it manifests itself in a particular life. This is what Ricoeur's hermeneutical approach offers: a way to interpret texts that values and takes into consideration
the current life experience of the reader. After mythopoetic retreats, there is still
much work to be done in the life of each individual participant in order to
continue the life-giving thrust that was launched by the mythopoetic reception
of the texts done during the retreat.
For the man who is struggling to be open, honest, and loving or who is
striving for authenticity, the mythopoetic interpretation of texts offers the possibility to reach these goals. The temporary breakdown of controlling patterns
of thinking offered by the work done during retreats allows men to restructure
their outlook in life and themselves. During the playful mythopoetic interpretation of texts, there may be new information about one's life that needs to be
considered or old information that needs to be remembered. With a flood of
painful tears or the sigh of relief spontaneously breathed from unexpected joyful
realizations, the experience offered by the mythopoetic interpretation of texts
may launch and build on the personal transformation sought by men struggling
to construct more meaningful lives today.
Contrary to Olaveson ( 1996, p. 27) remark which cites Shepherd Bliss as the
originator of the term "mythopoetic,"
Bert H. Hoff ( 1996, p. 1) reports that Shepherd
Bliss denies coining the term "mythopoetic," but "simply had applied the term to Men's
Work." For an interesting note on the history of how Jacob and
Wilhelm Grimm ( 1785- 1863 and 1786- 1859) collected the various tales often used in the mythopoetic men's
movement. See Joseph Campbell ( 1990a, pp. 9-15).
There are many different approaches to hermeneutics. I have used Paul Ricoeur
hermeneutical theory for the framework of this article. A survey of other approaches can
be found in
Ormiston ( 1990). See also, for example,
DiCenso ( 1990) and
In general, a post-Heideggerian, and thus a post-Romantic approach to interpretation
involves two fundamental shifts in the way texts are interpreted. The first is a shift from
epistemology to ontology, that is, before there is any consideration of the human subject
knowing, there is a more primordial level, that of Being which is to be considered:
"Instead of asking 'how do we know?', the question will be 'what is the mode of being
of that being who only exists through understanding?' . . . What we are interpreting is
the meaning of being." ( Ricoeur, 1973, pp. 120-121) The second major shift is from the
understanding of another person to the understanding of the world as it is brought to us
through texts: "The foundations of the ontological problem are to be sought in the domain
of the relation to the world and not in the domain of relation with another person. It is
in relation to my situation, in the fundamental understanding of my position within being,
that understanding in its principle sense is implied. . . . In making understanding
'worldly,' Heidegger 'depsychologizes' it." ( Ricoeur, 1973, pp. 121-122).
Adler G. ( 1991, June 24). Drums, sweat and tears: What do men really want? Newsweek,