What Is a Man? The Allegory of the Chariot

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 4, 2013 · 41 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood, On Virtue, Personal Development


What is a man? What sort of man should I be? What does it mean to live a good life? What is the best way to live and how do I attain excellence? What should I aim for, and what training and practices must I do to achieve those aims?

Such questions have been asked for thousands of years. Few men have grappled with them more, and provided keener insight to the answers, than the philosophers of ancient Greece. In particular, Plato’s vision of the tripartite nature of the soul, or psyche, as explained though the allegory of the chariot, is something I have returned to throughout my life. It furnishes an unmatched symbol of what a man is, can be, and what he must do to bridge those two points and attain andreia (manliness), arête (excellence), and finally eudaimonia (full human flourishing).

Today we will discuss that allegory and its meaning. While an understanding of the whole allegory and the pondering of it can bring great insight, the ultimate goal of this article is in fact to lay the foundation for two more posts to come in which we will uncover the nature of the one component of Plato’s vision of the soul that has almost entirely been lost to modern men: thumos.

The Allegory of the Chariot

In the Phaedrus, Plato (through his mouthpiece, Socrates) shares the allegory of the chariot to explain the tripartite nature of the human soul or psyche.

The chariot is pulled by two winged horses, one mortal and the other immortal.

The mortal horse is deformed and obstinate. Plato describes the horse as a “crooked lumbering animal, put together anyhow…of a dark color, with grey eyes and blood-red complexion; the mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf, hardly yielding to whip and spur.”

The immortal horse, on the other hand, is noble and game, “upright and cleanly made…his color is white, and his eyes dark; he is a lover of honor and modesty and temperance, and the follower of true glory; he needs no touch of the whip, but is guided by word and admonition only.”

In the driver’s seat is the charioteer, tasked with reining in these disparate steeds, guiding and harnessing them to propel the vehicle with strength and efficiency. The charioteer’s destination? The ridge of heaven, beyond which he may behold the Forms: essences of things like Beauty, Wisdom, Courage, Justice, Goodness — everlasting Truth and absolute Knowledge. These essences nourish the horses’ wings, keeping the chariot in flight.

The charioteer joins a procession of gods, led by Zeus, on this trip into the heavens. Unlike human souls, the gods have two immortal horses to pull their chariots and are able to easily soar above. Mortals, on the other hand, have a much more turbulent ride. The white horse wishes to rise, but the dark horse attempts to pull the chariot back towards the earth. As the horses pull in opposing directions, and the charioteer attempts to get them into sync, his chariot bobs above the ridge of heaven then down again, and he catches glimpses of the great beyond before sinking once more.

If the charioteer is able to behold the Forms, he gets to go on another revolution around the heavens. But if he cannot successfully pilot the chariot, the horses’ wings wither from lack of nourishment, or break off when the horses collide and attack each other, or crash into the chariots of others. The chariot then plummets to earth, the horses lose their wings, and the soul becomes embodied in human flesh. The degree to which the soul falls, and the “rank” of the mortal being it must then be embodied in is based on the amount of Truth it beheld while in the heavens. Rather like the idea of reincarnation. The degree of the fall also determines how long it takes for the horses to regrow their wings and once again take flight. Basically, the more Truth the charioteer beheld on his journey, the shallower his fall, and the easier it is for him to get up and get going again. The regrowth of the wings is hastened by the mortal soul encountering people and experiences that contain touches of divinity, and recall to his memory the Truth he beheld in his preexistence. Plato describes such moments as looking “through the glass dimly” and they hasten the soul’s return to the heavens.

Interpreting the Allegory

Plato’s allegory of the chariot can be interpreted on a number of levels – as symbolic of the path to becoming godlike, spiritual transcendence, personal progress and attainment of “Superhuman” status, or psychological health. There is much one can ponder about it. Below we delve into several of the main points.

The Tripartite Soul

The chariot, charioteer, and white and dark horses symbolize the soul, and its three main components.

The Charioteer represents man’s Reason, the dark horse his appetites, and the white horse his thumos. We’ll explore the nature of thumos in-depth next time, but for now, you can read it simply as “spiritedness.” Another way to label the three elements of soul are as the lover of wisdom (charioteer), the lover of gain (dark horse), and the lover of victory (white horse). Aristotle described the three elements as the contemplative, hedonistic, and political, or, knowledge, pleasure, and honor.

The Greeks saw these elements of soul as physical, almost independent entities, not so much with bodies, but as real forces, like electricity that could move a man to act and think in certain ways. Each element has its own motivations and desires: reason seeks truth and knowledge, the appetites seek food, drink, sex, and material wealth, and thumos seeks glory, honor, and recognition. Plato believed reason has the highest aims, followed by thumos, and then the appetites. But each soul force, if properly harnessed and employed, can help a man become eudaimon.

Reason’s job, with the aid of thumos, is to discern the best aims to pursue, and then train his “horses” to work together towards those aims. As the charioteer, he must have vision and purpose – he must know where he is going — and he must understand the nature and desires of his two horses if he wishes to properly harness their energies. A charioteer can err by either failing to hitch one of the horses to the chariot altogether, or by failing to bridle the horse, and instead letting him run wild. In the latter case, Plato argued, “the best part [Reason] is naturally weak in a man so that it cannot govern and control the brood of beasts within him but can only serve them and can learn nothing but the ways of flattering them.”

Obtaining Harmony of Soul

The masterful charioteer does not ignore his own motivations, nor the desires of thumos and appetite, but neither does he let his two horses run wild. He lets Reason rule, takes stock of all his desires, identifies his best and truest ones – those that lead to virtue and truth — and guides his horses towards them. He does not ignore or indulge them – he harnesses them. Each horse has its strengths and weaknesses, and the white horse can lead a man into the wrong path just as the dark horse can, but when properly trained, thumos becomes the ally of the charioteer. Together, reason and thumos work to pull the appetites into sync.

Instead of having “civil war amongst them,” the deft charioteer understands each role the three forces of his soul play, and he guides them in carrying out that role without either entirely usurping their role, nor allowing them to interfere with each other. He achieves harmony amongst the elements. Thus, instead of dissipating his energies in contradictory and detrimental directions, he channels those energies towards his goals.

Achieving this harmony of soul, Plato argues, is a precursor to tackling any other endeavor of life:

“having first attained to self-mastery and beautiful order within himself, and having harmonized these three principles, the notes or intervals of three terms quite literally the lowest, the highest, and the mean, and all others there may be between them, and having linked and bound all three together and made of himself a unit, one man instead of many, self-controlled and in unison, he should then and then only turn to practice if he find aught to do either in the getting of wealth or the tendance of the body or it may be in political action or private business, in all such doings believing and naming the just and honorable action to be that which preserves and helps to produce this condition of soul.”

The foundational nature of gaining mastery over one’s soul, Plato continues,

 “is the chief reason why it should be our main concern that each of us, neglecting all other studies, should seek after and study this thing—if in any way he may be able to learn of and discover the man who will give him the ability and the knowledge to distinguish the life that is good from that which is bad, and always and everywhere to choose the best that the conditions allow.”

A man that makes this pursuit his aim, and allows it to guide all his thoughts and actions, “will gladly take part in and enjoy those which he thinks will make him a better man, but in public and private life he will shun those that may overthrow the established habit of his soul.”

Taking Flight and Progressing in Our Journey

As you’ll remember, in the allegory of the chariot, the chariot falls from the heavens when the horses do not receive adequate nourishment from the Forms, or when the horses rebel and the charioteer does a poor job of directing them. They lose their wings, and must stay on earth until they regrow – a process which is hastened by remembering what one saw before the fall.

Plato believed that discovering all truth was not a process of learning, but of remembering what one once knew. His philosophy may be interpreted literally as saying we had a preexistence before this life. But it also has meaning in a more figurative sense. We get off track in becoming the men we wish to be when we succumb to vice (being overpowered by the dark horse), and we tend to succumb to vice when we forget who we are, who we want to be, and the insights into those two pieces of knowledge we have already attained and experienced. Doing things that remind us of the truths we hold dear keeps us “in flight” and progressing with our lives.

For more on this important subject, I highly recommend reading: Hold Fast: How Forgetfulness Torpedos Your Journey to Becoming the Man You Want to Be, and Remembrance Is the Antidote

Understanding the Dark Horse

In order to train and harness the power latent in the forces of his soul, a man must understand the nature of his “horses” and how to utilize their strengths and rein in their weaknesses.

A man’s dark horse, or appetites, are not difficult to understand; you have probably felt its primal pull towards money, sex, food, and drink many times in your life.

But despite our intimate acquaintance with our appetites, or perhaps because of it, the dark horse is not easy to properly train and make use of. Doing so requires achieving moderation, or as Aristotle would put it, finding the “golden mean” between extremes.

A man who lets his appetites run completely wild is the unabashed hedonist. He does not seek to rein in the dark horse at all, letting him pull the chariot after whichever pleasure crosses its path. This is the man who lives for nothing higher than to eat good food, get drunk, have sex, and make money. He seeks after effeminizing luxury with abandon and will do anything to get it. With no check to his behavior, the result can be a giant gut, pickled brains, massive debt, and a prison sentence for corruption.

A life wholly dedicated to the satisfaction of one’s bodily and pecuniary pleasures make man no different than the animals. Aristotle called such a life bovine, and Plato argued that the result of letting oneself be dominated by his appetites “is the ruthless enslavement of the divinest part of himself to the most despicable and godless part.” Such a man, Plato submitted, should be “deemed wretched.”

On the other end of the spectrum is the man who sees his physical desires as wholly wrong or sinful – troublesome or evil stumbling blocks on the path to spiritual purity or enlightenment. This man seeks to nullify his flesh, and cut off its cravings for pleasure entirely. This is the man who spends so much of his life thinking of sex as sinful, that he can’t turn off that association and enjoy it, even after he is married. He averts his eyes from women as living porn. Food is merely fuel. He often seems flat, sterile, and closed off to others, though often you can sense the bottled impulses bubbling beneath the surface that he’s tried so hard to deny. And because of the lack of a healthy outlet, that bubbling often becomes a toxic stew that will one day burst forth in a decidedly unhealthy way.

Plato believed that the appetites were the lowest of the forces of the soul, and that allowing the dark horse to dominate and enslave you would lead to a base, unvirtuous life far from arête and eudaimonia. Yet he also argued that the dark horse, if properly trained, imparted just as much energy to the pulling of the chariot as the white horse did. The chariot that soars highest makes use of both horses side by side. A would-be ace charioteer neither entirely indulges his dark horse nor wholly cuts him off. He harnesses and directs the energy in a positive way.

Between the two extremes of unchecked hedonism and the iron-fisted squashing of bodily appetites lies a middle way. This is the man who maintains a sense of sensuality and earthiness, who makes room for the pleasures of body and money but puts them in their proper place, who, as Dr. Robin Meyers puts it, is able to find “the virtue in the vice.” He enjoys sex thoroughly, but does so within the context of love and commitment. He enjoys good food and drink, without mindlessly engorging and imbibing. He appreciates money, and that which it can buy, but does not make acquiring it his central aim.

The dark horse, when properly trained and directed, can lead one closer, not further from the good life. Pleasures satisfied with discretion make a man happy and balanced, and keep him feeling healthy and motivated enough to tackle his higher goals. And the appetites themselves can lead directly to those loftier aims. The desire for money, when kept in balance, can lead to success, recognition, and independence. Lust, when properly directed, leads a man to love, and Plato believed that beholding one’s lover was a central path to recalling the Beauty of the Forms, and regrowing one’s wings for another trip into the heavens.

That is the nature of the dark horse – a force that can be used for both good and ill, depending on the mastery of the charioteer. It is fairly easy to grasp, if not always to live. But what of the white horse, thumos? That is another matter. There is no word in our modern language equivalent to this ancient concept. We have here rendered it “spiritedness,” but in truth it encompasses much, much more. It is to that subject we will turn next time.

Read Part II: Got Thumos?

You can read the entire Phaedrus online for free here. Plato/Socrates hit the subject from another angle and metaphor – that of a rational man, lion, and hydra-like beast – in Book IX of the Republic.

Illustration by Ted Slampyak

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dracula March 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm

A miserable little pile of secrets!

2 Otomo March 4, 2013 at 6:17 pm

I’ve been a reader for a very long time. It’s hard to put into words what i’m feeling right now. The more you think about the person you want to be the harder it gets to become said person. Your articles have pushed me to ask myself that question and have been delightful to read on that journey. But this is a masterpiece. This is the very essence of artofmanliness concentrated. Thank you very much!

3 Nick P. March 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I find it interesting that really the answer to most things in life is the “middle ground” The hard part is that we do have a pull towards the extreme and yet to feel balanced and fulfilled there must be a meeting point of the extremes. This lesson really is for everyone and has so many applicable uses. Many thanks!

4 Pete March 4, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Nick P I don’t see it so much as following the middle ground (although I can certainly appreciate people taking that out of it) as embracing every part of being human. When you do that you experience all the pleasure and pain that existence has to offer with a real chance to grow as a result.

5 Richter Belmont March 4, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Your words are as empty as your soul! Mankind ill needs a savior such as you!

6 J March 5, 2013 at 5:45 am

Interesting article, thank you both Brett and Kate.

Can we have some topics / debate on how important the pursuit of money is for men though, (the ‘Dark Horse’) framed in a positive way?

I read many of the articles here and gain a vibe that the obsessive pursuit of money is a bad thing for a man. In theory, I completely agree with this and hate shallowness in people.

In practice however, the reality is, all of us living in the Western world at the moment pretty much need to be obsessed with acquiring money to secure a half-decent standard of living as young men (I’m talking about a home in a safe area of your town, money to pay for petrol each month which in Britain is getting to the point soon where it will cost the same as your monthly rent). Let’s not start on rising energy bills for your home!

I just bought my first house last year, and am getting it all done up now.

Let me be honest, without being very driven to acquire money over the past few years, there is no way I would have been able to afford to a) buy the house b) do the house up currently. Those guys in similar positions over the past few years will agree with me.

Basically, I would say I became obsessed with money so I could achieve that goal, thankfully now completed.

But at the same time, I have seen articles on here telling men they need to ‘get their act together’ if they are still living at home in their twenties.

The ONLY way a man in this 2010s decade will be able to get his act together and do all those things we are told we need to do to become men (raise a deposit to get a home, car, marry, kids) etc now need us to have a hell of a lot of money behind us.

If we are not (obsessively driven by the dark horse?) about acquiring money in our early adulthood, we are not going to be able to go through these rites of passage as quickly as our parents did, simply because the cost of living and lowering of living standards are happening in such a dramatic way for our generation.

Just wanted to know what your take on this is because I sometimes feel acquiring wealth is not portrayed so positively here?

Thanks guys

7 Ken March 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

The middle way reminds me of Buddhism. Siddartha experienced both the luxuries of a princely palace and the extremes of ascetic spiritual practice. And taught that the middle way was best.

8 Conner March 5, 2013 at 7:37 am

I really was struck by the phrase “effeminizing luxury.” I think a lot of men miss how following the dark horse can destroy their masculinity. They think it’ll just make them Don Draper when, in reality, they end up more like Oscar Wilde at best.

9 J March 5, 2013 at 8:38 am


Depends how we define “effeminizing luxury”, if the media message is constantly that we should be hyper-groomed like the likes of David Beckham (I’m sure you have similar famous metrosexual people in the States) and with women saying these types are the ‘ideal’ and most attractive man, then guess what? A lot of young and impressionable guys are going to want to emulate those people and the luxury lifestyles they embody, and very rationally so.

When we get back to the time where we rightly look up to people likes pro-bono doctors, outstanding teachers, faith leaders or whatever of that type, that may change. At the moment, our society only puts the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘celebrity’ on a pedestal irrespective of their achievements, so don’t be surprised when people get led astray by that message!

10 John March 5, 2013 at 8:49 am

Man is truely divided into 3 elemants
body,soul and spirit. Watch Nee in his book “A SPIRITUAL MAN” does an amazing job of showing why the spirit rather than the body or soul should drive us. Rather than being driven by lust(the body) or by shame(soul) we should be driven by things like love(spirit). Everyone should take the time to read this book. It will truely change your life.The PDF file is avail for free online.

11 Xiaoxi Li March 5, 2013 at 9:03 am

I normally love your posts and find them quite poignant, but I think this post misses the mark. It lengthily explains a convoluted analogy that seems more confusing than helpful. The analogy also sounds a little self-congratulatory on Plato’s part. A superhuman who perceives a lot of Truth and has deigned to innervate others around him with his touches of divinity? Sound like anyone you know, Socrates? It also makes it sound like Plato was trying to create an intellectual caste system, which might be the case given his disdain for Athenian philosophasters.

I love the idea of achieving a balance between one’s contrary inclinations, but I don’t think imagining disfigured mythical creatures is the way to do it.

12 Alex Mares March 5, 2013 at 9:04 am

good post. when i first read this allegory my thought was that it was similar to the idea of cardinal sin and cardinal virtues…which all have the same meaning…balance and steer your own ship

13 Ara Bedrossian March 5, 2013 at 10:12 am

I was just reading this today and now I read your post about being mindful and not forgetting: “Whenever we give up, leave behind, and forget too much, there is always the danger that the things we have neglected will return with added force.”
-Carl Junge
I like to say that habits are good, until you forget why you are doing them.

14 Gustavo March 5, 2013 at 10:44 am

@ Dracula: Never posted before, but that joke made my day.

15 Robert M March 5, 2013 at 11:10 am

Perhaps we have different definitions of lust, but lust has never and can never lead to love. When a man lusts, he uses others and takes from them what he wants. On the other hand, sexual desire rightly ordered can lead me to the desire to give and receive love.

16 Daren Redekopp March 5, 2013 at 11:55 am

Fascinating, that phrase on seeing “through the glass dimly.” I guess that’s what the apostle Paul must be riffing on in his discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13, where he says, “Now we see as in a glass, dimly, but then, face to face.” Speaking of love, I am ever so curious as to what place this virtue had in the thinking of Plato. Anyone?

17 Drew Mullen March 5, 2013 at 12:03 pm

It wold be awesome to have a physical reminder of this allegory in my house. Any idea where I could find a cool painting depicting the charioteer or perhaps a statue?

18 Chris McCann March 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Excellent. Best AoM post in awhile. The chariot allegory has always been a favorite part of Greek philosophy for me too and I enjoyed your take.

I actually disagree with Ken. Buddhism says that human suffering is caused by desire and craving and so you have to get rid of those cravings. That to me sounds like the man who doesn’t hitch his dark horse to the chariot. Right?

19 Fr.WBS March 5, 2013 at 2:17 pm

This is an excellent article. I’ve been a long-tie reader and it’s posts like this that keep my intellect thinking which make me glad to be subscribed!

20 Daniel March 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Chris McCann – Buddhism is very similar in that you can never, while you are alive, be rid of the dark horse. You beat its worst tendencies out and then turn the rest toward good ends. Greed, hatred, and desire are transformed into generosity, loving-kindness, and wisdom. In this way desires go from being poisons to medicines, or if you prefer, the dark horse is is taught to go where the charioteer leads. In both models, the energy must be channeled. If you were to try to stop desiring somehow, you would actually just be repressing or denying those desires.

Also, a desire and an attachment are not the same thing. Desires are totally natural and unavoidable, while attachments come from an attempt to make the objects of our desires permanent (which is impossible and therefor causes suffering).

The annihilation part that I suspect you are thinking of comes from the idea that once you experience nirvana, you see that there is no-self (no charioteer) to experience the desires. This does not cancel out the desires themselves, but brings about a fundamental realization that the generation of attachments from our desires is absurd.

Hope that this helps to clarify things a bit.

21 Pete March 5, 2013 at 4:51 pm


Mate, I think you are bang on with what you were saying. We are constantly told point blank that we need to have more of a work/life balance and that money isn’t that important, at the same time receiving the overwhelming subliminal message through Hollywood and tv that money is everything – having it will get you girls, a great lifestyle and most importantly for a man, influence and the fact that people will actually give a crap about what you have to say.

We have to start getting realistic about acquiring wealth here and everywhere else as you said. Society does not necessarily care about what kind of man you are, it cares about what you can do, which it rewards with money. With costs of living rising but not wages we are being sent a very clear message – unless you are upper middle class you don’t deserve any kind of security. You don’t deserve to own your own house, you don’t deserve to have savings in case things go bad. You don’t deserve any of the “little luxuries”.

Money is the modern day elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss honestly, and it’s time we did.

22 Steven P March 5, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Dracula and Richter Belmont: That’s exactly what popped into my head when I read the title.

But enough talk, have at you!

23 Leo March 5, 2013 at 6:35 pm

For me, as a Buddhist, I visualize this as the Yin and Yang concept. We have the perfect masculine purity of the masculine white, and the pernicious mystery of the feminine black. I have always visualized Plato’s “golden mean” as a separate entity, neither black nor white, in between the two extremes. One must know and control both to achieve the perfect path in the middle.

24 Chris March 5, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Very interesting article. I’m quite fond of the works of Plato and his teacher, Socrates.

25 Steve B March 6, 2013 at 9:32 am

Very good post! The description of the dark horse puts me in mind of GK Chesterton’s “ballade of an anti-puritan”. I’m really looking forward to the following posts. I was first introduced to the concept of thumos by Paul Coughlin. I cannot wait to hear what you have to say on the subject!

26 James R March 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Excellently written post. This is a struggle all men can relate to at some point in their lives, many of us endure this struggle on a all too regular basis.

Moderation truly is the key, and determining your own personal zone of moderation could be considered one of the true hallmarks of maturity, or manliness if you will.

I egerly await the next installment on this subject.

27 James March 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm


Money is gold and silver.

Those FRNs in your wallet are counterfeit notes designed to silently rob the populace with the help of wage taxation.

Pray that this violation of natural law started 100 years ago will come to an end soon.

Anywho, this is a great piece. Many a charioteer in this country are damaged by the time they reach adult age. Only He can fix you.

28 Øystein March 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm

One of the best articles here, and one that concentrates on the essence of being a man. Thank you!

29 J March 8, 2013 at 4:30 am


Thanks for furthering my comments.

“Money is the modern day elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss honestly, and it’s time we did.”

It’s just so true.

And my original point was that we have to be utterly obsessed (whether you feel that is positive or negative thing is another matter) with it in our adulthood to acquire it, so we CAN move forward with our lives. Then, maybe it will become less important.

To deny that is to simply crazy.

The problem is, everyone is saying ‘oh, moderation when it comes to to money, it’s not important’ and ‘work/life balance’ but these are platitudes which have no basis in the real developed world, unless we go to live in a cabin in the woods by ourselves.

30 Jordan March 8, 2013 at 9:38 am

First, on a historical note, we should be careful not to mesh two opposed thinkers like Aristotle and Plato together. While it is convenient because of their similarities and because one gives useful poetic images (Plato) while the other is a deeper, more subtle thinker (Aristotle), I think the comments on money give us an idea of where Aristotle actually corrects Plato.

Aristotle recognizes that a certain amount of money is essential to eudaimonia, whereas Plato definitely, in keeping with Socrates, thinks eudaimonia to be distinct from money and to depend almost entirely on reason since contemplating the forms is the highest good. So, Aristotle’s golden mean makes a lot of sense of your interpretation, but is definitely not what Plato had in mind. Remember, he sees the appetites as a wild beast which needs to be tamed completely by reason. At the same time, marking this as ‘pleasure’ misses the distinction that either Plato or Aristotle would make. Why? Because the forms offer the highest form of pleasure possible. This fits with your interpretation that harnessing pleasure is important for the mean, but for Plato it’s more about tracking the Forms and thus harmonizing your soul such that your appetites follow reason. That is, you ignore them as much as possible. For Aristotle, the pleasures of the appetites are given more importance, but only as a practical matter of needing rest from the deeper pleasure of working the rational part of the soul. We can question whether either ‘gets it right’, but I think for the sake of the reader it needs to be made clear that your interpretation is sort of an Aristotle/Plato hybrid. Last, while Aristotle probably comes closer to a correct account of human psychology and happiness, we can also see ANY ancient perspective as pointing out that the vice of greed ( what Nietzsche calls “haben und mehrer wohl haben) is a real vice and that the pursuit of money is an illusory ‘highest good’. We should try to correct the shortcomings of our contemporary culture by the insights of the ancients, not bow down to false goods.

31 ron March 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

The noble white horse only looking for” honor modesty and temperance” can itself become “dark” when avoiding the imperfections and potential in the dark horse.” I too, like someone seen to have suffered misfortune, might have suffered a similar fate, but for God’s mercy .” john bradford

32 Pete March 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Always take a hard look at self! The poem “The Man In the Glass” by Peter Dale Wimbrow, Sr will challenge oneself

33 JP March 9, 2013 at 6:01 am

I think the story doesn’t really link to material things. The black horse is all that we put in our subconscious one way or another and that at some times comes back and derails us from our path. As in real life, we cannot get rid of it, and is getting to know, and ACCEPTING it, that we will come to terms with this black horse. So in my view, awareness is the key. Poor or rich, you still have a life and still have a duty to make the best of it.

34 Stephen March 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Really insightful, thank you for the post.

35 Brett C. March 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I really enjoyed this article and I’m looking forward to the erst of the series.

36 Anthony March 14, 2013 at 12:48 am

I have been reading AoM for a few weeks now, I am glad I found this site now as it is a good tool to aid in my ongoing education into becoming the best man I can be. Also a first time commenter.

As a 22 year old, I have been grappling with an unknown yearning for a few years now, one that I can now describe as a need for mental and spiritual growth and subsequently guidance on the subject. What started as a random stumbleupon lead me to zen and meditation, and it taught me the concept of training oneself to find a path of enlightenment. I don’t see it as the literal path that siddartha took, in this day and age I believe the average modern man does not have the capabilities to devote his entire being to follow down that path (unless you become a monk.) But I did begin meditating, and the practice helped open my mind and drove me to find more ways to better myself . Which leads me to this site, and subsequently this post. Aside from having read the various wonderful articles on this site, I think this article in particular is so helpful is so many different ways because it is so inanely focused on us men. I see it as a challenge, a test of your grip on your moral rope. Not only did I finally get a taste for classical writing in the words of Socrates, I have learned now that not only has my time spent meditating and learning helped me grow into the 22 year old I am today, it helped me embrace this article and agree with the previous commenters about it’s connection with Zen. Of course the concepts can be attributed to many separate sources, it is the message that is the true fruit, and it is our job as men to grow from it.

37 Juan Calabria March 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm


Gratitude for your comment.

I believe and correct me if i’m wrong, that the perspective of Plato about a pleasure is that if this pleasure produce a higher good there is no problem, to seek wealth for a greater life is good but the problem begins when you fall into bad practices to achieve it and especially when you recurred to injustice, this i grasp from “Gorgias” by Plato.

38 Chris April 20, 2013 at 8:10 am

I’m a university student, and I’ve always been interested in accomplishing a personal goal of mine which is to be “The Ultimate Man”, Haven’t been doing a good job at it, but then I happened across this site. The breath and depth of knowledge is just incredible. This one article in particular is really reaching out to me, and its appreciated. Continue the good work AOM.

39 Evan July 15, 2013 at 8:38 am

What an excellent article! It really got my wheels spinning. It reminds me of the book Demian. The book itself is an allegory of two different worlds. Similar to Plato’s Chariot allegory. Now I will have to go read the book again! Thanks for the time and insight. Ill be sure to visit this page much more.

40 Michael Connell September 17, 2013 at 10:44 pm


Hi Brett,

I’m a big fan of your blog, and I really loved this post and the other one on thumos.

In fact I enjoyed them so much they inspired me to write a stand up comedy routine and perform it on Australian TV. You can watch it in the above youtube clip.

The allegory of the chariot really helps me in the competitive world of stand up comedy.

Trying not to be misled by the dark horse, harnessing thumos to keep fighting towards mastering my craft, using reason to chose between the two – these are ideas I’m always thinking about, and I feel they’re helping me become the kind of man I want to be.

Anyway, thanks for writing such an inspiring blog, hope my clip gives you a laugh.



41 Crystal November 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Thanks for the great job of synthesizing and analyzing myth in relation to personal development and masculine archetypes. Your articles are deep and well written. They may a bit too androcentric -as was Plato himself- in the sense of equating manhood with being a good person (when womanhood also has a role in that). However, I find them very enriching for my own writing on the sacred masculine, and plan to quote you in a book I’m preparing. Thank you for this fine and careful work.

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