MenWeb logoMenWeb   

Character and Destiny

Authentic Threads in Life

James Hillman and Michael Meade
Recorded live at Seattle Art Museum, October 1996
Tape review Copyright © 1997 by Bert H. Hoff

James Hillman and Michael Meade, Character and Destiny: Authentic Threads in Life (Pacific Grove, CA: Oral Tradition, 1997). Order direct from MenWeb.


Listen to an MP3 WebCast
Hear a MP3 excerpt

Character and Destiny
with James Hillman
and Michael Meade
Audio cassette
Order direct from

The Soul's Code
The Soulís Code

(order on-line)
(order paperback on-line)
(Audio Tape)

Book cover
The Force of Character: and the Lasting Life
by James Hillman
Order on-line
Large Print paperback
Audio Tape

I have no hesitation in saying that James Hillman's The Soul's Code is one of the most influential books I have read in my life. His underlying message is that true authenticity is being authentic to one's self, one's character and destiny.

So it was a delight to accept former Seattle M.E.N. President Halim Dunsky's gift and go down to the Seattle Art Museum to see James reunited with Michael Meade for an all-day session on "Character and Destiny." I didn't believe it was possible, but the workshop had even more impact on me than the book!

People ask me regularly, "Where is the 'men's movement'? Where is it going?" We're seeing it spread out through our culture with a broader message, such as the one that Jim and Michael delivered to the packed auditorium of men and women.

Rick Chelew, the artist estrordinaire who is the moving force behind Oral Tradition is a meticulous perfectionist. That's why people like Robert Bly and Marion Woodman insist on using him to record their workshops. They set incredibly high standards themselves, as I've learned from interviewing them and going over their careful and methodical mark-ups of the interviews. Rick's production of this tape shows, once more, that their faith in his artistic abilities is well-founded. I'm amazed that he managed to capture the essence of this all-day workshop so beautifully in this three-hour tape.

What if we could learn to view our "dysfunctions" not as a "mental illness" or the product merely of genetics and social conditions, but in a new way? What we lack is a creation myth for the psyche. This is what Jim sets out to provide.

The tape begins with a simple statement of Jim's thesis, which he draws from Plato's "Myth of Ur" from the last book of The Republic. "The soul of each of us is given a unique daimon, before we are born. It has selected an image or pattern that we live on earth. Those soul-companion, the daimon, guides us here. In the process of arrival, however, we forget all that took place and believe we come empty into this world. The daimon remembers what is in your image, and therefore your daimon is the carrier of your destiny."

Michael Meade opens by weaving together some lines from a poem by the "mad Japanese monk poet" Ikiyu, that captures the theme of the day, that there's an acorn in each of us that strives to grow into a great oak with its own character.
Long Life: The Wild Pines 1 and 2.
Passion's red thread is infinite
like the earth,
always under me.
Now I'm 70.
Still alive.
Looking up every night.
and snapping my fingers at time and the promise of love.
Listen! I'd like to give you something.
But what would help?
Self, other, right, wrong,
wasting your life arguing with it.
Face it! You're happy!
How many times do I have to say it?
There is no way not to be who you are, and where.

The passions that were there in youth remain as infinite threads, stretched through the soul of a person. And it is guided by the diamon, the nobility, the genius, the calling, the destiny, to which we must surrender. Jim says we muse give ourselves over to the daimon, as one gives himself over to love. In the Anna Akhmatova,"Not even the smallest muscle moved in his serenely angry face. ... There is nothing that he needs, and nothing we can keep from him,"

As we've come to expect, the points these men make are spoken directly into the soul, through their beautiful and artful use of poetry to illustrate or convey their message. And a delightful and amazingly relevant story, told only in Michael's humorous and magical way. And delightful little tidbits like the quote from William James, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." "It's important that when death finds you, it finds you alive."

One of the things that makes this tape so compelling, however, is the childhood stories Jim tells of children who were "different" -- perhaps in need of special attention, "special education" or Ritalin. Kids like Ibsen, Truman Capote, James Baldwin and Elia Kazan.

The current fad is to be aware of angels in our life. Jim and Michael point out that the angels are only part of he trilogy, of angels, of the more impersonal muses, and the duinde, the part that is connected to the earth, the blood, the party. It is this that Rilke refers to in his line that our role in life is to be decisively defeated by greater and greater beings. Michael does a beautiful job of rendering a Lorca poem that captures so well our struggles with the duinde. This is the struggle with the daimon that Jim was referring to earlier with the Akhmatova poem of lover with the serenely angry face. While our culture has no words for this, other cultures have referred to it as "the ancestors" or "the spirits" that operate invisibly in our world. On this tape, Jim and Michael speak of this as "the invisibles." What we do when we aren't aware of "the invisibles"? We buy insurance, and maybe even make a little money out of the catastrophe, instead of asking "Why did this happen now? What does is mean? What is my daimon's rag telling me?" e lack vision. We don't have a vision that holds the youth in the village. It doesn't just take a village to raise a child, it takes a vision. Yet, as Michael points out, a recet survey shows that the majority of Americas are afraid of youth--our own youth; they dodn't come from anywhere else.

In this review I can only give you a bit of the "flavor" of the wisdom, the insights and the startling and refreshing views presented on this tape. I urge you to get it and find out for yourself. It's well worth it.

    Click here to order direct from MenWeb.

Other Tapes from Oral Tradition


Listen to an MP3 WebCast
Hear a MP3 excerpt

Malidoma and Sobonfu Somé, We Have No Word for Sex: An Indigenous View of Intimacy. Tape: fascinating and insightful. Read our Review

In this live presentation, Malidoma Somé and his wife Sobonfu take us into the Dagara village and give us their tribal view of intimacy, relationships and marriage. For a subject as overworked as sex, here are some fascinating and important lessons from the heart that are as fresh and relevant as they are ancient.

2 tapes, 120 minutes, $17.95 Not at
Click here to order direct from MenWeb.

Listen to an MP3 WebCast
Hear a MP3 excerpt

Men and the Life of Desire, with Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade.
This landmark performance captures the energy and fire of an extraordinary men's gathering. Along with the Firebird story and poetry from Yeats to Rumi, topics include the hunger for the father, male initiation, and the differences between need, want and desire. Live music accompaniment.
4 tapes, 4 hours. $29.95.

Review     Click here to order direct from MenWeb.

Listen to an MP3 WebCast
Hear a MP3 excerpt
Images of Initiation, with James Hillman, Michael Meade and Malidoma Somé.
Through stories, poems, song and lively dialog, psychologist James Hillman, mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade and initiated West African tribesman Malidoma Somé connect our lost rituals of initiation to the challenges that men are now facing. Together they explore where initiation begins, how it is denied and devalued, the role of mentor as distinguished from the father, and the importance of the grandfather and ancestors.
2 tapes, 2 hours. $19.95

Review    Click here to order direct from MenWeb.

Facing the Shadow in Men and Women, with Robert Bly and Marion Woodman.
Oral Traditions' best-seller
There is a mystery around the word "shadow." We throw out part of ourselves in childhood, or put them in a bag; it is those abandoned parts that become the Shadow, which can then act destructively and independently of our will. If we can reclaim these parts much of our vitality and passion returns. Therefore Bly and Woodman challenge us to face the shadow in all areas of our lives. With live music, poems, and a moving Norwegian tale of love, The White Bear King Valamon.
4½ hours, 4 tapes. $29.95.

Review    Click here to order direct from MenWeb.

Thresholds of Change: Finding Purpose and Inner Authority in Troubled Times, with Michael Meade.
The dramas and symptoms that erupt in our lives are not simply bad luck due to circumstances. Our wounds are also initiatory scars pointing us toward our purpose and destiny.
Storyteller, mythologist and drummer Michael Meade challenges us to follow our "inner threads of purpose" and suggests surprising strategies for negotiating with our tyrannical inner giants, the value of stealth, trickery and deal-making, knowing when to strive and when to surrender, and the importance of discipline, art, and the feminine voice.
4 tapes, 4-1/2 hours, $29.95.

Review    Click here to order direct from MenWeb.

Throw Yourself Like a Seed, with Michael Meade.
The price we pay for worshipping independence may be an undernourished self, loss of community and increasingly chaotic youth. How do we go on as a culture without the rituals that give meaning to live? What legacy are we leaving coming generations?

Even when we recognize the need for change, how do we begin? Throw yourself like a seed, Meade suggests, into the work of living. Plant something and tend it long enough for meaning to appear.

The ancient story Half Boy illustrates the struggle of youth for respect and recognition, and the journey each of us must take to discover our genius within the community. Other stories include The Tree of Life and Death and The Abandoned Children.
1 tape, 90 minutes. $10.95.
    Click here to order direct from MenWeb.

Help us help men
Every $20 helps!

Articles | Men's Stories | Poetry | What's here? | Home Page | Search MenWeb | E-mail MenWeb

Press the "Back" button on your browser to return