Women are prominent in the Heroic Journey. Are they prominent in yours? If you remember, The Goddess—a beautiful woman—provides resources and encouragement to the hero just when he is about to give up. As the Heroic Journey draws to a close, the hero encounters another representation of the feminine: The Temptress. Whereas The Goddess represents an idealization of the feminine, The Temptress represents the lure of the physical and represents the temptation to be distracted, to take a detour from what is difficult. It’s important to note that this is not always an inherently bad thing, but represents an opportunity for self-mastery over the sexual appetite. The message invariably is, “Master this temptation to embrace the beautiful and alluring— moderate it-- and you will be a better man.”
Now, mismanaged, it can turn pretty bad. One example from popular culture is the 1982 movie, “Conan The Barbarian.” Conan sees a beautiful woman beckoning from her doorway. She invites him in for some… shall we say, affection. As things reach their logical conclusion, she turns into a scary evil monster who almost kills him. It was bloody scary when she turned into a monster, but to be fair, he was using her. Would she have changed differently if he had loved her? If Conan were able to resist her completely, he’d have avoided almost being killed. He also would not have gleaned the lessons that come from almost being killed by a beautiful woman who turns into a monster when treated… badly. See how this all starts to fall together? One thing that did happen: the experience woke him up to the possible temptations and threats on his journey. The key, it seems to me, is that we must conquer our own appetites for any of this to be healthy. For men, the toughest appetites to conquer tend to be lust and anger. Love— willing the good of the other as other-- ennobles and moderates sexual attraction. Love also helps us conquer pride, which is the root of [almost] all anger. It’s a kind of science we are wise to study closely.
Here’s what’s important to remember: beautiful women are all around us. How we relate to them and how we manage our appetites in order to relate to them as we should, is entirely up to us. The beautiful women around us can—if we earn the privilege to invite them and if they choose to accept— choose to fulfill the idealized role of The Goddess. They may also choose to fulfill the role of The Temptress on our Heroic Journey. Who they are, how they fulfill those roles, how that fulfillment plays out in our lives, is all part of the beautiful, complex, fascinating complementarity of the sexes which is always in motion, always fluid, and always there if we want to engage. It’s a sophisticated game we are privileged to play and we enrich our own lives and others’ when we play it like gentlemen.
It’s seven days until St. Valentines’ Day. Who is the beautiful woman in your life?