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The Fisher King

Book Review by Bert H. Hoff

Robert A. Johnson, The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Functions in Masculine and Feminine Psychology. (San Francisco CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993) Order on-line

The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden : Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology

Other books by
Robert A. Johnson
Robert A. Johnson is known for the masterful insights of his short, entertaining books about the relevance of myths in our lives. His Understanding Your Own Shadow, reviewed earlier, is perhaps the best book out on dealing with our shadow side. He, She and We are equally well-respected. In this book he juxtaposes the wounded Fisher King from the Parsifal myth and the Handless Maiden (a tale interpreted by Clarissa Estťs in Women Who Run with the Wolves and by Marion Woodman.) Menís and womenís are similar in some ways, and surprisingly different in other ways.

The fisher king wound is in the male, generative, creative part of a manís being. The wounding of the feeling function is the price we have paid for the cool, precise, rational and scientific world we have won at so high a cost. The wounded person finds live bearable only when engaged in some contact with the unconscious, through activities like poetry, artistry, teaching and healing. They do not heal the dreadful wound, but they make life bearable while one makes his way to the true healing.

The handless maidenís wound is also in her generative and feeling part, but it results in an inability to do in the world. This may be due to patriarchal culture, but as Marion Woodman points out, a womanís inner masculine can be as great a tyrant as any man! She loses her hands after her father makes a bargain with the devil for material wealth. Similarly, our materialistic, machine culture is destroying the woman and the manís inner feminine. To gain a bargain, like material comfort and luxury, at the expense of some inner value is extremely dangerous.

The solution is to take the suffering inside as an interior event, instead of blaming other people or institutions for the problem. There, we can work on it and undertake our process of healing.


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