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Review of 5 Good CDs

Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade,
Men and the Life of Desire
Robert Bly and Marion Woodman,
Facing the Shadow in Men and Women.
James Hillman, Michael Meade and Malidoma Somé,
Images of Initiation.
Michael Meade, The Dance of Gender: When Men Went One Way and Women Went the Other.
Michael Meade, The Mythology of Gender

Here are reviews of five excellent CDs from Oral Tradition. These CDs can be obtained directly from MenWeb. Click here to go to the MenWeb Direct on-line store.

Men and the Life of Desire tape cover

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Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade, Men and the Life of Desire. (4 CDs, 4 hours)

Why do men not have what they desire? Or are they so out of touch with themselves that they don't even know what they desire? This best-seller is long enough to give you a very good sense of what happens when Robert, James and Michael work their magic together. It centers around "The Firebird," a Russian fairy tale about power, love and danger. Robert, James and Michael draw on poems, stories and their own wisdom to inspire each other to offer penetrating insights on the soul and spirit of man.

Facing the Shadow in Men and Women tape cover

Robert Bly and Marion Woodman, Facing the Shadow in Men and Women. (1993)(4 CDs, 5-1/2 hours)

My review of the Bly Woodman videotape series On Men and Women, a couple of issues ago, sparked a lot of interest. This new audio tape, while not as captivating as the videotape medium can be, gives an excellent flavor of their work together. They use the Russian fairy tale "The White Bear King Valemon" as the vehicle for exploring the shadow in men and women. Aside from the wonderful storytelling and soul-piercing poetry, the tape is full of marvelous insights. I can only give a couple of examples in this review. Robert points out that we have talked about fathers' incest, but not of the psychic incest of mothers. When men get in touch with this, there will be anger and rage. Marion observed that a woman's uterus is an empty void. Tribal cultures honored this, for example by rubbing a woman's stomach with corn starch for fertility and honoring the womb as the center of the earth. Modern day woman, however, experience this void as an emptiness in their body, which they might hopelessly try to fill with over-eating or a series of meaningless relationships.

Robert is both humorous and movingly powerful, as usual. But it is Marion who impressed me the most. Her wonderful discussion of the positive and the shadow in the feminine moved me to tears of the soul. If you are interested in finding common ground between men and women this is a tape you should listen to -- or better yet, to share with the woman in your life.

Images of Initiation tape cover

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James Hillman, Michael Meade and Malidoma Somé, Images of Initiation. (1992)(2 CDs, 2 3/4 hours)

In this tape Michael Meade teams with James Hillman and Malidoma Somé to offer, through stories, poems and their own wisdom, important insights about the importance of initiation. Malidoma Somé underwent a tribal initiation when he was 20, after growing up in a Jesuit seminary. The ritual was dangerous -- not everyone who went on it came back. He discovered that initiation was actually based on a simple assumption: before we were born we know exactly what our purpose is. Taking on a physical body means you must find a place in your psyche to save this information. Initiation is a way of tapping into that knowledge box.

One part of initiation is that you don't know what will happen -- you risk. Somé points out that initiation involves trust; not that everything will turn out O.K., but that you aren't being beaten just for the heck of it. Initiation is separation. Addiction is initiation at the wrong time; you become separated from the Self, not from the family. Initiation moves us from psychological innocence to what we call "savvy." It moves us from being self-centered to centering on the community and on the Great Self.

Michael uses the term Litima, the violent emotion peculiar to the masculine parts of things. It is the source of quarrels, ruthless competition, possessiveness, the power drive and brutality. But it is also the source of independence, courage, upstandingness, high emotions, high ideals, the movement towards individuality and becoming a full person, the willingness to protect others and the desire for initiation. It's like a fire with two flames: one will burn and kill, the other will protect you -- protect what is beautiful, important and meaningful in a culture.

Michael observes that when a father dies, the son frequently feels as is a road opens up in front of him. The father, or the fantasy of the father, or beliefs about the father, are blocking our ability to go on. So one of the purposes of working with stories is to imagine the death of the father metaphorically, rather than waiting until it happens physically. In a culture that doesn't deal with this stuff straightforwardly, we don't become an adult until our father dies.

If our society falls, it will fall from within, from violence on the street, from our not caring enough for young people. A gang is a group looking for initiation, looking for a mentor. The gang is the initiatory brotherhood without the elders. Hope is gone, so the drive-by shooting is the initiatory, sacramental act of a cult of death. It's a deeply sad thing when one group in a culture has to carry that shadow, so that the others can pretend to live.

Mythology of Gender tape cover
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Dance of Gender tape cover
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Michael Meade, The Mythology of Gender: Conflicts, Truces and Harmonies between Men and Women (1989)(2 CDs, 1-3/4 hours) and The Dance of Gender: When Men Went One Way and Women Went the Other. (1991)(1 CD, 96 minutes)

While issues of men and women are just coming to the forefront in Men's Work, Michael has been doing work in this area for years. These CDs are two to three years old, but are totally relevant today. In The Dance of Gender, Michael uses an ancient African creation myth as well as poems to center his discussion on gender issues. The Mythology of Gender also contains an African myth, but is a more general discussion of gender issues, punctuated poems and by Michael's delightful sense of humor. (The workshop is just over an hour and a half; the balance of the tape is filled out with a general commentary by Michael on the role of myth.) While both CDs are worthwhile, I found The Mythology of Gender more fun and more germane to the practical gender-relations issues I encounter.

Note: The Dance of Gender is available in audio tape or CD.

Related stories:

Men, Spirit, Soul and Shadow Listing of articles on MenWeb

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