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Gods in Everyman
Jean Shinoda Bolen
A New Psychology of Menís Lives & Loves
Published by Harper&Row/SF in 1989

Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


The author exhibits insights into the psychology of men by sorting them into one or more of the archetypes of the Greek patriarchal pantheon. Each of the major gods: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades and their offspring: Ares, Apollo, Haphaestus, Hermes, and Dionysus are treated in a separate chapter. Bolens first describes the god's position in the hierarchy and his general characteristics. Then she gives a brief history of each god. Up to this point any number of books could provide the information she provides -- what she adds, so beautifully, is the characteristics and developmental history of men who are dominated by a particular god's archetype. In her descriptions we get to recognize the Zeus boss in our lives, the Ares thugs we knew growing up in a tough part of town, the Poseidon child and wife beating alcoholic down the street, the Hermes seminar leader just in town from the coast, the Apollonian super-rational engineer whose emotionally starved wife has just left him, the Haphaestian workshop of the cabinetmaking brother-in-law, and the out-of-the-blue surprises of the Hades friend who suddenly announces that he has been planning for three months to accompany you to Egypt.

Ms. Bolen adds the psychological dimension to a study of the Greek gods that may escape notice in a casual reading of mythology. She captures the spirit of the modern equivalent of a visit to the temples of the gods, complete with the stop at the door upon returning home to drop off Hermes (protector of travellers). In ancient times each home had a pile of stones (a herm) at which this ritual was performed. The modern day equivalent would be the mailbox we check upon returning from a trip. Once inside the house we proceed to light up the fireplace to feel truly at home again. Thus we pay our respects to Hestia, goddess of the hearth.

Men and women alike will find themselves described in loving and understanding detail by this charming female Hermes author who brings insights from the realm of Hades (our unconscious) into the Apollonian light of day (consciousness).

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