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Book Title: He (Perennial Library)|
Date of issue: July 1st 2009
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
The author of the book: Robert A. Johnson
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 728 KB
Edition: HarperCollins e-books
Read full description of the books He (Perennial Library):This was like looking through a kaleidoscope submerged in water: I can see there's a pattern of bright colors and shapes at the end of the cylinder, but it just won't come into focus.
I appreciate the Jungian psychological concepts symbolizing the masculine life's journey, including man's quest for the grail, his fight with dragons and knights along the path, the hermit years, and of course the various feminine characters and complexes represented at every stage of life. The tale of Parsifal battling his demons, saving his damsel in distress, and joining King Arthur's court is interesting provided its historical emergence from France in the 12th Century and its subsequent appearance in other societies through similar but distinctive versions.
The problem for me is the author's tendency to say "Here is this story, and this part means this and that part means that," but without ever providing context or giving much reason why. The reason is just because the author says so. For example, Parsifal encounters and defeats the Red Knight, which represents some initial battle the boy must face on his way toward knighthood, i.e. manhood. However, what that is in fact is neither made clear nor do we learn how we know that's what the story was intended to mean (aside from some sort-of examples such as Dr. Jung's traumatizing childhood experience with a teacher who declared his homework assignment must have been plagiarized). Parsifal meets the damsel in the castle who has not smiled for six years but upon seeing him spontaneously begins to laugh. This is meant to represent the inner feminine side of Parsifal which detracts him from his mission and instils in him for the first time doubt about his own abilities. That's all well and good, and may even be true, I just have no idea how the author was brought to that conclusion.
Throughout this and other books by Robert Johnson there seems to be a mixture of theology, philosophy, numerology and mythology. Towards the end of the book in the next to last chapter, Johnson extols the Catholic Church's doctrine of the late 1940s placing the Virgin Mary among the Trinity in heaven, and explains that the number four is more holy and inclusive than three -- after all, it can include three but three cannot contain four -- citing only to Dr. Jung's years exploring the symbolism of the numbers three and four. Shouldn't that mean that five is yet even more holy? And what about six? While I am not certain, I believe the author was pleased to see femininity included with the Holy Trinity because it is fundamental to our psychology, although he makes no statement on the theological significance or why in the end four is better than three. (I'm more of a three guy myself.)
Some ideas in this book do ring true and are quite appealing if perhaps familiar, such as that in the process of converting ego into self, happiness is a state of mind and being rather than a destination. Also, there are aspects of femininity that man must face and reconcile to succeed in his life's journey. Male psychology I believe does largely follow the patterns alluded to here, and I don't doubt the author has many profound perspectives that are useful. But instead what I feel is exhaustion as though I've been treading water in a sea of symbols and numbers and mysticism when really I had hoped to be led to stand on firmer ground with a deeper understanding of principles that are concrete.
It may well be that with another reading I would come to a higher understanding. Three readings would be divine, but why let it end there?
This review was brought to you by the number four.
Read information about the authorRobert A. Johnson is a noted lecturer and Jungian analyst in private practice in San Diego, California. He has studied at the Jung Institute in Switzerland and at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in India.
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