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Beyond the Hero

Book review by Bert H. Hoff

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Alan B. Chinen, M.D., Beyond the Hero: Classic Stories of Men in Search of Soul. (Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1992) (order on-line)

Allan Chinen

Order Beyond the Hero on-line

Allan Chinen's books

Allen Chinen does not have the fame of a Robert Bly, Michael Meade or Robert Moore, but he will soon be recognized as one of the most powerful influences in Menís Work. As I write this review his book is not yet published, but its thesis is subtlely woven into both the Warren Farrell interview and the Shepherd Bliss article in this issue. Simply stated, his thesis is that beneath the Hero, the Warrior and the patriarch, buried deeper in history and deeper in menís psyches, lies the Trickster - shaman. The Trickster lives in the ancient time of the hunter-gatherer, when the population was small and food relatively abundant, before we had agricultural plots we had to defend and before tribes had to fight each other for available resources. That is where the deep masculine is buried. To find it, we must transcend the Hero and the patriarch, find a balance between the masculine and the feminine, and recognize our own frailties and our own mortality.

I must confess I had not heard of his earlier book Once Upon a Midlife (or his first book, In the Ever After), until I met him at the Mendocino conference. There, as soon as he was mentioned, people like Robert Moore and Michael Gurian volunteered how powerful they found his book on midlife to be. (I agree, and will be reviewing it in the next issue. I urge you not to wait for my review before you rush out and read it.) Allan is a quiet, unassuming man who hesitates and thinks carefully before he speaks. When he does, he speaks a simple truth that seems so obvious, yet is so profound, that you wonder why you hadnít thought of it before. This quality is reflected in both his books.

In Beyond the Hero Allan begins with an empty canvas and adds fairy tales from around the world. These are carefully and artfully chosen, to begin to add shape to the canvas. He adds a stroke here and a shading there, with his simple, highly readable interpretations. You do not realize that the palette from which he draws his colors is huge, encompassing dreams of his analysands, humbling stories about the changes he went through as the vision of the book took shape in his mind, myths from other cultures, and studies in cross-cultural anthropology. Slowly the picture takes shape as his tales add a dimension here and fill in a missing piece there. When he reaches the final chapters, a fairy tale of his own invention which neatly summarizes the themes he has developed, you already see a picture in your soul, a picture you know to be true.

Related stories:

 Midlife and the Shaman/Trickster, an interview with Allen Chinen

 Once Upon a Midlife, book review of another book by Allen Chinen

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