Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Enchanted Forest

“like a note of music, you are about to become nothing”
Robert Bly, My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy: Poems

This post concerns an excellent Art of Manliness Podcast:

In it, AOM interviews William Ayot, author of a new book, Re-Enchanting the Forest. Here he is in an YouTube interview talking about problems men face:


William Ayot posits that modern life could be enriched by reacquainting ourselves with the mystical rituals that our ancestors used to nourish their souls. Ayot says that the Western mind has been hijacked over the last several hundred years by our slavish turn to reason, logic and detail at the expense of empathy, compassion and imagination. It is a shift that favors the logical left brain to the detriment of the artistic right brain. It is an appeal to the masculine ideals of lists, clarity and measurement. The problem is that this focus leads us lose contact with the wilder, sensual side of our nature. In turn, this leads to a hollowing out of the few rituals that we still retain that are used to keep us in touch with our more poetic side.

Apollonian vs Dionysian

Friedrich Nietzche first broached this idea of the need to keep in touch with our Dionysian side in his book, the Birth of Tragedy.

relating to the god Apollo.
relating to the rational, ordered, and self-disciplined aspects of human nature.
"the struggle between cold Apollonian categorization and Dionysiac lust and chaos"

relating to the god Dionysus.
relating to the sensual, spontaneous, and emotional aspects of human nature.

Here is a good summary of the subject:

On Descent

In 1905, the Russian symbolist poet, Vyacheslav Ivanov published an influential article entitled: "On Descent: The Sublime, the Beautiful and the Chaotic - The Triad of Aesthetic Principles. This article expanded on Nietzche's thoughts and speaks about art in terms of the ascent to Apollonian and descent to Dioneysian ideals. Apollonian ideals are a masculine search for truth and Dioneysian a feminine revalation of beauty and chaos.

the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.

perceptible by the senses or through immediate experience.
"the phenomenal world"

In this view, the actual metaphysical universe is chaotic but this is hidden to us by its phenomenal representation.

Spirit vs Soul

The soul or psyche needs to experience to go down.

Spirit needs order, cleanliness, an order, a view, to rise above.

The Soul

The right brain side of us is not cannot count or speak. It is not data oriented.

It's language is visual. It thinks in symbolic terms.


A different place and time.
A crossing of a threshold.
A symbolic action where the soul can receive a message.
e.g. A ring on your finger symbolizing a union of two people

Ritual use the rule of 3
A beginning, middle and end.

It requires an intention which give you a root map or anchor when entering into the chaotic side of nature.

Rites of Passage

In 1905, Arnold van Gennep published his influential work Rites of Passage. It most important point is that ritual are divided into three main phases:

  1. Preliminary - An exit form the Apollonian sphere into the Dionysian sphere.
  2. Liminaire - An ordeal,  a transition or transformation. A communication to your Dionysian side.
  3. Post-liminaire - A re-entering of the Apollonian from the Dionysian. A re-grounding in the here and now.

Van Gennep's ideas greatly influence Joseph Campbell's theories on mythology particularly his Hero's Journey scenario.

Iron John

Robert Bly sensed something amiss with young men in the 1980's. To him, they seemed to be naive, too eager to please and lacking a certain fierceness.

Robert Bly, who is best known for his book Iron John, started rekindling interest in developing manhood by reacquainting ourselves with the mythical side of our nature.

Deep Thinkers

Robert Bly interacted with many other similar deep thinkers in this arena:

James Hillman
Michael Meade
Robert Moore
Malidoma Patrice Some
Martin Prechtel
John Lee

Modern Self Initiations

Western societies have been stripped of the ritual rights of passage of our forefathers so we substitute these with hollow rituals and things like extreme sports.

Even worse, we have replace these rites of passages with markers such as graduating from school and getting a job.

We live in our heads and do not create a space to embody things, to embrace them with our right brain/psyche/soul.

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