Have you ever watched a movie like “Rocky” or “Rambo” and at the end feel so energized and empowered, like the world was yours, and you could beat anybody up? In the book “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine”, Jungian psychologist Robert Moore and mythologist Douglas Gillette argue that masculinity is made up of four archetypal male energies which serve different purposes. All men from all generations, all walks for life, and all geographic regions are born with these archetypal energies. In order to become a complete man, one must work to develop all four archetypes, and unless he does so, a man remains governed by his archetypal shadows, which weakens him and creates chaos and destruction within himself and those around him.
One of these archetypes is the archetype of the Warrior. The Warrior is always aware, alert and awake, in control of his mind and body, courageous, enduring, and perseverant, loyal to his cause or his people. The Warrior traditions all affirm that, in addition to training, what enables a Warrior to reach clarity of thought is living with the awareness of his own imminent death. Rather than depressing him, this awareness leads him to an outpouring of life-force, and to an intense experience of life. He can withstand incredible amounts of pain, both psychological and physical. This is the energy behind most sports, street gang warfare, and violence in movies. A man’s urge to fight is his urge to face death in order to feel alive, and intensely experience life force inside his body. Aggressiveness is a stance towards life that arouses, energizes and motivates.
The movie “Fight Club” illustrates what happens when a man lives in the shadow of his Warrior, and out of touch with what Robert Bly calls the “Wild Man”, the scars that form in a man's psyche when his seat of masculinity is repressed by a society that looks for compliance rather than powerful individuation. The history of our species has been defined largely by war, and around the planet warfare has reached such monstrous proportions that aggressive energy itself is looked upon with deep suspicion and fear. Liberal churches, psychologists, the media, and in part the feminist movement have played their role in attempting to cut off masculine aggressiveness. In the last two centuries, we in the West have entered the age of the “soft masculine”. Women especially are uncomfortable with Warrior energy, because they have been the most direct victims of its active shadow form, the Sadist, yet they are also the ones lamenting that men nowadays are too “weak” and ambiguous to trust.
Like all repressed energies, Warrior energy goes around only to resurface in the form of emotional and physical violence. Warfare, child abuse, sexual abuse, and murder continue to fill the world’s prisons with mostly male perpetrators. “
Fight Club” is not only a violent movie, as women may see it to be. It is an invitation to look closer at the Wild Man and the Warrior that lives within all men.
The protagonist, Jack, is numb, empty, dishonest, apathetic, a shadow carrying a huge phantom scar of the life that he never lived. “Never really asleep, and never really awake.” Hypnotized by consumerism and the overstimulation of media, he is disconnected from the reality of others. Like many men, is not comfortable asking for what he wants directly and honestly. He uses irony and cleverness to keep his deep feelings of emptiness at bay, willing to let people die to avoid having to pull his head out of the sand. He lives under the passive shadow of the Warrior called the Masochist. The Masochist will dream, but not be able to act decisively to make his dreams come true. He lacks vigor and is depressed. He lacks the capacity to endure the pain necessary for the accomplishment of any worthwhile goal. He mopes and procrastinates, avoids confrontation and conflict, makes promises and then ducks and dives. He is defeated before he starts.
Tyler is a free spirit – rebellious, full of vitality, and with some deep insight into what Jack longs for. Tyler animates the destroyer and fearless aspect of the Warrior. He forces Jack to wake up his Wild Man by destroying his Ikea-dominated lifestyle, representing the illusion of safety and the prison of modern life. The Warrior is a destroyer, but he only destroys what needs to be destroyed in order for something fresh, more alive and virtuous to be created. In the very act of destroying, the Warrior archetype usually builds new civilizations, new commercial, artistic, spiritual, and personal ventures. In order for something to be born, something must die first. After loosing everything, Jack finds greater freedom in embracing a simple life, without material possessions. The Warrior knows and is comfortable with the idea that sometimes you have to lose everything in oder to be free to do anything.
The club where men can go to fight is a metaphor for men’s need to engage physically with life, become comfortable with their imminent death, and be challenged by other men out of love. This is something many women do not understand. Men often times engage in “fighting” not to hurt one another, or for the purpose of winning, but in order to move from being trapped inside the head to being liberated into nature through the gateway of the body. Because society has become over-feminized and oversensitive, masculine love and masculine violence are lumped into the same category.
After fighting, Jack experiences a big shift. He feels a sense of aliveness. Now that “the volume turned down”, he can hear more. He is present and awake, qualities a Warrior’s life depends on in battle. He stands up for himself at work, and he speaks his truth, a truth he had been repressing for fear of the consequences. Tyler’s words “Go crazy. What do you care?” highlights the need for the Warrior to find his purpose and follow through with disregard for what his woman or society thinks about it. He does so because he is acting from his deepest truth, and serving his woman and community from that place, at the risk of death. Tyler’s words «The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not speak about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not speak about Fight Club» is a metaphor for the idea that men who want to reclaim their power must do so in secret, because masculine power has been deemed evil by society.
Tyler points out how inadequate existing feminine structures of bonding are in healing the wounds of a man who has lost contact with his wild ancestral roots. In one scene, Tyler pours highly corrosive chemicals on Jack's hand and forces him to journey through the pain, as a means to access the power that comes from embracing death. Jack wants to escape, through methods he learned from women in support groups: “I’m going to my cave to find my power animal.” Tyler is appalled that Jack would attempt to bypass this important step of the path to enlightenment: “No! Don't deal with this the way those dead people do! Come on! You're feeling premature enlightenment. It's the greatest moment of your life, and you're off somewhere else!” This scene relates the idea that much modern spirituality is about escaping life, not embracing it. It is about seeing the oneness of all things, love, and “beautiful snowflakes”. These practices have their value - in fact they bring out another powerful male archetype, called the Lover - but unless the man is in touch with his Warrior and Wild Man, this approach is devoid of true potential to liberate any man. When people gather to talk about all that is happy, bright, and wonderful in the world, without being willing to embrace the inherent suffering of it all, the wild man falls into deeper sleep. Tyler suggests that the modern, neutered man who looks for deeper meaning will find it not in the presence of women, but of Brothers.
In shooting Tyler, his teacher and alter ego, Jack is shooting and destroying himself. He realizes that while his alter ego did serve him to a point, it was now causing dehumanization and destruction of the world, moving him into the other pole of the archetype’s shadow. A true Warrior knows when the betterment of humanity is better served by his own death, and if that is the case, he takes his own life.
Takeaway messages from the film:
The path to liberation for a modern man goes via grief, into the physical, and ends up in integration.
Domesticated men indirectly produce more evil in the world than violent thugs. When we hypnotize ourselves out of our own misery, we let others die without batting an eyelid. We destroy the planet and think nothing of it. And to retain some sense of righteousness, we often condemn others who are guilty of crime with fierceness.
Many modern men are desperate to break free from the prison of modern life. All they need is a way out.
To grow up, you need to embrace pain and the inevitability of death.
Pursue your dreams as if your life depends on it.
How to get in touch with your Warrior:
Read biographies about great warriors.
Compete in a race.Take kick-boxing classes.
Set up a workout routine in which you push your limits physically.
Find your core values.
Have a plan and purpose for your life.
Establish some non-negotiable, unalterable terms for yourself, and live by them.
Strengthen your discipline by establishing habits and daily routines.
Study and practice the skills necessary for completing your goals.