The New Compassionate Male and the Myth of Liminality

November 5, 2020

By Clay Boykin

During the 12th century the myth of the Holy Grail surfaced. Since then, countless stories and legends have been written about it including, stories about King Arthur and his knights and, in more recent times, Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Holy Grail is said to be an artifact from the Bible and to have supernatural powers to heal, and to grant immortality to anyone who drinks water from it.

In the Grail Myth, the Fisher King has a grave wound that will not heal. As a result, his kingdom is also very ill. The people are sick. Crops will not grow. Cows will not give milk. And commerce is at a standstill. The only thing that will cure the king is for a happy fool, Parsifal, which means happy fool, to come and ask him the right question.

Parsifal comes to the castle and visits the king. By his bedside he asks the king, “What ails you?” The king replies that his throat is dry and that he is thirsty. Parsifal takes a cup of water from the table and hands it to the king. As the king drinks his body begins to heal, and the cup turns to gold and becomes the Holy Grail.

Now is the time for the New Compassionate Male to step up…and do his part to heal the world.

Parsifal’s act of asking and giving is an act of compassion, and from this I believe compassion “is” the Holy Grail.

In his book, Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas points to three great myths that are playing out today. These are, (1) the myth of Human Progress, (2) the myth of The Fall, and (3) the myth of No Pattern.

The myth of Human Progress represents man’s desire for more but does not know to what end; and is rooted in patriarchy. The myth of the Fall is represented by the thought that humanity is losing its intelligence and wisdom, and as a result, is destroying mankind and the planet. The myth of No Pattern, suggests that everything is totally random and man has no say in the matter.

I submit that there is a fourth myth. It is not spelled out on the internet. It is the Myth of Liminality. Liminality is a state of transition between one stage and the next, especially between major stages in one’s life or during a rite of passage. More and more people talk about the world being on the verge of a great transition to a new stage, a new era, and say that we are in the liminal space. – At times I have referred to it as, the pause of change.

Like the knights searching for the Holy Grail, which we now know is Compassion, I am In Search of the New Compassionate Male. I believe The New Compassionate Male is the new archetype and has integrated head and heart, and carries the metaphoric-sword in one hand, and Compassion in the other.

Compassion is the Holy Grail and in it is the water of life. The water that cured the Fisher King. It is the water that will cure us of all the pain we now suffer, the ache and void within, the burn of shame and anger; the fear, greed and hate that is destroying humanity and the planet.

We have been living out the Liminality Myth for decades, but have not named it as such. Now is the time for the New Compassionate Male to step up into the liminal space and do his part to heal the world.

Clay Boykin is In Search of the New Compassionate Male. His book: Circles of Men: A Counter-Intuitive Approach to Creating Men’s Groups, was published in 2018. He has dedicated his next twenty years to making the world a better place by empowering men to cultivate and integrate the divine male and divine female essences within, and live a life centered on compassion and serving the greater good. Clay may be contacted through his website:, or directly at:


Hear Simon Cohen on the In Search of the New Compassionate Male podcast: Compassion-Honoring Women-Changing the World. Simon asks, “How do we treat our single moms? How do we treat our mothers, our sisters, our daughters”? Humanity’s capacity for compassion and care is evolving in simple and profound ways.

Simon Cohen founded Global Tolerance at age 24 and is an international speaker. He has led global communications campaigns for TED, HH the Dalai Lama, UNESCO, HRH The Prince of Wales, Gandhi’s grandson, and many others – reaching hundreds of millions of people with positive social stories. Simon is an inspiring partnership leader!

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Dennis Slattery Reply

    A very perceptive reading of our mythological culture by Clay Boykin. I know Clay and his book and his service work to humanity is invaluable. Thank you for publishing it.

  2. Jack Frick Reply

    Clay Boykin is a man whose life matches his message.Thank you Clay for this article and the light you are providing, especially for the spiritual development of men workswide. Jack Frick, Austin,TX.

  3. J. Asha Eaton Reply

    A great companion to this line of inquiry would be Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, which describes in part how borders create a kind of friction and how the resulting liminality must become its own kind of livable space for those who cannot be described in terms of one or the other. I believe the Myth of Liminality outlined here is similar to the mental gymnastics required for one who grows up in a society of absolutes and domination to contemplate the idea of borderland, or a place governed by mutually agreeable terms that (on a good day) usually place its status more towards the partnership end of the scale while causing friction with the largely hierarchical systems that enforces its assistance.

    I think this Myth of Liminality arises from a shared assumption that “something” will change and restore a sense of rightness for which there are easy explanations about the order of events and systems. Who will be in charge, what should be done and taught, what will be the “right” way of living will be somehow proven in material absolutes– and that is the myth, that such a resolution is necessary and that our current era cannot simply be its own space, a valid configuration. Even the myth the author mentioned has various incarnations that depict a different ideal of “right” and “order” that is disrupted in the Fisher King’s wounding. In Thomas Mallory’s version, the tale is predicated on the wounding of the king (Pellam, if memory) in a disruptive event called the “Dolorous Stroke” in which Balin accidentally wounds the king with the spear that pierced’ Christ’s side during the crucifixion while fighting an invisible knight (yes, really!) and is later healed with the blood of that same spear. In the Wagner the Fisher King is healed by the touch of the spear as well, helped along by Parsifal’s compassion and “purity,” and in Chrétien de Troyes’ account the question is not “What ails you?” but “Who is served by the grail?” — because Percival is the Fisher King’s nephew and the heir to his kingdom, and such familial relationships between knights and kings were often explored in depth in those accounts as the basis for vengeance tales in which acts of violence could restore order. In these myths, the liminal or undominated space is an aberrant that must be abolished, along with all symbolic corollaries, before the story’s conclusion.

    Most of these chivalric romances were predicated on ideals of masculine violence, where wounding and disabling is described as a feminization of the male body and equated with sinfullness. Often these involve the inflicting or healing of a thigh wound, symbolic of an interruption of masculine potency and often a sign of sexual transgression. Wounds of any kind are related to unwholeness, and wounded or imperfect men are often referred to in androgynous terms. Another wounded king encountered in Mallory’s account by Percival (there are several, though most tales have a Wounded King and a Fisher King as Grail kings and relatives who live in the same castle) is first seen laying in a bed, described as not notably male or female until his face is uncovered. Percival also wounds himself in the thigh after almost being tempted by a female devil shortly thereafter, and it is only the “whole” and perfect Galahad who is able to achieve the Grail– no one else. So while I’m not familiar with the specific retelling of the myth the author references, I think it’s intriguing how different literary accounts of Arthurian legend rewrite these accounts to fit certain narratives of power and righteous action.

    I recommend Anzaldúa’s work and the new Morte Darthur translation by Dorsey Armstrong, and perhaps “A Companion to Malory” edited by E. Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards as well, to anyone interested in learning more about borders, liminality and chivalric myths!!

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