Chapter 08 Iron John. The loss of the “Golden Ball”
“The golden ball rolls into the Wildman’s cage.”
In our time we have no real mentors, common sense, or real elders. People who are connected to Soul, and who will protect and promote Soul in the younger generation; to guide them through the initiation process, to limit pain and abuse, yet allow sufficient challenge to get the transformation done. To assist in the access of their individual soul, and the mission and gifts they came to share. This is the difference between a gang and conscious initiation. The Elder’s job is to hold this boundary.
It hasn’t always been like this, there is a cry for role models in our culture, for leadership. It seems they are either now in corporations making money, or sidelined in old age homes. The status quo had denigrated their usefulness. Now only youth, the body beautiful and career planning seem to have any currency, with few exceptions.
In a…. let’s call it well-ordered culture the elders would observe the children going about their activities and notice the qualities they carried. The elders would decide who was ready emotionally for initiation and set them on that path. The elders would hold the soul of the initiate sacrosanct. The elders would take power in the name of the initiate’s soul. Not the corporation, the army, the university, or any other structure.
- See story There was once a man in a village.
The object of initiation.
Soul however is always calling and looking for ways to crack open our shell of literal truths. The shell in which we surround ourselves. What I have called the “Castle Quo”. Unconscious initiations are all most of us see or experience. We call it the Hero’s Journey. We live in a world of Projection and consensus reality. We live in a flat world, where the future is in front of us, the past behind. We watch to left and right to see what everybody else is doing. We watch our back to see who is going to stab us or betray us.
Amidst COVID -19 all the boundaries of the status Quo have been crossed. The walls of the Castle Quo are rubble.
The Golden Ball and Shadow. The golden Ball appears in many stories. The Frog Prince, and twice in this story, once in this chapter, and again at the end of the second part of the story as three Golden apples. The loss of the Golden ball is saying the same as what happens when we split off parts of our psyche to survive. Reading chapter 06 “Towards an understanding of Shadow we see that Soul, Shadow and the Golden ball are one and the same thing. It seems we separate them for clarity and understanding but really we are discussing the same thing,
Gold in the storytelling tradition usually comes at the end of a story and is the culmination of the Hero’s journey. This tells us something about this Iron John story. For our hero, who I am going to call Ivan, the narrative tells us he still has some access to his golden ball by the age of 7. He is the son of a king after all and the ball comes at the very beginning of the story. This leads me to believe the story does not happen in our world but rather the next, the story comes down to us as a metaphor.
The golden ball is a symbol for Soul. I have set out in how; in the creation of Ego identity, we lose our connection to Soul in the Castle Quo. The golden ball is a symbol for Soul in this story and others. The status quo would love the complete and utter destruction of the golden ball by 7 years of age. Fortunately, Soul is much more resilient than the Ego or the Status Quo. Soul and the Feminine are downright disruptive to the Status Quo, which perhaps explains why the Status Quo seems to hate women so much. Incarnating in the western world is like a survival course for the Soul. Somehow, we have to lose soul voluntarily and then find our way back to it. We do have these stories as maps and compass, as well as signposts.
Robert Bly (a major mentor for me) and many others, have treated this story as if it happens in our three-dimensional world and as though it’s the first iteration of the story. That is the natural way and does not demand too much mental footwork for the reader. However, in the same breath, we are going to say that this entire story lives inside each of us. This story then has as many lives as it has people and many iterations.
I have made much of the tears; the tears that were shed over the loss of soul, the lake of tears in this story, and the “dirty pond”.
- See Lake of Tears in “The Half Giantess” and the “Laidely Worm”.
- Ego and identity creation, see also “The Half Giantess” Chapter 01 The Parents house.
- Stealing the Key from under the mother’s pillow in this story.
Once again Robert Bly chose to deal with these three periods of time as three, 24hr days. I have chosen to do it as three visits because I dealt with the three periods of time in the creation of Ego and at the golden pond. Also, in Robert Bly’s book he uses the days to go forward in life through what we recognize as life in the Castle Quo.
Using the same strategy, I’m going backward in time equating the Golden Ball with Soul and how in the creation of ego Identity we are required to eschew Soul and be an active participant in the rejection of the golden ball from our psyche into shadow. It also allows us to explore some other metaphors present in the story.
I have tried to write this chapter in the first person, a first for me. I discovered that it is not easy
Things in stories happen in threes. Why is that?
Life it seems happens on three levels:
- There is the collective level, even species level where Covod-19 is challenging us.
- There is the social level where you and I interact. Social distancing.
- Then there is the personal level where I am a unique individual and experience the same thing differently from you.
It seems that all three levels must agree for something to change in our lives and in a story.
Day 1 In the courtyard with the caged Wildman.
Our first visit to the Cage. We have denied something important enabling us to fit in and to be acceptable. Can we get it back? It has gone into shadow and the status quo will not allow it back. Shadow says “I will not allow it back until you are strong enough to face the status quo over this issue.
The narrative says “One day we were playing with our golden ball and it rolled into the cage”.
I mean–where else would it roll?? It’s like traffic lights and cars, there is some magnetic connection between them, especially over weekends. The Ball is now in the cage with the Wildman. Which is another way of saying the same thing.
Ivan. “Oh shit.” What to do, what to do, what to do. Now, something new happens, something great. A conversation begins between us and the Wildman.
I imagine we approach the cage with some trepidation. Lots of rumors and stories. Some used to frighten and intimidate small boys; and yet there is a willingness and a curiosity a need to engage.
‘Ah Hello? “Could I have my ball back??……..please” manners might be important here!
Mentoring. Now comes the mentoring moment
That single “yes” says so many things………………… Everything is right and “Yes……. IF you let me out of the cage”.
The “yes” signifies first I hear you; I see you, maybe not as a seven-year-old but as a saviour from the cage perhaps. A child redeemer. We turn away dejected, while the Wildman has spoken to us his Terms and Conditions are just impossible.
Some things are just not possible. Let the Wildman out of the cage. Mum would have a fit and dad would find something unpleasant for me to do, no thanks. Shit, I really miss how that ball makes me feel. When I hold it everything seems possible, even the difficulties. I just feel great when I have that ball. I don’t have this feeling of anxiety, which gnaws away in the pit of my stomach, making me wish I was somebody else, making me wish I was somewhere else.
He won’t give it to me unless I let him out of the cage. Now it’s in that Wildman’s cage and he wants the impossible to get it back. FUCK Fuck FUCK.
The Wild Man. Now, as we said comes the mentoring moment. see FRAPING and LAMBING at the bottom of the post.
The Wildman responds to us “YES”
“Can I have my ball back??…..please.”
So, let’s have a think about how this request might go? We are after all in Castle Quo. You’re sitting in your office trying to get through an ever-increasing amount of paperwork. Small voice at the door.
Oh shit, it’s the boss’s son, spoilt little shit that he is.
Annoying requests from small children are not generally dealt with kindly, Wildman aside.
“You’re not allowed here, your Mother said so.”
“You need to be more careful with your stuff.”
“You’re too old to be playing with baby things.”
“I’ll let you have it when I’m good and ready.”
Or “OK here it is”. (Could happen)
Do you have a memory of when the ball rolled in the cage? When something that you valued as a child was trampled on by mum or dad or by other people, The words, “baby,” could also have been a betrayal by those you trusted. A betrayal through some sort of shaming. Sometimes our parents hold one view in private and another in public. If you stick to the private view and your parents criticize you in public for that, then there is an acute feeling of betrayal and breaking of trust. Maybe it was the time of the sexual wound? The Wildman was not there? Or was he or she there in the form of a grandparent, a Gogo, an aunt or uncle, supporting you and holding you safe and important in spite of your family and the Status Quo.
So, as I mentioned before, let’s roll the timeline back to the two-year-old to see how we denigrated the Golden Ball even denying its existence.
Between birth and two years so much is happening within our bodies. The need to master the vehicle is strong in the child and the proud parents. In the child’s life up until now, everything we did was great. (I am assuming this child is not in some horror that abounds in this world.) Our first attempts at walking are met with lavish praise. Even when we fall down and our clumsy attempt to get up is cheered on, as are other bodily functions, “Who’s a clever then?” Attempts at speech are the same. Big smiles all round and acceptance and love for the child.
But as Robert Bly said we come into this world a 360-degree Golden ball person, but our parents only want, say, 50% of what we bring. What do we do with the rest? Some of it we leave behind on the shore between this world and the next. Remember, we spoke of the equipment the soul must put on to live in this environment. Like a scuba diver, we must put on a whole-body suit, breathing gear, helmet, and face mask so that we can exist in this world. Soon after being so focused on being in this world, we begin consciously to forget the other world. Unconsciously though we remember everything. In the Greek Myth the dream of Er in Plato’s Republic, he says we must swim the river Lethe to get here. Lethe is where we get our word lethargic. The more water we swallow the more we forget the other world in this world.
What to do, what to do, what to do.
For our young 360 degree child? To gain that love, that smile, to gain that acceptance, to be fed, clothed, loved. I will banish what’s not acceptable to a deeper, inaccessible part of myself. “Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave” The ability for the child to incarnate anywhere there is a portal into this world through a Mother. The flexibilities of this and other gifts that are not needed, or acceptable, also go into the bag.
Robert Bly put forward this idea in his book “The little book on human shadow” that everything that is not lit by acceptance goes in the bag, the long sleeping bag we drag behind us.
The terrible two’s? Terrible for whom? Well, the parents of course. Parents come face to face with an alien who has entered their house and is developing a Will of its own. Up until now, the child has been compliant. Crying when hungry or uncomfortable, (sleeping is another issue.) The child is making its preferences known and showing us its Will to expressing its preferences. Young children are WYSIWYG what you see is what you get.
Perhaps not so for Soul. The child has brought gifts and experiences from the other side; healing for its immediate family and the community it incarnates into. When the requirement of the Status quo clashes with these there is resistance and the Will forces are tested for both child and parent.
Much of what the child has brought is found unacceptable and goes into the bag. The long shadowy bag we drag behind us. Another way of saying that is “the Golden ball roles into the cage.”
On first request, the conditions for getting the Golden ball back seem too onerous and are just dismissed, however, after some thought and a lot of desire for the ball maybe a second try would work.
The second day in the story, our second visit to the cage.
The narrative says: on the second day we approach the cage and ask again.
‘Ah Hello? Could I have my ball back??……..please” manners again.
The Wildman responds to us “YES”
“Yes……… IF you let me out of the cage”.
Impossible. Mum ordered him caged here dad had it done, to let him out of the cage is not just to disobey my parents, but is to directly challenge them in their power. Shit, I would get banished or worse. “NO. I can’t do that.” “I really miss that ball though”
All the strictures of the Status Quo. All of the rules and regulations all of the should’s, ought’s, and have to’s of his parents bind him in a cage just like the Wildman and in our heart as well. The collective beliefs and behavior of the whole castle make it impossible to let the Wildman out of the cage. We hang our head and walk away our head full of conflicting internal dialogue. We want the ball back. We are calculating how we can have both the ball and not letting the Wildman out of the cage. Doesn’t seem possible.
The third day in the story, our third visit to the cage.
The narrative says: on the third day we approach the cage and ask again. ” Ah Hello? Could I have my ball back??……..please”
The Wildman responds again “YES”………. “Yes IF you let me out of the cage”.
“Even if I wanted too I don’t know where the Key is.”
“It’s under your mother’s pillow”
Robert Bly in his book gives a little throwaway line here ”Right where Freud said it would be, under your mother’s pillow.”
The Narrative says: Our parents are away on this day, easer to steal the key if they are not about.
Fraping and Lambing.
LAAMB What we aspire to do as mentors With quietly focused attention; free of judgment, analyzing, critique or responses we give the boy time and our complete attention to be sure he has had the opportunity to express the “Heart of the Matter”. To be certain that we have understood, we reflect what was said in our own words so that he knows that he has been heard.
We do not FRAPP (see below)
We meet the boy where and as he is, without judgment. We seek to form a relationship with him as he is now and learn about his world. We see his beauty and his wounds and make room for both in our heart. While we are interested in where he might need to be and what he has the potential to become, our primary focus is on accepting him just as he is now.
We allow ourselves to “see” his gifts, his strengths and his unique genius and we relate to him by believing in him.. We make space for him to shine and we smile when he does.
We teach through example more often than with words. We behave as we want him to learn to behave. We are guided by the awareness that “Children do as we do, not as we say”. We seek to show up as good and honest men, knowing that for better or worse, the boys will emulate us.
MODEL We teach thru example more often than with words. We behave as we want him to learn to behave. We are guided by the awareness that “Children do as we do, not as we say”. We seek to show up as good and honest men, knowing that for better or worse, the boys will emulate us
We use simple, clear and direct words to express, from the heart, the beauty, honesty, courage, and compassion the boy offers. We take opportunities to sincerely reflect the boy’s positives back to him in a genuine way. (We do not use superficial, pretty words to manipulate or to seek an end [for example, to build his confidence]).
FRAPP What we aspire never to do as mentors
We don’t provide the boy suggestions or directions as to how he should deal with his life. We don’t jump in to solve his problems for him. We do not respond with quick solutions
We don’t interact in ways that minimize, cover or deny feelings, his or our own. We don’t offer advice, cliché’s or otherwise redirect him from experiencing his feelings. We support him in owning his feelings and guide him to his inner resources.
We resist the temptation to offer advice, especially unsolicited advice. We are not in a position to take responsibility for the boy’s life or for outcomes. Our responsibility is to guide him to his own Truth.
We do not intellectualize about feelings or use techniques that encourage boys to answer intellectual questions about feelings. We connect him to their feelings so that he can discover his individual path to healing and resolution.
We are careful not to confuse our issues with the boy’s, We do not work out our unresolved childhood wounds through the boy. We are especially aware of those boys who remind us of ourselves because of the temptation to rewrite our story through them. We remember that it is our role to remain a neutral lighthouse for them.
© Boys to Men International 2011 – Created by Douglas MacIntyre & David Cordes
Continued in. Chapter 9 Stealing the Key from under the mother’s pillow.