Shadow-side of Male Virtue
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is a wild side to man's nature. Unpredictable. Savage. Easily
frustrated and angered. We are taught from an early age to repress
this part of us as something uncivilized and undesirable. Those
of us who respect the law discipline ourselves to reject it. We
go on with life ignoring what tendencies remain, channeling the
overflow of aggression into "appropriate" conduits, such
as ruthless competition in sports or business.
But in truth, the dark side of masculinity
is never really gone or completely subdued. It follows us like a
"shadow" (which C.G. Jung labeled it), dark and
indescribable. Like a real shadow, it projects and distorts who
This is our personal darkness, filled
with savagery we try not to recognize.
It haunts us when we least suspect
itan angry phantom from our primitive core, maligned by moral
propaganda, marginalized by repression.
This frustrated shadow can subvert
our best intentionsnot because it is evil, but because we
continually thwart its existence. We deny its proper role in our
lives, and view it as uncivilized, something "bad." In
effect, we provoke its rebellious discontent by shaping it into
a monster when it might have been shaped into something different.
This shadow is part of who we are
as men. Without it, the chivalry we embrace becomes salt that has
lost its flavor, an empty shell of moral dictates devoid of essence.
Our shadow provides male virtue with
the tension of having one foot in heaven and the other not in hell
but here on earth. Its wildness defines our core. Without it, our
personal self-discipline is meaningless, our strength inauthentic,
our connection to the earth, which is our Mother, broken. We become
the disappointment of heaven's grand design, severed from our roots,
sapped of our virility.
The shadow is an essential element
to our every thought and deed as men. As such, it either substantiates
or perverts our best intentions, depending on how we relate to it.
It is that unrefined edge that distinguishes us from women, no matter
how refined we shape ourselves. It connects us to nature. Without
it, we are limpid, emasculated, not really alive. To the other extreme,
when we fail to give it its proper role, we become discontent, brazen,
uncontrollable, perverting the virtues we are meant to honor.
When we deny our shadow, we urge it
to wreck havoc with our lives. We wrestle with it, try to subdue
it, only to learn that the struggle never ends. In this respect,
the shadow always wins, but only as a dark influence rather than
something that completes us. We cannot suppress it without losing
the very heart of who we are.
Chivalry, despite its refining virtues,
directs us to embrace the wild center of who we are, recognize its
intrinsic value, honor it not as an aberration, but as a natural
source of male energy which borders (as all things of nature do)
on amorality. It is here where the ideal warrior is fashioned in
Chivalry cannot eliminate or tame
this wild excess of spontaneity, and does not try. Instead, it channels
it throughout every fiber of our being, melds it to everything we
doand in the processing of doing so makes us whole.
The wildness is self-destructive only
when we reject it or hold it at arm's length. By infusing it into
our lives, it nourishes the soul like nothing else can. Our shadow
is not a thing of evil and perversion although untended, it
can produce both. We need this shadow to be complete, and it needs
us as well.
It is imperative for us to find our
shadows and integrate them into our lives. We might not be pleased
what we find but remember, this is result of pure neglect.
Embrace him. Rescue him. And he will
There are several ways to do this.
The simplest is through ritual, whereby we recognize and honor the
wild man as a valuable part of who we are. Jung tells us that ritual
is enough to heal the riftthe turbulence of the unconscious
mind really asks for nothing more. We can add this ritual to our
embrace of chivalry.
The following is a short ritual to
illustrate what I mean. Although it involves a sword as a ritual
object, which is meaningful to me, you can and should build your
own ritual as it best applies to you.
with my Shadow
Man of my soul,
It is you
I honor, you from whom all the energy of manhood originates and
resides. I value the honesty of your feelings, rooted in the earth
and in battle and in the hunt. Your anger is profound. Your need
for action true. I applaud your sense of outrage and need for
justice. Without them, where would we be? The dragons of our existence
thrive without you to combat them. You embolden me to walk free,
and live by my own code. You are my father and brother and truest
symbolizes who you arewhat you mean to me and to the world.
Strength. Action. Defense. The ability to cut away illusion. It
represents the history of men, blood spilt on the battlefield,
which connects us all together.
me. Take your honored place in my soul and in my life. Strengthen
me with your power, and guide me with your earthy wisdom.