There is a Chinese story about fish. It begins with fish overhearing two fishermen talking about water. The fish decides to quest in order to find this mysterious substance. After many years he comes back to his fish friends who ask him if he found it. And he says “Yes, but you wouldn’t believe what I found.”
I found a version of this story in a book called He by the psychologist Robert Johnson. Johnson is a Jungian psychologist and his book is all about how the myth of the Holy Grail can be used to explain male psychology. He theorizes that every man is like the Fisher King. The Fisher King, according to Arthurian legend, suffers from a wound that cannot be healed except by drinking from the Grail. He is unable to drink from it, though. In such a condition, he must wait for an “idiot fool” to come and ask the question that will save him – “Whom does the Grail serve?” For Johnson, every man has a Fisher King wound. We all have something that is broken that we are seeking to fix.
I know that I have a Fisher King wound. Mine is a sense of inadequacy. I seek others’ approval. I want to feel loved and needed. And because I cling to this wound so hard, I make it impossible for others to love and need me.
A lot of traditions have a name for this wound. Christianity has the concept of original sin or of sin, more generally. Most of my struggles with sin come out of this wound, I think. For example, I struggle with pride because I think if I put on enough of a confident show, people will like me better.
I am often convinced that if I just searched harder for love, happiness, or God that I will find what I seek. But there is no searching. The fish does not need to search for water. He is in water. The answer comes when we approach it from the perspective of the idiot fool. If we ask, more than likely, we will see that the answer has been before us all along. We do not need to search for love/happiness/God; we are in it.
Does the figure of the Fisher King have anything to do with the fish in the Chinese story? Or is it just a coincidence of names?
Just a coincidence. The Fisher King’s story intersects with fish, although not talking ones, a couple of times, though.
Fish is a symbol for Jesus, since the beginning, the fisher of men, etc. though who knows what part of its use in modern Christianity may have roots in pantheistic beliefs like the Romans, Greeks, Celts, etc.
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Spencer, I’m reading this now as a result of your most recent post about your recovery, where you linked back to it. This is an inspiring post. I think that we can all benefit from examining our Fisher King wounds, male or female. Thank you for writing this.
Agree with Kellina. I have both He and She, two small paperback books by Johnson. I know that He resonated with ME quite pointedly: I’ve several of these “wounds”.