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Iron John: A Book About Men Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly
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Iron John Quotes Showing 1-15 of 15
“What does it mean when a man falls in love with a radiant face across the room? It may mean that he has some soul work to do. His soul is the issue. Instead of pursuing the woman and trying to get her alone, away from her husband, he needs to go alone himself, perhaps to a mountain cabin, for three months, write poetry, canoe down a river, and dream. That would save some women a lot of trouble.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“The inner boy in a messed-up family may keep on being shamed, invaded, disappointed, and paralyzed for years and years. "I am a victim," he says, over and over; and he is. But that very identification with victimhood keeps the soul house open and available for still more invasions. Most American men today do not have enough awakened or living warriors inside to defend their soul houses. And most people, men or women, do not know what genuine outward or inward warriors would look like, or feel like.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“In ordinary life, a mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building and emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“The Wild Man doesn’t come to full life through being “natural,” going with the flow, smoking weed, reading nothing, and being generally groovy. Ecstasy amounts to living within reach of the high voltage of the golden gifts. The ecstasy comes after thought, after discipline imposed on ourselves, after grief.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“When a man says to a woman, "You are my anima," she should quickly scream and run out of the room. The word anima has neither the greatness of the Woman with Golden Hair nor the greatness of an ordinary woman, who wants to be loved as a woman.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“Our story gives a teaching diametrically opposite. It says that where a man’s wound is, that is where his genius will be. Wherever the wound appears in our psyches, whether from alcoholic father, shaming mother, shaming father, abusing mother, whether it stems from isolation, disability, or disease, that is precisely the place for which we will give our major gift to the community.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men
“Finding the Father

My friend, this body offers to carry us for nothing– as the ocean carries logs. So on some days the body wails with its great energy; it smashes up the boulders, lifting small crabs, that flow around the sides.

Someone knocks on the door. We do not have time to dress. He wants us to go with him through the blowing and rainy streets, to the dark house.

We will go there, the body says, and there find the father whom we have never met, who wandered out in a snowstorm the night we were born, and who then lost his memory, and has lived since longing for his child, whom he saw only once… while he worked as a shoemaker, as a cattle herder in Australia, as a restaurant cook who painted at night.

When you light the lamp you will see him. He sits there behind the door… the eyebrows so heavy, the forehead so light… lonely in his whole body, waiting for you.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“Zeus energy, which encompasses intelligence, robust health, compassionate decisiveness, good will, generous leadership. Zeus energy is male authority accepted for the sake of the community.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men
“Hair is intuition. Hair is the abundance of perceptions, insights, thoughts, resentments, images, fantasies waiting and ready to come out whenever we are thinking of something else.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men
“There’s a general assumption now that every man in a position of power is or will soon be corrupt and oppressive. Yet the Greeks understood and praised a positive male energy that has accepted authority.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“Something in the adolescent male wants risk, courts danger, goes out to the edge – even to the edge of death.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“This resembles the slow discipline of art: it’s the work that Rembrandt did, that Picasso and Yeats and Rilke and Bach did. Bucket work implies much more discipline than most men realize.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men
“contemporary man looks down into his psyche, he may, if conditions are right, find under the water of his soul, lying in an area no one has visited for a long time, an ancient hairy man.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
“When a boy grows up in a “dysfunctional” family (perhaps there is no other kind of family), his interior warriors will be killed off early. Warriors, mythologically, lift their swords to defend the king. The King in a child stands for and stands up for the child’s mood. But when we are children our mood gets easily overrun and swept over in the messed-up family by the more powerful, more dominant, more terrifying mood of the parent. We can say that when the warriors inside cannot protect our mood from being disintegrated, or defend our body from invasion, the warriors collapse, go into trance, or die. The inner warriors I speak of do not cross the boundary aggressively; they exist to defend the boundary. The Fianna, that famous band of warriors who defended Ireland’s borders, would be a model. The Fianna stayed out all spring and summer watching the boundaries, and during the winter came in. But a typical child has no such protection. If a grown-up moves to hit a child, or stuff food into the child’s mouth, there is no defense—it happens. If the grown-up decides to shout, and penetrate the child’s auditory boundaries by sheer violence, it happens. Most parents invade the child’s territory whenever they wish, and the child, trying to maintain his mood by crying, is simply carried away, mood included. Each child lives deep inside his or her own psychic house, or soul castle, and the child deserves the right of sovereignty inside that house. Whenever a parent ignores the child’s sovereignty, and invades, the child feels not only anger, but shame. The child concludes that if it has no sovereignty, it must be worthless. Shame is the name we give to the sense that we are unworthy and inadequate as human beings. Gershen Kauffman describes that feeling brilliantly in his book, Shame, and Merle Fossum and Marilyn Mason in their book, Facing Shame, extend Kauffman’s work into the area of family shame systems and how they work. When our parents do not respect our territory at all, their disrespect seems overwhelming proof of our inadequacy. A slap across the face pierces deeply, for the face is the actual boundary of our soul, and we have been penetrated. If a grown-up decides to cross our sexual boundaries and touch us, there is nothing that we as children can do about it. Our warriors die. The child, so full of expectation of blessing whenever he or she is around an adult, stiffens with shock, and falls into the timeless fossilized confusion of shame. What is worse, one sexual invasion, or one beating, usually leads to another, and the warriors, if revived, die again. When a boy grows up in an alcoholic family, his warriors get swept into the river by a vast wave of water, and they struggle there, carried downriver. The child, boy or girl, unprotected, gets isolated, and has more in common with snow geese than with people.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men
“Ashes present a great diminishment away from the living tree with its huge crown and its abundant shade. The recognition of this diminishment is a proper experience for men who are over thirty. If the man doesn’t experience that diminishment sharply, he will retain his inflation, and continue to identify himself with all in him that can fly: his sexual drive, his mind, his refusal to commit himself, his addiction, his transcendence, his coolness. The coolness of some American men means that they have skipped ashes.”
Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book about Men