“Much male fear of feminism is the fear that, in becoming whole human beings, women will cease to mother men, to provide the breast, the lullaby, the continuous attention associated by the infant with the mother. Much male fear of feminism is infantilism—the longing to remain a mother’s son, to possess a woman purely for him.” ~ Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets and Silence
For the male to graduate from Prince to King he must forgo his dire need for his mother’s love. So long as the old contract stands—the insidious, unconscious and fear-based agreement between he and his mother—he cannot fully enter the heart of his waiting Queen.
His mother was once a God to him, an ardent provider of love. She was love, and when that love was not there, when his need for bonding could not be met, the child grew believing he was not enough and love must be sought, earned. He must make himself enough to win that elusive love. And thus the archetypal quest began, the quest for his mother’s breast. Despite his best efforts, however, —his subtle and overt ruses that screamed for his mother’s approval and attention—he could never get his tireless need for love met. No stratagems would be enough.
It wasn’t just about boy’s needs in this relationship; his mother needed her boy’s love just as he needed hers. For, she did not receive the required attention from her father, nor was she “getting” the love she yearned for from her husband. And so the son became her father and husband. An ancient dance played itself out, one that would never satisfy—the mother projecting her lost love onto her boy and the boy projecting his dire need for love onto his mother, a collusive and corrosive contract of desperate need and unavoidable betrayal.
Furthering the quest beyond the nest
As the child grew into a young adult, a budding Prince, the search for his mother’s breast took on a new shape. For the first time, the quest would lead him away from his mother to other able-bodied female companions. His eyes narrowed on young, budding Princesses to court, on other breasts to feed on.
A small part of his mother cried in pain. She was losing her son. The weight of the contract bore deep in her heart—the agreement, the pact signed in blood. A cauldron of anger smoldered from under her quivering skin: How dare he break our sacred vow! How dare he leave me!
How dare he seek love outside the binds of the contract.
Who would she be without her son?
(Some mothers cry louder and smolder deeper than others.)
The Prince left the nest for good. Princess after Princess he searched high and low, requesting, and often demanding, in so many covert ways, the unrequited love of his mother. The stratagems used—the beguiling means of proving himself to his maiden and seeking attention from her—had a similar quality as those used with his mother. They were familiar in essence, yet expressed in creatively novel ways.
The Princess, looking for her father’s love, found purpose in her beloved’s eyes. Perhaps she could win his love, earn his favor. Ruses akin to those used with her father were wielded to get what she longed for from the Prince.
Their stratagems “worked”, at least for a while. The Princess ate up his swagger, swooned over his intellect, blushed at his humor. (With certain Princes, the Princess will be the strong, caring arm for his delicate, sensitive, Poor Me nature. That will be the contract.) She “fell in love” by falling for who he built himself up to be, the image he broadcasted to the world of one proving himself worthy. And, likewise, the Prince made her feel like she mattered by allowing her to gather him in her arms and tend to his boyish needs with tender kisses, just as his mother used to do. He fed her tenuous ideas of who she thought herself to be, the once shining glint in her father’s eye.
But soon, as it always does, the honeymoon period would end. The spell would break. The dream of projection—of the other being the savior of unrequited love—can only last so long. The fantasy of the Knight in Shining Armor meeting the Heavenly Woman in everlasting love, the myth that somehow he or she will “complete” me, must die, for it was never real in the first place.
And so, once again, the Prince would leave unsatisfied, frustrated, lonely, searching, his eyes wandering to other Princesses, seeking the world for the one who would finally fulfill what his mother never gave him. Upon each damsel, expectation upon expectation was laid, ones she could not possibly fulfill. Attempts to control, manipulate, charm, to turn her into the love he never had would eventually fail. He could not, at his best, control his many Princesses. The spell could not be cast for too long. Love could not be gotten, earned, won. Again, the honeymoon had to come to a crushing end, making way for the inevitable emotional blows that would reign.
The quest would continue onwards, the Prince trudging further and further into steep, dimming valleys … until that portentous day when the sheer futility and heartbreak of it all would bring him to his knees, as it must, “the perfect position to pray” Rumi reminds us, a position from which to finally, at long last, give up the quest and turn towards that which hardship often leads us to, a hidden place yet to be considered for our Prince—his interiority.
Surrendering to the heart
All mythological stories are ultimately inward journeys to find that elusive “Elixir”, the “Holy Grail”, the numinous space within, the presence of peace and love we long for more than anything else. In real life, this inner treasure is discovered when outer ambitions give enough way for inner spaciousness. That love we’ve been searching for—the Elixir or Grail—is suddenly felt in our hearts, not out there in the arms of that special someone.
The pain-driven search winds down as we tame the dragon that keeps us believing we must conquer the world (the quest) in order to find what we so dearly long for; the dragon that compels immature boy-men across the world to prove, manipulate and control at such extreme and ugly levels that they greedily run corporations, incite wars and harm the Earth; boy-men who seek their mother’s breast through obscene, corrupt, bigoted power, including, not surprisingly, power over women.
This is the patriarchal world we live in, an expression of unresolved trauma, our mother wound; the pain of a society that values and perpetuates patriarchal values built from the pain of separateness, a pain that keeps us busy, ambitious, distracted, stuck in a colonized mindset, and deeply afraid to feel.
The pain that keeps us experiencing ourselves as distinctly separate from our true nature, including our feminine essence, and the gentler qualities of empathy, sensitivity and Love.
Love is our immanence, a Love strong enough to, if surrendered to, melt the obsessive need for our mother’s breast; a Love that ceremoniously burns the mother-son contract in a sacred fire and ends the quest.
The boy then becomes a man—a real, mature, sensitive, compassionate, honorable, wise man. The Prince enters the Kingdom—his unencumbered heart. From there he invites a Queen to meet him.
The Love between King and Queen
It’s usually not quite as simple or black and white as that. In many instances, the Prince and Princess travel far enough together along the arduous road of healing and relationship to discover the Holy Grail within, the heart. Relationship, as we know, is very often a formidable pathway that stirs each person’s dragon to such a degree that it demands both to confront it head on. It is a journey into the underworld that pulls each into the abyss of their trauma—the pain, fears and projection that hold them back from their truth, that bind them to their contract and quest. For those with sublime perseverance, courage, honesty, awareness, and a willingness to sacrifice who they think they are, again and again—how their contract has shaped them, the dragon, the quest—, if fortunate, the relationship will lead them back to themselves.
A true re-membering…
Such is the arduous sacrifice that Love asks of us, a sacrifice that must be made if the relationship is to become more sacred, more mythic; if it is to fulfill its very promise and purpose.
From this sanctified union between King and Queen, Love is given more freely rather than something to be taken. It is truly a Divine Love expressing itself with far less of the needy tendrils of beguilement and false charm. It is an inclusive Love held in deep reverence for the other, and all of life.
Entering a relationship with a Queen does not mean there isn’t any conflict; it’s not pure bliss and joy all the time. There is still hurt, misunderstanding and projection. They just take on a whole new quality, are held and healed differently and through a relational field of vaster Love.
This inexhaustible Love struggles being projected onto and limited to human flesh. A King and Queen are less inclined to reduce Love to a particular form, to expect the impossible—for Love to be provided by one other. They are less inclined to personalize and hoard it thereby making the relationship an island to hide on. Rather, this Love, grown from the fertile garden of their relationship, longs to be shared, given back to society at large, made useful, so that others may remember their birthright, their immanence. This is the Nobel Quest, what we call purpose, not one driven by fear, but by our inmost shared existence. Our Oneness.
That Garden of Love has its roots in the infinite, and thus, for King and Queen, is experienced and known as something much vaster than the stems of flesh. This Love belongs to no one, yet is felt as the seat of all belonging. It is a Love binding and filling all things, and from which all things arise. This is the Love of Life King and Queen have awoken to, the unbounded Nature of Existence Souls root themselves in, an ineffable Love long awaiting to hold us in its arms, arms we easily mistake for our one beloved.
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Check out Vince’s book: Wild Empty Spaces ~ Poems for the Opening Heart