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Men, Mothers, Wives and Lovers

An Interview with Robert Bly, John Lee and Michael Gurian

Copyright © 1995 by Bert H. Hoff

This article appeared in the September 1995 issue of M.E.N. Magazine


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On October 6-8, Robert Bly, John Lee, and Michael Gurian facilitated the Northwest Conference on Men and Their Relationships: Men and Their Mothers, Lovers and Wives in Spokane. Robert is author of Iron John. His interview with Keith Thompson on what men really want, which appeared in the New Age Journal, is credited with sparking interest in the "men's movement." His interview with Bill Moyers on PBS, A Gathering of Men, focused national attention on the movement. His videotape series with Marion Woodman, On Men and Women, has been viewed by over 200 men and women in Seattle M.E.N. discussion groups. John Lee is author of The Flying Boy; At My Father's Wedding; Facing the Fire: Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately; Writing From the Body, and a well-received book of poems, The Dragon's Letters. Michael Gurian, co-founder of INMEN, the Inland Men's Evolvement Network, is author of The Prince and the King, Mothers, Sons and Lovers, and the forthcoming Love's Journey. To the extent that the "men's movement" has leaders, all three are recognized as guiding lights. All three have been featured in prior interviews in M.E.N. Magazine. Editor Bert Hoff interviewed them by phone to gain perspectives on the upcoming Spokane conference.


Robert Bly
Robert Bly

John Lee
John Lee

Michael Gurian
Michael Gurian


Books and tapes available on-line

Robert Bly

John Lee

Michael Gurian

Bert: This conference coming up focuses on mothers, wives and lovers. Why don't we start with mothers? How did you get into the focus on Mother? Robert has been doing the Great Mother conferences for well over a decade. Michael has written a book, Mothers, Sons and Lovers. How did you men get into Mother work?

Michael: All my answers to questions like this are both personal and professional. I had a mother who was a very complex woman. We had a very complex relationship, sometimes violent, very loving, but very painful. She loved me more than anyone in the world, but also caused me more pain than anyone in the world. I carried that legacy coming out of childhood and I knew it needed work. I began to be able to do that work, starting in therapy in my early twenties. That continued, on and off, for years.

Professionally, at the same time I was studying mythology. At that time, anyone working on the cutting edge in mythology was studying Goddess mythology. What I was studying was my own mother, and I didn't realize it!

Those were the two themes for me, twenty years ago. Mothers, Sons and Lovers, then, comes out of years of both personal and professional work. I first had to come to grips with the idea that Goddess mythology wasn't the only cutting-edge mythology out there. This happened, for me, in hearing Robert Bly speak in the early '80s. I studied that for a long time. By the time I was able to write Mothers, Sons and Lovers, after 15 years of this work, I was able to put the personal and the professional together.

Bert: Writing the book was something of a struggle for you?

Michael: It was a big struggle. I had done a great deal of work, and my mother and I had done a lot of resolution. I had the arrogant notion that my Mother Work was done. It was an arrogant notion because when I was writing the book, all of a sudden all sorts of things came back up, for both my mother and me. We have a very close relationship now-as close as it can be when she and I are too much alike. The relationship blew up again when I started to write the book. We ended up having to do a lot of work together, and I went back into therapy for a while.

John: A couple of things come up for me. One is that a couple or three years ago, at a Mendocino Men's Conference, several men came up and said, "We've been working on our Father stuff for a long time. When are we going to start working on our Mother stuff?" I thought, "Oh, shit! That means I have to explore that." I felt like Michael felt, that I had already done that. But, yet, I knew deep down that I really hadn't, because I hadn't been talking about it at any of the workshops and gatherings I was at.

About the same time, my book At My Father's Wedding came out. That explores the relationship between father and son. My own mother read that book and called me. She said, "I feel you have yet to do with me what you have done with your father." "Oh shit! I have to hear it from my own mother!"

So then I began doing the work consciously, in therapy. I also got a contract with Bantam to write a book about it, called Stepping Into the Mystery. For almost three years I've been working on some version of that book. I turned in one version and it was accepted. But then I looked at it and decided not to release it. I knew that it was not as true as it needed to be. It was the book my mother could read and not be offended at all. Not that that was my intention. It was just so sanitized that it was clear that, unconsciously, I was writing, not through the Mother complex, but with the Mother complex still having a hold on me. So I told my publisher I was not going to let that out, and I wrote another completely different version of it, from scratch. When I finished it, I saw that that didn't work, either.

It is my personal struggle and task to come to terms with the impact of the emotional incest that I survived from my mother. It has affected every relationship that I have had, including my relationship with God. This has been a natural outgrowth of my own work, but it happened to be in sync with the needs of many men around the country, as they've expressed the need to work on the Mother themselves.

Bert: Your experience in writing a book your mother would approve of, and this reluctance to say things that Mother would not approve of, doesn't seem to be true of fathers.

John: It's a cultural taboo, in almost every culture, to say anything bad about one's mother. In the South, where I grew up, if you couldn't start a fight with someone any other way, you would say something about their Mama. It is ground down into our cells and bones that you just don't do this. In my case, my mother looked like the victim, and my father the perpetrator. It was easier to deal with the perpetrator than the victim. It took me years to realize that a great deal of my feelings of not being safe in the world centered around the fact that my mother did not protect me. A great deal of my spiritual dysfunction is due to my mother's dysfunctional spirituality and religiosity. That, coupled with the fact that the way I came to understand my father was mostly through my mother's perception of him, led to my ending up being pretty severely damaged in many ways by my mother. Worst of all, this played itself out in all my relationships with women and has caused me in many ways to confuse God, mother and lover, and what I'm supposed to be getting from each. That's a big part of my struggle now, today, as we speak.

Robert: I was my mother's favorite, and so I speak for her in the world. The men's stuff is a sideline. This is a recent poem I wrote to her:

What can we say

To each other?

That we are nothing

When the Man

Leaves the room?

That each of us is bound

By our breathing

To this troubled place?

That I am a son,

And you a mother,

And that someone

Has come between

Us, so that we

Forget

What has saved us.

I don't mean "saved" in a religious sense, but rather saved from an early death brought about by loneliness or isolation. Maybe when we move into the father's world, between five and ten, we forget who has saved us.

I know some men and women have been saved by their fathers. That is true. I was inspired by him, but not saved-yet we have to talk from where we are, or were. I have severe trouble if I try to speak of the dark side of my mother, so I know what Michael and John are talking about.

Michael: I know that I wrestled with the reluctance to speak ill of mother when I wrote Mothers, Sons and Lovers. To a certain extent, I still think about it. I wrote a book that was a journey of healing, but less of a personal book, so I had an easier row to hoe than John did. As I faced the decision, I thought that Mom's still alive, and we have a healthy relationship right now. I decided I would write the kind of book I'm good at, a journey of healing I can lead men through, and help women to understand men better. I decided I wouldn't talk much about myself. It'll end up that things between my mother and me would be okay, and the kids could still have their grandmother. If I really opened up that Pandora's box, it would have destroyed the family.

The similarity between John and me isn't as much between Stepping Into the Mystery and Mothers, Sons and Lovers, as it is between Stepping Into the Mystery and the novel about my childhood that I've been trying to write for the last eight years. That one has driven me crazy. It has haunted me. I've written it so many times, successfully in a therapeutic way, but unsuccessfully for the publishing world. In the last year I've let it go.

John: That's what has happened to me, too. I've literally abandoned the idea of publishing the book because of what you've said. Someone reminded me the other day that I wrote Writing From the Body primarily for myself, and only secondarily for an audience or a publisher. When I finished the two versions of Stepping Into the Mystery, therapeutically I felt more complete than I had ever felt before. It has positively impacted my relationships with women. But I didn't get a book out of it. I've put it aside, and I'm working on something else.

Michael: That's what I'm doing in fiction. We feel like we've wrung that inner conflict dry.

Bert: You think! (laughter)

John: That's what I want to be clear about. Mine is absolutely and totally a struggle today, even though it's no longer taking the form of writing a book. The struggle that's implicit in the act of separating from a mother who I was merged with is still as ongoing today as it was three years ago. I have a whole belief system that says where merger exists, separation is almost impossible. Until separation can exist, union with both a lover and a God cannot exist. I haven't done the act of separation yet, to the degree I very much feel I need to. The struggle is no longer being carried out through writing a book, but it is being played out through divorces.

Robert: That's a scary remark. "A slow separation from our mother is being played out through divorces." If that's so, there must be a lot of that slowness, because the number of divorces is rising. I think the slow separation from mother is played out also in not advancing beyond the mother. "If she was wounded, I'll be wounded." "I can't be more successful than my father and I can't be more happy than my mother." Sometimes the mother might say to that, "That's a deal."

I don't remember my mother and I making an agreement to have low self-esteem, but that's the way it worked out. You can hear the echo of the agreement in the opening lines of the poem I recited earlier. I am two people: one assured and rather happy like my father; the other self-doubting and enduring like my mother.

Bert: John, can you elaborate on the relationship with Mother affecting your relationship with God and your spirituality?

John: That was an interesting thing I started to work on during the course of the book. I realized several years ago that I had been emotionally incested by my mother, when I read this wonderful book by Pat Love, The Emotional Incest Syndrome. So I started to work on that. Then, as I started to explore my own spiritual life, I realized that I had the spirituality of a nine-year-old, even though I had been a professor of comparative religion for ten years. In some ways, developmentally I stopped when I was about age nine to twelve. My mother had been in charge of my religious instruction. "John, be a good boy. John, say your prayers. John, if you don't, you'll go to hell. John, Jesus is the only way. John, God is a jealous God." All the beliefs that she had went into me at a cellular level. This was reinforced by all the ministers we listened to. In our case, they were Southern Baptists. I'm a recovering Baptist now. About this time, Bev and I were separating.

All this brought me to start exploring what spiritual abuse I had received in this process from my mother. I checked into a treatment center last August, for 16 days, primarily to deal with spiritual abuse. The treatment center I went to has a national reputation for that specialty.

Bert: What is the spiritual dimension that was missing, when you describe yourself as a nine-year-old spiritually, and being a "good boy"?

John: Intellectually, I had the spirituality of a 44-year-old through my life experience. But emotionally and psychologically I did not, and still do not, trust God. I did not and do not trust God to provide a certain level of safety for me. I still have to work on this. It's very important to feel safe in this world. About the only way one can feel safe in this world is to feel that he or she has some kind of higher power that is benevolent and loving. The truth is that many of us don't have that. In the book I'm working on now, I describe Him as the Lord of Leaving. The Lord of Taking Away. So much was taken away in my childhood, which I attributed to God being angry at me. This is a nine-year-old's view of God.

Through this treatment and the work I had done, I realized that what I had been doing reflected an expression I use in the book I'm working on. Heaven help the man who confuses his mother, his lover, and his God. I've had that confusion, because I couldn't separate out from my mother. I would overlay her onto my lover, both onto my God, and God onto both of them.

Robert: There's a lot of confusion and grief in that last sentence, John. A lot of content, as well. I first ran into those confusions set down in a book of Robert Johnson's, Lying With the Heavenly Woman. He lists, I think, six entirely different visible or invisible feminine creatures that a man sees when he looks inside himself. One is our personal mother, another is our image of our mother. Very different! Two sons will have the same mother, but each brother's image of her is often utterly distinct. It's important to treat our mother differently than our image of her. Then there may be a woman, an actual woman, whom he loves and feels desire for; then there is a spiritual woman, invisible and loving, who is attracted to us. We are to make love with the first, the actual one, and not with the second, the spiritual one! In medieval stories, the instruction is: when you're in bed with the invisible woman, put a sword between the two of you. She is damaged if you try to possess her. That's fine stuff.

The invisible, spiritual woman is not "God," and yet there's some Divinity there. All divinities are easily confused with our mother. Nothing is easier for a man than to imagine a female goddess. One of the reasons for the development of a male God is to separate the idea of God from the idea of our mother. I don't know if that plan is working or not, and I don't know if it ever worked as well for women as it-sometimes-does for men. Plotinus nursed until he was eight years old. Maybe that's why he needed the abstract ideas of Plato.

Bert: Michael, is this ringing any chords with you?

Michael: Yes, absolutely. The energy with which our physical and emotional bodies, which are all one body, attempt to love a woman, is the same energy with which we attempt to love God. If we're wounded, we're going to project the same wounds onto a woman or, if we're gay, onto another man, as we will onto God. John keyed in on it when he talked about trust. You have to have faith in a higher power, or in God, in order to feel solid and sacrosanct in the world. You have to have the same energy of faith in a woman, or in a partner.

When I made the joke earlier about studying Goddess energy and realizing I was studying my mother, I really meant that. I could feel that the same energy with which I was loving my mother and trying to have faith and trust in her, I was projecting onto all these goddesses of myth. When I attempted to love a woman, I was doing the same thing. What happened for me, which was different than it was for John, was that my parents brought me up in many different religious traditions, including Hindu, Baha'i and Jewish. When I came to be an adult, I began to feel viscerally that I was caught in a fear loop. This happened in my spiritual life as well as in my love life.

The direction I went was to back away from women and explore spirituality. I didn't relate to a woman for a year. I was in terrible trouble with my girlfriend at the time. In fact, this is now a process I teach. I try to encourage my clients, when they find themselves stuck in this place, to back away and take their internal energy back from a woman or partner. I encourage them to journal, to pray, to develop spiritual rituals and disciplines. What has worked for me, and for many clients, is that we regain a spiritual discipline, because the impingement and enmeshment that happened with Mom destroys the discipline of relating to another. For me, this is similar to destroying the discipline of relating to the Divine. We can't relate to the Divine unless we involve ourselves in a profound spiritual discipline.

John: Yes, that's right.

Robert: By the way, I think that pause, accompanied by spiritual disclosure, is exactly what Robert Johnson suggests in order to resolve some of the confusions and "learn to treat each interior feminine figure differently."

Michael: What I did, and what I teach, is for men to back away and develop a spiritual discipline. Rituals of faith and prayer. I think this is something AA also does. After a year of no sex, no relationships, I came back. Shortly after that I met my wife.

I agree with everything John has said. I think the enmeshment in childhood nearly destroys one's ability to trust in a God.

Often we get caught up in institutional structures. I see this in the Promise Keepers. (Ed.-The Promise Keepers is a Christ-centered, nondenominational, multiracial organization committed to training men how to be responsible to God, to their wives and children, to their churches and to each other. The Washington Post has described it as "a conservative Christian revival movement challenging feminism, gay rights and major aspects of liberal society." Our July magazine was devoted to issues around the Promise Keepers.)

They're basically the outgrowth of a 2,000-year-old institution. Their response to the issues we're grappling with is to say that we have to focus on family and get back to traditional, biblical values. As you know, I've been supportive of some of the things they've done, like focusing on the importance of family. I've also been publicly critical of some of the things they've done. I think they're pursuing some of the same goals, from a religious, institutional perspective, that we're pursuing through the folk tradition. I think the men's movement and the work we do at conferences, like our conference next October, is coming much more from a folk tradition. We use folk tales, and the men's movement is much more of a grassroots movement.

John: I'd like to add one thing and be very straightforward about it, because I'm very concerned. The desire for the direction we're moving in is a universal desire, but the Promise Keepers and right-wing folks are basically still regressive in their attempts to create more adult relationships. They're actually still adolescent, or even infantile, because of their literalism.

Michael: I totally agree.

John: Our stories, which emanate out of folk traditions, and certainly, in my case, personal narrative, move us in a progressive direction towards adult relationship. I'm saying we have the same desires, but the directions are different. The regressive direction that the Promise Keepers are taking, and Newt Gingrich is taking with his talk about bringing back orphanages, is very dangerous. Contrary to what some of the "progressive" feminists believe about Robert's, Michael's and my work, it's a much safer and much more mature forward motion, with more clear thinking and clear-sightedness than what I'm afraid people like the Promise Keepers are offering.

Bert: You were talking earlier about your mother leaving you in a nine-year-old spirituality.

John: That comes back to the literalism I was just talking about. For example, the old saying "spare the rod and spoil the child" is taken so literally that they don't understand the symbolic and linguistic roots of the very words of the passages in the text. The rod was used to rescue sheep, not to beat the shit out of them or make them stop being sheep. It was to pull them out of dangerous places. It's the same rod that's used in the prayer, "thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." The literalists take something like that and do very damaging, regressive things with it.

Bert: Michael, earlier you were talking about withdrawing from enmeshment in relationships with women and devoting a year to spiritual discipline. But a lot of our readers are married or deeply involved in a relationship, and are not ready to back away for a year.

Michael: I think that's where Mothers, Sons and Lovers comes in. What happened for me during and after this process of pulling away was that I was able to see that mythology was a valuable tool. I worked with that for a while. I saw a few years ago, when I was writing Mothers, Sons and Lovers, that I was able to return to my foundations. For me, this involved getting back into therapy, making sure I had a spiritual discipline in place, and then finding a path or a journey to make. So, as I was writing Mothers, Sons and Lovers, I found that I was again making the journey in the second half of the book. The journey to separation, the journey out of entanglement, the journey in which we return to a sense of the Divine that is separated from our sense of the Mother. A journey that is no longer dependent on our mother holding all that Divine Goddess energy. Mothers, Sons and Lovers does that. It gives men who are in relationships a one-year journey. But they can stay in relationships.

I then saw that the next step, for me, was to understand love as a spiritual discipline. In fact, two days before the October 6-8 conference that Robert, John and I are doing here in Spokane, my book Love's Journey is coming out. That book is about spiritual discipline. The spiritual discipline of loving a mate. It deals with the twelve stages of relationships.

I had to work through a journey with my mother, but I wasn't about to leave my wife. I also needed to write down my sense of love as a spiritual discipline, which had to be like practicing your faith. That's what Love's Journey does.

That's why this Northwest Conference on Men and Their Relationships: Men and Their Mothers, Lovers and Wives is such a dream come true for me. It brings together those two efforts of mine. And I'm fortunate enough to have John and Robert come out to work with me. This is the first time the three of us have worked together, teaching and telling stories together.

My vision for the conference is to give people a safe place for renewal, for searching the mysteries and for exploring wisdom. I think that the thing John keyed into, about the mother and the Divine, is a big theme in Love's Journey. I have a feeling that at the conference, we'll follow our energy and end up doing a lot with God and spirituality.

That was one of the early promises of the men's movement, a promise to give men a spiritual and sacred place. I think that it is fulfilling that. Maybe at a conference like this we can stand up and say that we're going to stand by our principles and say that, yes, we're involved in spiritual life. A conference like this is a spiritual occasion.

Robert: I'd like to teach some of the ideas that Elizabeth Badinter brings forward in her book L'un est L'autre, which translates in English as The Unopposite Sex. Badinter is one of the greatest and best known of the French feminists. She seems to be far ahead of many American feminists, in that she believes that the gender battle is over. She says, "In most Western democracies, the patriarchal system has received the coup de grace in the last two decades. A minute dot on the line of human evolution, the 1980s have transformed the relations between men and women in a large part of the world, although we have still not realized the fact."

She says, "The father has lost his prestige, as Eve has dealt herself a new hand."

If it's true that Eve has dealt herself a new hand, and "a time of friendship and freedom has come," we may have a better chance than people fifty years ago had when they tried to disentangle themselves from their mothers. If, in the patriarchies, mothers have all the power inside the house and men have all the power outside the house, as it was fifty years ago, and for a long time before that, then we understand how difficult it would be for men and women to meet in "love," or for the mother and son to meet in equality. Each had to meet, or fail to meet, the other in a power situation. There's still some of that, but less.

Bert: As you were speaking of spiritual discipline, you reminded me of M. Scott Peck's definition of love in The Road Less Traveled, "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." He uses the word "will" deliberately, meaning an application of discipline.

John: That aspect of will is what I'm writing about now, though I feel the least qualified of the three of us. Robert has been married to Ruth for fifteen years. Michael is successfully married. I'm still out there struggling with this. I just completed a formalized divorce from a six-year relationship on December 30. Somebody asked me the other day whether I would ever fall in love again. I said, with no cynicism attached to the answer at all, "absolutely not." From the vantage point I've attained from the work I've done, particularly around the mother issues, I'm very much aware of, and a great believer in, the view that love is a choice. "Falling" in love is, by nature, regressive, back into the arms of mother. There are many, many women (for a heterosexual) or men (for a homosexual) from which to choose to love, consciously, consistently and conscientiously. It's no longer even possible for "falling" in love to be an option for me. The Easterners have a wonderful saying. "You Americans marry the women you love. We in this culture love the women we marry." I'm more inclined now to the Eastern direction.

Bert: Malidoma Somé says a very similar thing about marriage in his village, and about his marriage to Sobonfu. He was over here when the village elders called him to tell him he was to marry Sobonfu. He was married in absentia, and it was months before he was together with her.

John: I feel very strongly about that. Mostly, the love we have is a mock love for the mother until mature choice, will and commitment-all the things you and Michael have talked about-are brought into play.

Michael: One key thing here. is "push-pull" intimacy, as I talk about in Mothers, Sons and Lovers. Here, one moment he is intimate and in the next moment he is pulling away. She does a little thing that neither one of them is consciously aware of, and it triggers a feeling in him that she's doing something just like Mom. He then pulls away for a week or two, or a few days. He works it through, and then he comes back. A couple can be involved in this push-pull intimacy for only so long, before they pull further and further away. I deeply believe that a lot of that is due to the impingement and enmeshment-as John says, emotional incest-with Mom.

Of course, I want to caution everyone that there's no "mother-bashing" going on in our conferences. This is all just about the relationship and the dynamics of it.

John: I agree wholeheartedly. The mother that we're always wrestling with is the "ghost mother," or the Mother complex, to use a Jungian term. The biological mother actually has very little, if anything, to do with this struggle. That needs to be made very, very clear. All mothers are as much wounded by their own mothers, their fathers, and the society that perpetuated that kind of mothering and fathering. By no means is this a slam against the biological mother. Rather, it's about the mothering, or lack of mothering, that lives in our bodies and our brains.

Michael: That's very important. The interesting thing that I find as I do workshops is that as many women as men come. Most of them are mothers. I hope that women come to this conference, because the dialogue that I'm hoping for at a conference like this is not a juvenile dialogue. It's a mature dialogue between men and women who are ready to come together to resolve some archetypal conflicts that have existed for thousands of years in male-female dynamics. Now we're just becoming wise enough, or perceptive enough …

John: Or desperate enough …

Michael: Or desperate enough to really look at this. We all know that we've got to do this together. This is one thing I'm so proud of, in being part of the men's movement, that it's so much an integrating movement. That push-pull intimacy, and the other struggles that we get involved in as couples, men and women need to work on together. Men need to do their work, but the couples need to come together. The woman, whether she realizes it or not, is acting out her part, too. She's acting out her stuff with her dad or her mom, too. They're involved in an enmeshed, entangled relationship, the foundation for which is laid down way in the past. It's just like the story "The Enchanted Ring." Nikolai and Katia meet as they're going to put flowers on their parents' graves. Nikolai is putting flowers on his father's grave, and Katia is putting flowers on her mother's grave. Both the father and the mother are training their youngsters on how to love. Both the living parents are also training them how to love. Where do they meet? On their parents' graves. That's true for most couples. We meet emotionally on our parents' graves. Then we awaken somewhere, five, ten or twenty years down the line. For men, not to look at their mother is not to look at the most influential relationship in their life.

John: That's why it's so frightening to do it.

Michael: It's terribly frightening. Women will say that they've read my book, and they have to separate from their mom, too. It's frightening for them, too.

Bert: Where do you see all of this work that men and women are doing, on mothers, lovers and relationships, going?

John: I'll speak briefly to this, because it's a theme in a book I'm writing, and a theme in the book Robert is writing, The Sibling Society. Most people, including myself, have relationships that are more infantile and adolescent than adult. Even when they manage to be adults for short amounts of time, because of some bad information, lack of information, or bad modeling, there is a tendency to be constantly in a state of regression. What we have currently, then, is what I would call, for lack of a better term, immature relationships. The kinds of stuff that we're wrestling with now, if we are mature enough to look at it, is to recognize the woundedness we receive from our fathers, and heal that. If we're mature enough, finally we are willing to say that we received some wounds from our mother, and heal that. What that will inevitably create is more mature, adult-to-adult relationships. As an outgrowth of that, we will be more effective, mature, adult, caring parents to children. What I see happening now, because we haven't done that so well, is children raising children. The older adult children are divorcing each other at an alarming rate. They're leaving the children to either raise themselves, or form families that consist of other children to get their nurturing needs met. And that is impossible.

The work we're doing here, I hope, will ultimately create mature, adult relationships. That's what I'm heading for.

Robert: The sibling society has a lot of characteristic and unnoticed emotions in it, but one is the increasing rage of the unparented. That rage is deepening. One can feel it in the gangs, in a lot of rap music, and in a subterranean depression in many young men and women of all social classes. We have been talking of how important fathering is, and we need to say clearly how important for us all mothering is. Mothers do not receive much gratitude in a culture like this, so grossly devoted to business. Business does not nurture. It's as if business teaches men and women that nurturing is not an important activity. Business has already taught men that neither nurturing nor fatherhood is an important activity. But if we don't support nurturing, both by mothers and by fathers, we can't call ourselves adults.

Michael: Well said. I can't add much. I do have a sense that the culture wants to wrestle with this, and is wrestling with this. Across the board, people are realizing that this is a problem. I think we have woken up to the fact that, to use Robert's phrase, we live in a sibling society. The men's movement has been really good at saying that in order to grow, you have to heal these wounds. That's the first step. Then there have been voices elsewhere saying that in order to change society, you have to go out and be political. Obviously, we can do both. In order for this to happen, for us to build a society that we have never had before, and to fix some problems we have created in the last couple hundred years, we have to be ready to understand and accept men's fragility and vulnerability. We discovered a few years back that the culture wasn't ready for that. It was too scared. So it had to trash the "men's movement" in the media.

One of the things I always want us to look at is how well we can handle men's fragility. How well can a woman handle her husband's fragility when he deals with these issues, and how much can he handle? I think when we're young and are raising kids, we know how fragile we are. We know how little we know. We'll cover it up, but basically we know we're only about 12 or 15, but we're trying to lead adult lives. That makes us so very fragile. So I hope we can all come together and help build adulthood, so we don't have to fake it anymore.

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