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The Three Knights

Throughout the ages, the mythology surrounding the evolution of the masculine energy has made itself apparent through dreams, rituals and traditional practices of ancient societies. Out of a desperate hunger for authentic masculine identity, poet Robert Bly retold the story of Iron John, a story with in-depth analysis into the wisdom of the male psyche -  traversing from immature to mature masculinity. Bly singlehandedly set the course for “men’s work” as we have come to know it today.


Based on a Grimm fairytale, Iron John is the story of a boy who would eventually become king of his own domain. He undergoes a maturation process and encounters his challenges in 3 different-colored armors at different stages of his engagement with life. Bly digs deeper into seeing how different cultures - each in their own way - have spoken of these three stages. He breaks them down in this way:



The Red Knight is symbolic of all the feelings of a typical teenage boy – uninhibited passion, rebellion, self-gratification, aggression, lust, desire for power. The Red Knight is out of control and dangerous, yet he is a source of great vitality and power that only needs a channel of greater maturity to hone himself.  If untrained, this energy can wreak havoc on a family, school or community.  You may be familiar with the story of juvenile male elephants who ran amok and became incredibly violent at the Kruger National Park.  Observation through hidden cameras showed their violent, erratic behavior.  One clear observation was the absence of elder elephants to show them "the way". Eventually elders were brought into the park, and the juvenile elephants fell into place in time.  Boys need men - men who help them work with this raw energy and who model the ability to channel it.

Embodied . Masculine
Embodied Masculine


The Red Knight gives way to the White Knight who desires to save the world from all its ills. He longs for truth and justice. He wishes to be good and do good. He is an idealist. Yet, for all his good qualities, he is also naive and deluded. The White Knight doesn't have the awareness to notice that many of the ills he wants to save the world from are projections of his own unhealed traumas and desires; so he goes on a crusade to save the world from that which he doesn't like in himself. He points his fingers at all the dragons of the kingdom, so that songs in his praise can be sung when he conquers them - something he spends significant mental energy fantasizing about. He is on the hunt for the Virgin of Light, so that he can save her and feel manly. The White Knight prefers to see women as damsels in distress, knowing deep down that a mature woman is too much for him. Still, in real life, he often ends up with a woman that resembles his mother.


The Black Knight "eats" his shadows and comes to a level of acceptance about his own flaws. There is a strong level of humanity, even humor, to the Black Knight. He surrenders control of his life to the acceptance of his limitations and the inevitability of death. He becomes trustworthy, powerful, compassionate and in tune with the seen world and the unseen world. He is on purpose, well rounded and a regenerative force in the world. He is the maker of order out of chaos and embodies himself as such. He is a source of the Divine King incarnate on this plane, yet unattached to any of it. He is free to serve out his life's purpose, to live and to love.