeleide eventually
convinced Gamuret that he should give up the love of the unbaptized/infidel
Queen Belakane' and they were married. Word then reached Gamuret
that his old lord, in the Middle East, was facing an invasion
by the Babylonians. He returned with glee to assist his old friend
and while fighting in the intense heat, Gamuret paused to rest,
briefly removing his "charmed" head shield to drink.
A lance blow pierced his head. When Queen Herzeleide heard of
this, she went to live alone in the forest and gave birth to
Parsifal while still mourning for her husband. Herzeleide's,
mourning' was in knowing that her husband loved another
and was married "albeit illegally to Queen Belakane. His
gallantry had amounted to nothing and resulted in grief to all
and ultimately death to himself. His "gallantry and charm"
was bravado and empty, as there was no relatedness to either,
Herzeleide in Europe, Belakane in the Middle East, or to his
- Parsifal comes of age:
- During Parsifal's upbringing, his youthful years were spent
in the forest. "He grew up handsome, strong, athletic, but
with his rational thinking largely undeveloped". "He
was later called "simple" or "innocent fool",
not because he was indeed unintelligent, but for his guileless
innocence, his simple perceptions and faith" (Oderberg,
I.M., 1978). It is also speculated that being brought up in the
forest with such a queenly' mother, that he was able to
see into the mysteries of the "inner" world. Ultimately
he would bring his instinctual knowing into the every day realities
of the outer' world.
- No sooner had Parsifal "come of age" when he encountered
knights riding through the forest. He was so taken by their godlike
appearance, that he immediately wished to become one of them.
He told this to his mother and she wept as she had tried to protect
him from the wiles and ways of knights. She begged him to stay
with her; but his heart was set, and at last she gave him her
blessing to go. Sadly, some versions have it that Herzeleide,
Parsifal's mother died shortly after he left.
- So off went Parsifal into the world where his naiveté
and sincere enthusiasm atoned for his social blunders. He rescued
a fair maiden, Blanchfleur, fell in love and "stole her
ring". Deflowering of a lovely maiden no less! Additionally,
Parsifal encountered, fought and overcame the infamous red knight.
Parsifal did so because the red knight had embarrassed King Arthur
and because Parsifal liked the look of his armour'. Parsifal
wanted a façade, to bolster his ego and to make a favorable
impression. The "facing" of the red knight is the step
that young men take, symbolically standing up to the father image,
the authority they question and to exert their own emerging masculinity.
However, Parsifal wore his mother's "homespun" garment
underneath his ill-gotten armour, which indicates that he had
acquired only a knightly exterior! His own inner sense of maleness
was still shaky and adolescent! His overcoming of the red knight
won him favor and so it was that against all convention, King
Arthur eventually knighted Parsifal. However, his simplicity
and grace remained intact largely due to his mother, unconventional
upbringing and early life. Many adventures subsequently took
place for the young knight and eventually as if by chance'
he found himself at the bridge leading to the mysterious Grail
- Parsifal is wounded in the Grail Castle:
- Youthful enthusiasm, charm and early masculine accomplishments
got Parsifal to the drawbridge of the Grail Castle. He had earned
the right to enter the castle and with young eyes filled wide
with hope he walked in! Fueled with his desire for fulfilment
as a knight and to manifest his deepest hopes, Parsifal enters
the magical realm of the Grail Castle. Remember the Grail Castle
is an actual mystical experience "hidden" (like the
castle itself) amidst the mists from all that cannot see.
- It is written in myth that men get two opportunities to enter
the Grail Castle. The first time as youths, a "gratuitous"
gift, (given by God?) to let young men experience the potential
of their "numinous self". The second Grail Castle opportunity
is not gratuitous and coincides with man's mid-life crisis; a
time when men re-evaluate their whole lives and hopefully re-discover
meaning and potency. To seek the actual outer location of the
castle is to miss the point, as it is always near and the two
worlds (mystical-inner and outer world) do cross at specific
moments through meaningful coincidences and at specific locations.
- Inside the castle, Parsifal was astonished at the majesty
he saw and he did not understand what was going on. He tries
to behave in a fashion according to his mother and knighthood
teachings, after all this is the rational way to proceed. There
was a hushed expectancy inside the castle, as everyone knew that
an "innocent fool" was prophesied to ask the healing
question to revive the king and The Grail. A knight asked Parsifal
if he knew of the significance of what he had just seen? Other
knights chanted as one to themselves for "fulfilment of
the prophecy"; that would restore the Holy Grail to there
midst. All attention and compassion was focused upon Parsifal
and he felt a great stirring within him to speak, but alas he
said nothing! He heard the ladies of the court' snigger
"he is just a pure fool", laughing audibly and gazing
upon a dumbfounded Parsifal. Surely he was not the chosen one
they mused! Parsifal again stood motionless and speechless. Another
knight rebuked Parsifal with the words "you are just a common
simpleton, get gone from here"!
- Parsifal had repressed his instinct (his inner voice) to
enquire what this entire mysterious world was about; he was just
overwhelmed by it all? His mother had taught him not to ask too
many questions and Parsifal believed that obedience was a virtue.
Remember Parsifal still wore his mother's homespun garment underneath
his armour! Parsifal now knew that obedience to his mother's
advice and collective opinion had failed him, so he vowed not
to ignore his own intuition and instinctual knowing again! But
what youth at puberty can do that? Parsifal was ridiculed and
deeply wounded by the Grail Castle experience. A heavy blow was
taken to his masculinity, his early knighthood dreams of glory
and his whole sense of worth as a man. The Grail Castle vanished
into the mists and Parsifal found himself back in the world of
time and space, on the edge of a forest licking his wounds'.
- Every man shares this wounding experience:
- How many young men come to this same point as Parsifal in
their youth? Seemingly, every young man experiences a wounded-ness
to his masculinity at the time of puberty; a sexual Fisher King
wound, one could say? "It is painful to watch a young man
realize that his world is not just joy and happiness, to watch
the disintegration of his childlike beauty, faith, innocence
and trust" (Johnson. R. 1989). This step into maleness,
into daily "work related" life is so difficult and
often so harsh. To leave, in a sense, the wonders of a maternal
- primordial inner fairy-tale world or internal paradise for
a "reality" that is competitive and demanding is a
rigorous transition. Puberty initiations in tribal cultures,
when boy becomes a man and viable member of the tribe are often
via severe and painful rites of passage. Puberty for western
young men is an unmarked "rite of passage"; therefore
a painful and mainly unguided period of adjustment to early manhood!
- The onset of puberty in boys brings them face to face with
the physical reality of being a man. Newly found biological urges
and cultural fantasies impact enormously on his sense of self.
As boys grow up, their erotic self (largely masturbation) is
indirectly condemned to the toilets, posters, pornography and
fantasies of his life. This is due to masculine sexuality not
being successfully integrated by our cultural structures, family,
schools, professional training, religious instruction, etc. This
sends sexuality underground into the hidden, shadow, shady part
of boy's life. There is often such silence (no healthy discussion
about his emerging sexuality) for young men at this time and
their sexuality may often be self perceived as being dirty, sinful,
disgraceful and hidden from his family's knowing. "There
is a bizarre assumption that masculinity on one level excludes
sexuality" (Wyly, J, 1989), as his sexuality is not "openly
acknowledged, integrated and clear!" As a result, young
men split-off from themselves and start to act out their sexuality
in the shady shadows of their life. It is speculated here that
a boy's puberty experience and wounding stays with him through
life, to eventually be consciously redeemed!
- Other woundings around the time of puberty further impact
on a young man's fragile sense of masculinity. Such other
woundings' are: boys first love or loneliness, first sexual encounter
(often a disaster), parental or authority' sexual abuse,
separation/divorce of parents, parental drivenness for them to
succeed, being rejected
. not one of the boys, a non-conformist
attitude to collective "male standards", being sensitive,
different, a non-sporting person in a sports mad country
Each man has his own story!
- Whatever the cause, a young man's sense of maleness can be
devastatingly wounded at this time but hopefully not destroyed.
Alas, some youths distressingly commit suicide at this point
for their life is just too painful. Their wounding is experienced
as a loss of meaning, a loss of hope for the future and coupled
with devastated self-esteem. Peter Gabriel in his famous song
Don't give up' wrote of the young mans potential suicidal
tendency at this time:
- "taught to fight, taught to win, I never thought I could
- "No fight left or so it seems, I am a man whose dreams
have all deserted
- Typically, a young man's dreams have all deserted, he is
badly wounded and left feeling worthless. Such a masculine wound
is directed to his generative ability; his ability to be creative
within himself and externally potent in the world. The young
man feels psychologically impotent, with no self-love and therefore
little or no capacity to experience his own beauty. He is left
with a haunting sense of incompleteness and is too young to face
it, as it is too overwhelming. So the young man metaphorically
"hides and runs away from the wounded "private part"
of himself, much like Parsifal did!
- A mighty quest is conceived:
- Parsifal, albeit badly wounded inside after his Grail Castle
experience, cannot drop his desire for wholeness. He now has
to search, learn and find his own way to eventually be worthy
to re-enter the Grail Castle for the second time. He conjures
up a noble ploy to reinstate himself in the eyes of those who
have wounded and ridiculed him". Parsifal muses that
returning the spear to the rightful owner will produce healing
to the King, redeem himself and restore life to the Kingdom.
A mighty quest is conceived! Parsifal was embarrassed and ashamed
for not doing the right thing in the castle. Yet the wound has
metaphorically ushered Parsifal into the beginning of consciousness,
a search in the world, doing the necessary outer (and inner)
work as the years go by. Parsifal knew that previous knights
had tried to win back the spear but they were corrupted and fell.
So his way required courage although his mighty quest may have
initially been seen as more "red knight" adventures
in the world! Red is symbolically associated with blood; the
passionate "desire" for experience in the world. When
wounded by his own ignorance, Parsifal bleeds red blood and he
causes others to bleed while trying to prove his manhood. So
it was that Parsifal leapt onto his horse and charged off to
- How young men emulate this:
- Modern men charge off hoping to find something that will
make them feel good again (heal their masculinity). Many young
males seek out more red knight experiences (red sports car experiences?),
a persona, of looking good and proving themselves in this world.
Young men generally ignore that wounded part of themselves and
hope when they achieve this (getting the spear "shiny objects")
or that (bedding a fair maiden) then they will feel better and
they do but, alas, only for a little while. Boredom, restlessness,
emptiness and wounded-ness return! For a quest for outer glory
is undertaken largely to inflate an already wounded masculine
ego, to bolster self worth, potency and power in this world.
How many young men each day over-ride their wounds and just ride
off on their daily quest, hoping that this will fill their void?
- Our Western culture teaches young men that everything can
be reduced to physical possessions, women, money and activities
to entertain. Man may seek out woman after woman, however woman
alone can never cure man of his deep wound! Generally, men do
have the belief of finding the "perfect woman." In
this belief he is unconsciously looking for something to give
his life the meaning and the beauty he senses is achievable.
A familiar problem with western man is that he often falls for
the trap that "feminine good looks", equates to him
feeling good, a trophy as such. This is a cultural cosmetic lie
for both males and females who strive to "capture"
the heart of the "good looking one", with little or
no regard to relatedness, tenderness and beauty within the person.
Man ultimately finds out that it's not possible for his "perfect"
woman to redeem his soul, as she is earthly, fallible woman ("cellulite
- We are surrounded by sexual images in our western society
and most of the time infidelity and casual sex is encouraged.
"Sowing one's wild oats" is a culturally endorsed practice
for young men and the collective understanding is thus. That
if a young man has many sexual encounters he will feel good about
himself and will feel like a man. Then it is assumed that young
men will eventually settle down' and be good husbands and
fathers. One may ask, what happened to the maidens (all daughters)
along the way? This is adolescent masculinity endorsed informally
by our culture. Additionally, "the attainment of manhood
is often equated with active use of mans phallus" (Monick,
- Young men are perhaps too young to do the necessary "inner
work" and to oppose collective adolescent masculine ideals,
but what is older men's excuse? I attribute adolescent
masculinity' to three aspects, namely; the "Don Juan legacy",
an un-integrated erotic life and an inability to relate authentically!
- "Don Juan" and man's erotic self:
- Don Juan as a man, was beset by erotic thoughts and pursued
the lofty sexual instinct of the moment in the "trickery"
of his life. Prolonged intimacy made him fidget and he needed
constant sexual stimuli to avoid becoming bored. There exists
the same "collective" perception in modern man, that
if he beds many women, then he is having a good life, a "good
innings." Man's flagging/wounded masculinity is generally
inflated by such conquests' and he will often retell of
his sexual prowess to other men in order to win their admiration
- Western definitions of masculinity congratulate a man for
his "Don Juan" trickery, his coolness, rational process,
dispassionate reasoning and outsmarting others. Robert Johnson
(1989) said, "it is eloquent that in our modern language
we describe men we admire as cool,' [meaning not warm and
relational]." Man's inability to relate authentically is
a culturally transmitted "wrong path," which keeps
boys and men alienated from expressing their feelings. We hear
of the need for "self-love", but men in particular
often do not like what they have become and by middle age often
feel totally empty.
- Modern man's emptiness' is seduced by "Don Juan's"
adolescent masculinity as Don Juan "beds the women."
So man, being somewhat envious, emulates Don Juans adolescent
masculinity well past adolescence with devastating consequences.
Man's tendency to seek out or repeatedly fantasize about sexual
experience outside of his "primary" relationship, carries
a terrible cost to man himself. The costs are experienced in
restlessness, moods, depression, and relationship problems or
breakdown, plus a general adding to his already wounded self.
Why, because the inner trickery, the shady (split-off) adolescent
side of "Don Juan" man has overcome the truer nobler'
aspects of his masculinity.
- Man may also come to disdain (loath) his sexuality and if
so, this eats away at his self-worth, as in the knowing of his
own soul, he feels humiliated "as a sexual man." His
sexual, shadow-shady' thoughts and actions in society have
left him humiliated. Conversely, the more eroticism is repressed
or ignored the more it gestates, until it bursts forth into inappropriate
and harmful sexual shadow activity. For an example of this we
need only reflect on how Priests have sexually abused children
in their care! Clearly, eroticism must be integrated and expressed
- Phallic energy and sexual thoughts, at their essence, are
man's innate desire to connect with his life force, to feel alive,
potent and creative. Therefore, man's fantasies are empowering
thoughts that an inwardly bored, empty or disempowered man has
to try and re-connect himself to feeling powerful and potent
again. Most sexual attacks are psychologically understood as
issues of power! Sexual thoughts towards a perfect stranger are
to be understood as the healthy life instinct within man (the
creative masculine) that is wanting expression in his life. However,
he must ultimately understand that those same sexual thoughts
and desires are totally inappropriate if pursued in isolation
from true relating which would only lead to harmful actions and
emptiness. Sexual actions without authentic relating split man
off, foremost from the true masculine; the alive-ness, the "feel
good" life force that he seeks. However, that healthy instinct
within man is stirring up man's erotic sexual nature to ultimately
reconnect him with his feelings, to reunite the split-off sides
of himself and be co-creative. Unbeknown to most men, this is
what drives his "desires and fantasies" for sexual
conquest! Man's "desires" emerge to re-connect him
with his own feelings and to be creative and relational. Simplistically,
man is being asked on an interior level to give his feelings
expression! The healthy, instinctual life force pushes man's
erotic nature into creative expression and ultimately towards
wholeness of being in his life. This occurs only when erotic,
sexual man co-exists with loving relating man; the two must not
- Erotic love is quite rightly part of the beauty and relatedness
that men seek. Erotic love can be successfully integrated into
true masculinity with a revitalized desire to feel and relate
authentically. However, modern man is so badly wounded "too
ill to live but not ill enough to die" (the "Fisher
King" modern malaise) and the path towards true masculinity
is rarely portrayed for him to see. In the myth of Parsifal,
the Holy Spear (the masculine weapon or phallus) had gone off
(was missing) and hence was split off from the Holy Chalice (feeling
and beauty). For each man the journey is to learn, heal and change
his life to live this true masculinity. Parsifal shows men the
way to heal their wound and to metaphorically re-unite the spear
and chalice' within themselves.
- Parsifal finally locates the spear and encounters the alluring
- Parsifal demonstrated true masculinity' in-the-field'
(so to speak) in his meeting with Kundry. He showed men how to
relate authentically in their daily lives and especially how
to relate to women.
- Parsifal's life to date was seen as a battleground of both
outer and inner opponents to make or break his wholeness. He
eventually came to the whereabouts of the Holy Spear, yet before
he could re-capture it, he encounters the now most beautiful
and alluring sorceress in Kundry. Kundry as aforesaid has been
"bewitched" and trapped into service by the "dark-side"
and as Parsifal gets close to the spear he meets the most testing
aspect to his masculinity.
- Parsifal's encounter with Kundry is so noteworthy, as he
shows us how to relate to women; in the face of luscious temptation.
It is so instructive to men about the erotic temptations they
face and how to hold true masculinity intact. Kundry had been
sent to delude Parsifal into wrongful actions, which would automatically
have set the Holy Spear out of reach! Clearly Parsifal was instinctual
man and Kundry was at her most alluring, so it seems certain
that he would have found her gorgeous and have entertained sexual
thoughts about her.
- I am indebted to Joseph Kerrick's Internet site and I paraphrase
his words, which eloquently illustrate the temptations that Parsifal
- "Kundry was dressed in seductive finery of a regal courtesan
so that any man who looked at her would see his heart's desire."
He [Parsifal] encountered Kundry, lying on a divan in a lushly
appointed chamber; he felt himself go flush with the flames of
awakened passion. She twined her arm about his neck like a serpent,
and drew him into a kiss. He pulled away disturbed, clutching
his heart. "What!" said Kundry, shaken out of her role
by this inexplicable outburst. "The cost of such bliss,"
said Parsifal, "would be endless cycles of doubly-damned
torment for both of us." The sin is not in the act,"
he said, "but in the actors." If the heart and the
motive are pure, the love is blessed. If not, there will yet
be the Devil to pay. At this she ripped off her flimsy raiment
and spread her arms and legs wide, offering herself desperately
for a thrust and a penetration that did not come. Parsifal only
stared at her in pity, his fool's look gone, though not his compassion.
- (Kerrick, J., "Parsifal and the Holy Grail" 1999).
- Parsifal knew in his heart that to "partake" of
Kundry was in fact a dual act of dishonoring himself and Kundry.
He chose to embrace his own erotic thoughts; to acknowledge their
presence but to put them away. He knew instinctively that to
act upon them it was not the right thing to do, as there was
no beauty, relating, and feeling or love present. He embraced
Kundry and refused her offerings, looked at her with compassion
and in so doing made himself and Kundry whole at the same time.
- With Parsifal's compassionate rejection of Kundry, Parsifal
assumed more strength and merit to his being. With this right
action he had both asked and answered the famous question "what
or whom does it serve" to act in this way. "Every thought
and behavior [of man] in this light is subject to this same inner
questioning and knowing" (Whiteout E, 1987). Not only did
Parsifal pass this test, but also through his compassion towards
Kundry, her "soul and queenly self" were restored and
she emerged from the entrapments that had bewitched her. She
was redeemed by Parsifal's inner strength of true masculinity.
- Kundry in fact was so thankful for being redeemed by Parsifal
that she showed him where the Holy Spear lay! Symbolically, the
finding of the Holy Spear was Parsifal finding his true masculinity,
brought about by the feminine aspect of himself (and Kundry).
The feeling, compassionate side of Parsifal enabled him to become
whole and "one," not split-off from his true masculine
"phallic self." Parsifal underwent an enormous trial
with the temptations of Kundry (as each man may encounter) and
he chose the path of honoring his true feelings and masculine
strength. Overcoming Kundry with such nobleness of being, Parsifal
had set himself free and he had earned the right to re-enter
the Grail Castle for the second time.
- The second Grail Castle experience:
- The second Grail Castle opportunity, as aforesaid, coincides
with man's mid-life crisis, a time when man reflects and re-evaluates
his whole life, to hopefully re-discover meaning and potency
in his remaining years. It is written in myth that every night
when we are asleep the awesome "Grail experience" goes
- Parsifal had earned the right over 20 to 30 years of knighthood
to re-gain entry to the Grail Castle for the second time and
to re-ask the question. Symbolically, he had put off the homespun
garment his mother had made him, which initially he had under
his armour! Parsifal had "untangled himself from the collective,
mother, adolescent complex and emerged as a man capable of potentiating
his own individual destiny" (Wyly, J, 1989). From simple
innocence he had matured to profound wisdom, redeemed by his
inner strength and high fidelity. Parsifal said at this point
"for I am innocent no longer," rather he had acquired
conscious innocence. Conscious innocence was Parsifal's guileless,
authentic open "warm" self that had endured, won the
day and completed the heroes' journey.
- Inside the Grail Castle, the same majesty and mystery was
enacted but this time Parsifal was undeterred from what he must
do. Parsifal's first act was to touch the wound of the Fisher
King, (his wounded testicles) with the spear. This act by Parsifal
made it plain to the king that it was the king's inappropriate
sexual behavior and his lack of integrity had caused the wound.
The Fisher King had severed the kingdoms connection with the
Holy Grail, by allowing "shadow/shady activity" to
take place within his soul and the Grail Castle (his domain).
- Parsifal then asks the famous question "Whom does the
grail serve"? Immediately the gathering was made aware of
the answer "The Grail serves the Grail King." Parsifal
in giving "voice" to the mystery of what is important
to uphold in the kingdom knew that, "the Grail is located
within himself." By asking the question "whom does
it serve" meant that man must choose to give service to
his conscience and honor that kingly part of himself.
- With the Holy Spear returned, the Fisher King was instantly
healed and immediately the Holy Grail enactment commenced restoring
light into the kingdom. The land instantly transformed back into
fertility and the waters flowed again. Water, being a psychic
element, re-emerged when the feminine aspects wholesomely combined
with the restored masculine aspects enabling the Holy Grail to
flow again in the kingdom. Some versions of the myth have it
that the Fisher King died three days later and Parsifal became
the new king - guardian of the Grail and served the Grail well
throughout the kingdom.
- Parsifal knew the reason for his own suffering, as well as
the Fisher King's (and modern man's), for he had transcended
the suffering that results from being split-off from ones own
integrity. Achieving true "kingly" masculinity in this
sense is an accomplishment, not a birthright and is birthed through
suffering, self-reflection and clarity in all actions. The Fisher
King was the brother of Parsifal's father, and Parsifal could
not simply inherit the "kingdom", he had to earn it
and be worthy of it. Likewise, men have to accomplish true masculinity!
- Parsifal's secret to success:
- Parsifal's "secret to success" as such, was his
lack of trickery (refusal of artificiality), his inner code of
honor and overcoming infidelity in all his actions. He knew that
years before, as a "green innocent fool," he had left
the Grail Castle wounded because he, like the Fisher King, had
not had sufficient masculine inner strength to hold to his inner
nobility (the Grail) and to do and say what was right.
- Parsifal, as we men, set out on the hero's journey wanting
The Grail to serve him (his ego) but in the end he knew that
we all serve the Holy Grail. Parsifal in serving The Grail simply
learned to listen and honor his own conscience and uphold it
with true masculinity. Conscience to almost every culture means,
"ones unique duty, personal moral imperative, sense of right
and wrong, inner voice, still small voice of God" (Bloomsbury
Thesaurus). That inner voice, of conscience, that speaks to everyone
and is there for each one of us to take heed of his own inner
voice! Parsifal, in becoming truly masculine, found his own voice
and was then whole enough to re-enter the Grail Castle and ask
the famous question. When a man takes the ultimate step of courage
to listen and honor his own inner voice, knowing and path, then
he has turned the corner and is safe.
- Parsifal had transcended and integrated duality within himself
and had attained great humility by knowing the source (within)
of his masculine strength and to whom he does serve. Parsifal
had integrated duality in the following sense: His "red
heart [of passion] had been opened to his feelings and merged
with his mind." "He had integrated the black [erotic]
with the white [purity] aspects of himself to achieve high fidelity
of being" (Burt, K, 1988). For without integration of duality
there remains "split-off-ness" within the man. "Only
as an individual, undivided, can man continue on his journey,
meet the feminine [within and without] as an equal opposite and
fulfil his creative destiny" (Wyly, J, 1989).
- Modern man's first task is to change and heal his adolescent
masculinity. He may finally commit (with Parsifal strength) to
fidelity of heart (to himself), sexual fidelity (to his partner)
and fidelity of actions (in his business affairs). High fidelity
of sound is a good example as the device (a stereo) faithfully
reproduces sound (The Word) that flows through it, without distortion
and of high quality. We are encouraged as men to get in touch
with our feminine side but for men our masculinity is the real
issue. For modern man the call is to commit to a true masculinity,
in its broadest meaning. "Unless man in his individuality
can differentiate himself from "collective" patriarchal
standards, both will go down together" (Wyly, J, 1989).
- Jesus Christ, I believe, was a man like Parsifal, full-blooded
and instinctual, an erotic, loving man, who became a powerful
man in battle within this world. Both men in this sense stood
the tests of life that all men face and yet emerged into wholeness
of being; into true masculinity, in such a way that we as modern
men can emulate. When man can begin to see true masculinity'
and emulate it, then he will begin to know himself as a "good
man," develop warmth of character and be less "cool."
He will start to obey inner authority more and have inner honor,
to uphold conscience and authentic clearness in all his words
and dealings. If man can do this then self-love starts to grow
and he will begin to feel and achieve more wholesomely in the
world. Significant others will respond immediately to this inner
wholeness and transforming dignity. Love and success is then
possible, not just to receive love but more importantly to love
through all actions!
- Each day is a quest:
- Truly we are made whole or empty daily as each action modifies
our own character and sense of being in this world. So as man
goes about his ordinary life, he either honors or over-rides
his own inner knowing. This simple yet profound difference in
how man goes about his day makes a huge impact on his own sense
of uprightness and health in his being. A Zen Buddhist master
poignantly taught his pupil to keep his inner mirror forever
free of dust! If man does something wrong, then he must not take
shelter in trickery and trivial excuses, but rather make a noble
hearted effort to resolve his fault within himself and make clear
reparation with others about it in the exterior world. For whatever
men do or feel toward another person each day, has a deep psychological
impact on themselves and on the other.
- The giving up of the inflated persona in which men have invested
significant years, implies a terrifying confrontation with people
around them and rejection of people whom they thought were important
to them (Wyly, J. 1989). Additionally, "young and old males
suffer when their phallic image is threatened" (Monick,
E, 1987). However, it is the transformation of adolescent masculinity
to true masculinity that needs to take place. Man may come to
know and be his "ordinary" self (without inflations)
and experience all that inner warmth and beauty that has not
left him. Men may experience this transition as scary, but it
is an essential step to emerge into true masculinity. To live
as "free" men, means not selling or enslaving ones
own soul and integrity to "cultural stereotypes and standards."
- If man remains in the old mentality of seeking the solution
only in the exterior world or blaming something outside of himself
then he cannot be healed and dooms himself to loneliness and
emptiness within! "Often, a cultural man [artificial, collective,
adolescent male] kills his natural [noble] man and nature replies
by making him impotent" (Johnson. R. 1989).
- True masculinity requires man to combine the rational with
the irrational within himself. More often than not, the Grail
Knight is unable to find the Grail Castle on his own accord,
which means that something is always interceding to keep him
pointed in the right direction (that inner voice of conscience)
and this is the irrational aspect for man to follow. This is
the "innocent fool" Parsifal part of himself that assists
his unique transformation. To do this, man has to risk being
vulnerable, "not knowing" and to emerge "ordinary"
from behind the inflations and trickery that prop him up in society.
Remember that each day every knight of the inner order in the
Grail Castle would renew his oath to uphold the task of giving
himself in service to the Holy Grail. The powerful play of life
goes on each day and man is called upon to contribute one verse.
Heroes live forever, as does Parsifal in the hearts of modern
- Richard A. Sanderson M.Ed., B.A (Psych). is a lecturer, teacher,
freelance writer and caretaker of nature. He lives in Perth,
- Edited by Paul Howell
- Comments please (via e-mail) to Richard Sanderson: firstname.lastname@example.org