A founding member of the band Faithless, and perhaps best known as the creative force (with Duncan Bridgeman) behind the Grammy-award-nominated album and music documentary 1 GIANT LEAP (2002), Jamie Catto has spent much of his life travelling the globe in a spirit of humanitarian as well as musical enquiry.
In addition to being a musician and filmmaker, Jamie teaches workshops about creativity, and recently published a book on the subject called Insanely Gifted: Turn Your Demons into Creative Rocket Fuel (Canongate, 2017).
For Jamie, the key to healthy male leadership, sexuality and creative success, lies in a man’s ability to tune into the feminine side of his nature.
Catriona Mitchell: Jamie, I’m interested to know how you, as a Western man, became such a champion of Yin, or feminine energy (or what dictionaries define as the passive female principle in the universe – according to Chinese cosmology.)
Jamie Catto: I became a champion of Yin purely from trial and error. When you’re in an artistic space, you are naturally in your Yin because you’re listening for the inspiration or hearing melodies in your head. Musicians and artists know very well that when they’re in their flow state, they’re a channel for something coming through.
When you’re doing your great painting, or your great poem or short story, you’re not thinking up each word. You’re listening to a story on an audio book in your head that’s already written, and you’re just copying it down when you’re in a flow state.
Where do those ideas come from?
No one knows, thank God. It’s the great mystery. I wouldn’t want to know. I love not knowing.
How else does Yin play a key role in your life?
Through my sex life. As a man you can be at your most masculine, sexually, when you’re in your Yin. Because when your Yang is directed by your incredible Yin sensitivity and intimacy and even vulnerability, then the sexuality is balanced with this beautiful, intuitive, intimate, vulnerable softness. You can have sex that’s as Yang as you want, but it’s in the context of incredible respect, bowing at the gate, listening, caring.
Which puts the woman so much more at her ease…
So then she might get into Yang versions of herself she never knew were in her.
Do you talk deeply about Yin with your male friends?
Oh yes. I have many male friends that I talk deeply about this stuff with. We have a Facebook group for men learning to lead again – so that male leadership can be trusted again on this planet, so we lead again through love and service, not through dominion and rape and status.
What are your thoughts on a healthier form of male leadership?
Up until now, male leadership has been an abusive force on the planet. It’s just been about ego adolescence, and everything in the media and advertising is there to support that adolescence, for men and women. Read Noam Chomsky. It’s very deliberate; it isn’t something that just happens. People have realized that they make a lot more money off you when they keep you in fear and adolescence.
And for men, we haven’t had the initiations into manhood. Our dad is at the office, or he’s down the pub; there’s no initiation happening. No one actually takes you from boy to man and says “now we’ve hunted you around the forest, we’ve caught you and burnt you with a stick… now you’re a man,” or whatever you do in your tribe. We don’t have those initiations any more.
To bring back that kind of deliberate, conscious stepping into our manhood: stepping into our choice that the most manly thing to do is to serve and protect women, and to be always honest with our word and be true… Men have to actually gather and make a conscious choice to do that, because their fathers have not taught them, for the most part.
Something I loved in your book was: you mentioned your willingness to cry. How does this play into your idea of masculinity?
Well I don’t look at crying as masculine or feminine, it’s just much more culturally accepted that women cry, and that’s one of the other twisted stupid myths of our culture.
Men have got a lot to cry about. And yet, they’re looked at as weak or sissy, or not strong enough or not brave enough. The cork in men’s crying is more of an issue for men than for women; they have much less permission.
That’s why women are complaining, “he won’t go into sensitive intimacy.” Well no wonder he won’t, because he’s never been given the full permission in his heart. As I said, men have got a lot to cry about.
I know women complain about women’s rights and the way men have treated them on the planet, and I’m not taking anything away from that. But on a deeper level, on a core level, men since time immemorial have been taught that their life is worth less than a woman’s life. Men go off to war and sacrifice themselves to protect the women, and get blown up… arms coming off, guts hanging out… it’s incredible what men have gone through in war. The trauma that they’ve gone through, seeing their friends blown to pieces, and knowing that it’s to protect the women and children, that goes deep into the psyche of men. They’ve got a lot to cry about, they’ve got a lot to grieve about. And they need to be made equals in the value of life.
Patriarchal values don’t necessarily serve men either.
JC: No. It’s a compensation for a feeling of powerlessness, because men are so disempowered by female sexuality.
A man has this drive to offload the semen in his sack, and that goes to the brain and it’s almost like being drunk around a sexy woman. It’s not excusing the terrible things men have done to sexually disempower women, I’m not excusing rape and all those abuses, I’m not excusing any of it, but I understand why it’s men that do it and women that don’t do it. Because men have a certain organ in their body that makes them drunk around the opposite sex’s beauty, the way the women don’t have that organ that makes them drunk around a man’s beauty. And you need to have some compassion around that. It doesn’t excuse any of the terrible things, but let’s just get realistic that men are working to a disadvantage that women don’t have.
Or at least we need to build greater understanding around it.
When you’re drunk around a woman’s sexuality, in the same way as a man and a woman drink alcohol, your judgment is impaired. When you drink alcohol, you [as a woman] might find a man sexier and be more forward with him than you would when you were sober. Well a man has a pair of balls between his legs that is making him drunk in a similar way. That is making him make judgment calls that aren’t actually his truth.
I’m not saying that excuses anything, but let’s just deal with this issue as it really is. We need to accept in our culture that men get hornier than women because of their body chemistry. It doesn’t mean that they’re allowed to abuse women, objectify women or even whistle from the street, but let’s still acknowledge what is going on and look at how to work with it.
Let’s be compassionate, and not just use this to divide each other.
In addition to being a musician, filmmaker and author, Jamie Catto works with individuals and groups on creativity – his work focusing largely on how to harness Yin energy for creative success. (Pictured here at a workshop in Ubud, Bali).
For more information, see jamiecatto.com