Some say it all began when European troubadours returned from the
Holy Land, enthralled by the prayerful melodies of the Sufis. Constrained
by an abstract theology that could not embrace the romance and sensuality
of Sufism, the troubadours directed their musical innovations toward
women, rather than God. These melodic images may very well have placed
men on the Quest for the goddess. Maybe it all began when Homo Erectus
man witnessed women giving birth which vaulted her to celestial status.
Who knows the actuality of its origin? What we do know is that men
can easily transform women into goddesses. They can also quest such
a goddess, seeking some form of redemption or salvation from the divine
female. The search for the goddess is often undaunted by prior disappointments,
where women proved their sheer mortality over and over again. Men are
convinced that the divine one remains in waiting and with a little
luck, will surely be found. Thus, rituals, prayers, visions, and a
fervent devotion reflect the religion of the Quest.
What men usually call falling
in love is another description of being in the presence of the goddess.
What a man knows is that she’s
the one. Once that identification is branded in a man’s heart
and brain, there’s no turning back. She may be a convicted ax
murderer. It doesn’t matter. He believes that he is finally in
the presence of she who offers salvation and that’s all that
What can we make of this
idolatry that men bring to their vision of women? Why do men seek
the perfect woman? Can a man feel satisfied
with a mortal woman or does he inevitably feel like he’s settling?
And what form of salvation do men believe women hold for them?
Men are asking women to
save them from themselves. They want to be saved from some present
demon or some old ghost that continues to haunt.
It’s often easier for a man to see the current demons while the
old ones remain somewhat mercurial.
Philip, a 55-year-old literature professor came to see me. His demons
were in the present. He had been married to the same woman for 22 years.
He reported a lengthy history of secretive affairs with students at
“The affairs just aren’t giving me what they once did.
Even the younger women don’t seem to give me any real fulfillment,” explained
“Do you know what it is that you have been seeking from these
women?” I asked.
“I thought I did. I just don’t know anymore,” added
“What’s that got to do with anything?” he
“I’m just wondering if there’s a man or woman in
your life, with whom you feel a genuine connection,” I suggested.
“No, there isn’t. I haven’t had a best friend in
years,” he responded, with his voice dropping off.
Philip was experiencing
an isolation common to many men. The combination of homophobia and
sexualizing relationships with women can leave men
estranged from both genders. Their answer is to find a goddess who
will meet all of their affiliation needs. Of course, the strategy is
doomed. No one person could meet all of a man’s relational needs.
Philip began to understand that he was also asking his student goddesses
to save him from aging and ultimately from dying. This is a popular
request of goddesses who are ten or more years younger than a man.
Unfortunately, this issue is often trivialized and thought of as ridiculous.
However, in a culture where men have no permission to age and die with
dignity, even bright and educated men like Philip respond to the aging
process with a deep desperation. On some primitive level, they actually
believe that a young lovely woman can really save them from their ultimate
Philip talked about experiencing a temporary reprieve from his loss
of youth as he lay next to a beautiful 35-year-old woman. However,
Philip was seeing that some of his disillusionment with his affairs
was that these women were not saving him from aging. He also began
to identify his real Quest, which was to make peace with his own death.
The combination of homophobia
and agism also made it impossible for Philip to acknowledge his own
beauty. Heterosexual men are not supposed
to see the beauty of their own gender, which translates into they’re
not supposed to see the beauty of any man, including their own. The
dependency a young man feels upon women, who are charged with the responsibility
of validating his attractiveness by choosing him, quickly turns into
desperation as he ages.
There are several other
elements in Philip’s story where he
was asking the goddess to save him from himself. The first was that
he spent most of his life denying his sensitivity and softness, since
they did not fit with his masculine image of himself. Philip wanted
these women to carry his sensitivity for him. He saw sensitivity as
an honorable trait but not one he could own and still be a real man.
When he saw the goddess as loud, crass, intense, or intrusive, he decided
that she was failing miserably in her role as savior. She was a sensitive
goddess turned bitch and no use to Philip.
Seeking the goddess also allows men stay on the Quest. Philip loved
remaining on the Quest where he was essentially immune from all the
folly that accompanies real love. On the Quest he was exempt from being
accountable for what he gave and how he received. His questing allowed
him to step beyond the inevitable vulnerability that characterizes
genuine intimacy. The Quest allows a man to postpone any real encounter
with his fear of abandonment, fear of inadequacy, fear of getting lost,
and whatever other fears he associates with real relationships, for
his focus remains on the dream of a once and future queen. Men can
remain on the Quest, thus remaining in relationship with an idyllic
image rather than with a real woman, insulating them from the hazards
of genuine intimacy.
Bruce, a 44-year-old investment broker, was complaining of a marriage
he claimed was empty when he came to see me. Our sessions soon revealed
that there was nothing specific bothering him about his wife, Nancy.
He expressed a vague dissatisfaction which alerted me to the possibility
that Bruce might be in the market for a goddess.
“Bruce, I’m not sure what it is about Nancy that is bugging
you,” I pointed out.
“She’s okay. She’s very caring and very supportive.
Something isn’t quite right. I don’t know what it is. Something
is missing,” Bruce explained.
“Are other women getting your attention?” I
“Why, yes, they are,” Bruce
Before long Bruce was reporting
that the goddess had been found on the second floor of his office
building. I almost never try talking
a man out of his vision of Aphrodite. It’s like telling Moses
that he really didn’t see a burning bush. Besides, my experience
suggests that the goddess vision awakens something essential in a man’s
I’ve seen men become vital, passionate, adventurous, bold,
and ready to experience life on new levels when encountering the goddess.
It’s safe to say that a goddess vision may very well imply that
something critical in a man’s psyche is beginning to awaken.
The challenge is to allow for the goddess experience and then with
a little luck and support, redirect his focus back to himself, where
he can offer a helping hand to what awakens in him.
It can be very difficult
for a man to mortalize a woman whom he has deified. Bruce needed
to touch, smell, and taste the alleged goddess
before he could truly see her humanity. An affair ensued. However,
it didn’t take long for Bruce to become disillusioned with the
goddess on the second floor. In his disillusionment, he was much more
willing to look at the quester and discover what was stirring in him.
Bruce discovered that he wanted his goddess to save him from his
childhood. As long as he had hope for the arrival of Aphrodite, he
could hold onto the belief that the mother, whom he always deserved,
was making her way to him. Bruce, like so many boys, coped with maternal
neglect and abuse by deciding that these negative experiences were
testimony that there was something inherently wrong with him.
The arrival of the goddess
would be a clear sign that he was truly deserving of love and attention.
This desire to prove his deservedness
was coupled with a desire to remain loyal to his mother and her neglect
of him. The goddess’s fall from grace reaffirmed that no one
could actually attend to him better than his own mother. Men bring
a painful pattern of deprivation upon themselves when they need a woman
to help them prove that they are lovable, while also needing to demonstrate
that no one could take the mother’s place.
Bruce also realized that the fallen goddess gave him a great place
to direct the anger he harbored toward his mother, without having to
jeopardize his maternal relationship. He could maintain his maternal
loyalty and medicate the depression resulting from the internalization
of his anger. However, depression is inevitable when a man immerses
himself in deprivation.
Bruce gradually became
more willing to take responsibility for his childhood, realizing
that the woman on the second floor couldn’t
save him. He decided to work on his marriage to Nancy and explore having
a relationship with a mortal woman.
Philip and Bruce both decided to step away from the Quest and closer
to their own souls. Each grieved the end of his quest in his own unique
When men begin to see that
they’ve been asking women to keep
them alive forever, carry parts of themselves that they are afraid
to carry, be their entire support system and redeem a wounded childhood,
they can begin to have authentic relationships with themselves and
with women. Men can allow for the death of the goddess, understanding
that women may make wonderful friends, lovers, colleagues, and partners,
while making for bad religion.