In order to bring a more comprehensive scope and even more depth to the study of the archetypal dynamics at play in politics and social movements today, we must recognize the role of the archetypal Feminine. The social turmoil and divisive politics in the United States and Europe, all of which terrify, yet also excite and stir change — as seen in movement and countermovement, progression and reaction — are all contained within the most essential and primordial archetype of all: The Great Mother.
Erik Neumann, in his landmark book, “The Great Mother,” investigates and outlines the psychological realities of the Feminine as manifested throughout a broad historical scope. Neumann examines artwork, mythologies and rites from across the globe, all related to the Feminine. Neumann traces the energies that charge and animate the psyche through the full range of human development and experience. All transformation, on an individual or societal level, is rooted in the unfathomable energies of The Great Mother. The Trickster (as explored in part one of this essay) and all other archetypes emerge from this source.
To start, this essay will explore the negative aspect of this archetype, as related to the unconsciously destructive patterns of humankind. Secondly, this essay will outline some of the processes by which a man may incorporate the Feminine within himself. This development towards expanded consciousness, which includes the Feminine, is vital for a world that hopes to avoid general dysfunction and even mayhem. Throughout, this essay touches upon ways in which women have historically demonstrated and continue to explore the authentic and wonderful qualities of the archetypal Feminine, which has for far too long been neglected. All of this relates to the thesis that, all too often tensions much reach an unbearable peak before the counter-push and subsequent integration can occur.
As the author, it is important to note that I am a man. This essay comes from the perspective of a man attempting to understand and honor the feminine. The latter half of this essay examines men and women as distinct psychologies. It is important to keep in mind that archetypes, and potentially all individual personalities, transcendent of gender norms and constraints.
Archetype: A primordial image, which grounds the fundamental structure of life.
Archetypal Feminine: A label that touches on the vast and powerful images, emotions and patterns of life surrounding the mother, nature and mystery/spirit. (This will be referred to as Feminine, with a capital “F” throughout the paper.)
The Shadow: An aspect of the psyche, which contains everything unacceptable, unrecognized by the conscious mind.
The Trickster: A manifestation of the masculine, which uses deception and acts from instinct.
Anima: The aspect of a male psyche that is feminine. This sub-personality potentially acts as a bridge to the deeper layers of the unconscious.
Consciousness: The develop of an ego-awareness which is capable of choice, responsibility and deliberate action in the world.
Introducing the Unconscious: The Dark Feminine
Through the demagoguery of a Trickster, the group is given permission to release its latent madness and lunacy. In the case of Trumpism and ethnic nationalism in the U.K. and Europe, impossible, sentimental promises have stirred people into a frenzy. As demonstrated in the first part of this essay on the Shadow: lack of consciousness (restraint by virtue of objective reflection) can lead to societies falling into destructive and painful realities.
The Trickster, in an impudent, happenstance stumbling about stirs xenophobia, hate-speech, juvenile clashing and misguided war. The individuals, who’ve collectivized and therefore made themselves devoid of personal responsibility, threaten to take society into the pitfalls of darkness. This potential reality of chaos and suffering is contained within one dimension of the Feminine called the Terrible Mother.
Images and myths of the Terrible Mother include: the Gorgons and Medusa of Greece, the Egyptian monster-like guardian of the underworld, known as Am-It, as well as the fierce Indian goddess Kali. Such goddesses are often associated with a snake or dragon, and other depictions of devouring, dark and deadly creatures.
Psychologically, the myths surrounding the Terrible Mother illustrate mankind’s perennial situation: we are all threatened by the depths of the unconscious, which our ego-mind (the conscious aspect of our self) is rightfully terrified of falling into. The ego must constantly strive, with vigor and attention, to retain separation. The constitution of the individual as ethically and personally responsible is immensely tenuous. Lack of conscious strength in the individual is what allows for re-possession of the Shadow in the unconscious.
A broad review of history shows how easily humankind may succumb to brutality, destruction and needless conflict. Ancient Indian rites honored the potential for chaos within each individual and collectives:
“In her hideous aspect, the goddess, as Kali, the ‘dark one,’ raises the skill of seething blood to her lips. Her devotional image shows her dressed in red, standing in a boat floating on a sea of blood (The Great Mother, Nuemann, 1955)”.
Only conscious understanding can lead to the choice of avoiding such fates. Only by understanding the Feminine, in all her aspects — including the ‘dark’ — may we channel its energies constructively.
Culture from Chaos
The timeless struggle of the human psyche to overcome the pull of unconsciousness is still with us, both individually and collectively. Ancient people represented and dealt with this in myths. Western culture, in the hubris of rationality, has declared itself above such superstitions. Yet, millions sit in awe as Harry Potter faces the Hungarian Horntail Dragon.
A dragon — as a representation of the Terrible Mother, the all-consuming instincts and darkness of the unconscious — must be overcome with cleverness by the Hero. Only through defeating the mammoth force of the archetypal Mother can the individual, “liberate energy for the multitude of human tasks that can form a culture pattern out of chaos (Man and His Symbols, Jung, 1961)”. That is why we remain fascinated by stories of the hero.
The Perils of Civilization
Watching this process occur in movies leaves us in fascination and trance, while for progress to be made we must understand the symbolism and meaning of these eternal themes. Speaking in terms of a contemporary man’s psychology — that is a typical male: If an individual can overcome the grasp of unconsciousness, he then has the opportunity to relate consciously to other aspects of the Feminine within him.
Typically, for a man, this inner discovery would entail increased relatedness and receptivity to others, as well as a new found engagement with his own emotions. Subsequently, he may develop the ability to articulate his feeling and thereafter act in a more balanced way.
Western culture has largely become one-sided towards the archetypal Masculine qualities. Although this has created massive wealth and a technologically advanced culture, it has also ignored a vast reservoir of potential that resides in the Feminine.
“Today, we talk of ‘matter.’ We describe its physical properties. We conduct laboratory experiments to demonstrate some of its aspects. But the word ‘matter’ remains a dry, inhuman and purely intellectual concept, without any psychic significance for us. How different was the former image of matter — the Great Mother — that could encompass and express the profound emotional meaning of Mother Earth (Man and His Symbols, Jung, 1961)”.
There is no doubt that the achievements of civilization are monumental; we have built empires, cities and accumulated vast sciences and technologies. But, this constant material development was ruthlessly dependent on slavery, conquest and devastation of all sorts. Currently, we all witness this ceaseless drive and exertion of culture as it teeters on the brink of environmental catastrophe.
Climate change is a poignant example of a symbolic, or archetypal compensation to the patriarchal assertion. As the Mother is, and always has been, earth, rivers, trees, mountains, as well as crop and foodstuff. Kali, “In her gracious manifestation, as World Mother, may bestow existence upon new living forms in a process of unceasing generation, and give them the good that is ‘full of nourishment’ (The Great Mother, Nuemann, 1955)”.
The Earth and the Feminine is calling out for acknowledgment and integration.
When accessed consciously, the Feminine within a man yields insight and appreciation for the earth and instincts, as well as the mysterious and irrational aspects of reality. We need the energies of the goddess to be made conscious and brought into ego-awareness. There is a subtle distinction between integration of the Feminine, versus it being a possession, the latter of which is uncontrollable and indifferent to life and death. In possession, for ancient and modern man, the vast power of the primordial Mother is overwhelming.
The all-encompassing nature of this force is explained best by Nuemann himself: “At the polar points of this archetypal energy, consciousness loses its faculty of differentiation and can shift into its opposite. Helplessness, pain, stupor, sickness, distress, loneliness, nakedness, emptiness, madness, can therefore be the forerunners of inspiration and vision and so manifest themselves as stations on a road leading through danger to salvation, through extinction of death to rebirth and new birth. Conversely, the positive element of the inspiration and the positive rapture of ecstasy may lead to the possession of madness (The Great Mother, Nuemann, 1955)”.
Again, both men and women remain susceptible to the multiform phenomena associated with the Great Mother. It is only increased consciousness which can bring ethical responsibility to the individual; those people have a chance at avoiding the mesmerizing, primitive personality of the Trickster, which can lead to destructive manifestations of the Terrible Mother. Without a firm grip on archetypal, or instinctual reality and the importance of individual actions as ethical choices, terrifying social and political eruptions will continue.
Enantiodromia: Embracing Tension
It seems that now, with president Trump, we are faced with another example of our own weakness and conflicted confusion. However, Jung points out, “As in the collective form, so also the individual shadow contains within it the seed of an enantiodromia, of a conversion into its opposite (Four Archetypes: Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster, Jung, 1971)”.
In other words, sometimes we need to hit rock bottom, before the epiphany and transformation can take place. This is the “enantiodromia” Jung speaks of: the ultimate expression of polarity, before a change of tide.
Sadly, it may be that Trump, as the embodiment of the Trickster, will bring the cultural situation to a necessary extreme. In his own twisted way, the Trickster is making the situation so dire that it can’t be ignored. Meanwhile, we as a nation must witness the reality of masculine ignorance once again: the immaturity and weakness of misogyny, the fear that leads to anger, expressed in xenophobia and racism, as well as the blundering hubris of stereotypical male cockiness. At a certain point, this becomes so blatant and unbearable that it actually feeds an uprising.
My girlfriend Madeline, described this as, “The opposing point which creates tension and thus a compulsion to act.”
At a school assembly, held to address a video of a student using racial slurs, Madeline, “Felt the tension between her inner beliefs and the misrepresentation in the external world.” Other students downplayed the issue, by dismissively laughing and asking to “move on from this,” rather than confront the upsetting issue. This “compelled her to the duty to articulate the truth, because untruths were being said.”
When the values we hold are not being respected in social or political contexts, the conscious individual takes responsibility to act and speak truth. The positive personifications of the Feminine are in touch with moral and spiritual truth. The energies of the Feminine can bring the individual in touch with resilience and courage to fight for progress. This function of the Feminine to restructure and alter the out-dated, disfuntional culture (which is experienced as part of the archetypal Masculine, i.e. the Patriarchy) is an essential function of a balanced world. [See Jordan Peterson video: Myths, Heros] It is time for us to celebrate women who strive to consciously embody the strong and resilient aspects of themselves.
Solitude of Guadaloupe: Spirit of Resistance Against Oppression
A slave of the French West Indies, named Solitude of Guadaloupe became legendary for her beauty and bravery. There is a novel by Andrew Schwarz-Bart that recounts Solitude’s struggles. After being born into slavery, Solitude was finally freed during the French revolution. When slavery was reintroduced by Napoleon in 1802, she joined a rebellion. Despite pregnancy, Solitude was, “A fearless warrior, expertly wielding a machete against the French troops (Friedmanfeb, New York Times, 1973)”.
The resilience that Solitude represents compels us to decide whether, “The price of belief in historical and personal pain is either madness or reverence (Friedmanfeb, New York Times, 1973)”.
The citizens witnessing a Trump presidency can revere Solitude’s strength and conviction to resist. They can honor it symbolically by finding the resources within themselves — a fierce femininity — which will not stand for the conventional order, the oppressive values. Solitude of Guadaloupe is a poignant personification of resistance to the dominant structures which place unacceptable and unjust restraints on humanity. She is the embodiment of the surviving spirit of woman, who’s primal instincts and autonomy, when stifled, will eventually unleash themselves.
Earth, Mother, Spirit in the New Age
What is ignored and repressed will eventually make itself known. The balanced acceptance of all aspects of the Feminine have been making their way into contemporary culture, especially in particular communities. Women are beginning to revive and connect with the archetypal Feminine.
The home birth movement is an example of women resisting the pitfalls of Western culture, taking conscious responsibility of their own lives and bodies. Women in the United States and Europe are accessing the primal, instinctual abilities of their body. They are taking authority into themselves, rather than relinquishing it to a patriarchal medical system. The birthing practices, which subjugated and reduced women for centuries may be in part traceable to a literal interpretation of a couple lines in the Bible. In Genesis, God says to Eve: ”I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
Even just within the 20th Century, the practices of a male-dominated medical system have often diminished women to a passive and drug-dependent role. “Cruelty in Maternity Wards” reported lackadaisical use of drugs and instances of women being strapped down (Shultz, 1958). A rejection of this cold attitude, which disregards the instinctual power of the motherly body, is an example of a change in the attitude towards the archetypal Feminine within the collective.
And there are many more examples of this. The New Age spiritual movement, generally speaking, is a massive compensatory push to access and honor the Feminine. This recognition of the irrational, mysterious world of spirit, is done through combining all sorts of lost religions, including Paganism’s appreciation for nature, which is personified as the Earth Mother. The Feminine is associated with Eros (the body, sensuality), while the archetypal Masculine is connected to Logos (the intellect). New Age activities, which seek to honor the Feminine, emphasize self-care through massage, body-work, energetic healing and chakra meditation. The interest in Feminine energies can be seen in the graceful and popular trend towards physical yoga exercise (which, as any man knows, often entails a female-dominated studio).
On social media platforms, such as Instagram, communities of women are expressing a new appreciation and strength of conviction for their own value, which surpasses the historically marginalized role this gender has played in Western culture. Rupi Kapur, of Canada, who has almost a million followers, wrote, “I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. My womb is home to the divine, a source of life for our species. Very few times it is seen that way. In older civilizations this blood was considered holy (Kaur, 2015)”.
This is reminiscent of the life-giving aspects of Kali; it is an expression of the positive aspects of The Great Mother. The ancients respected Her, we are still fascinated by Her; women are finding their way back to Her; men should be modest and discover ways to understand Her power.
Anima: The Inner Feminine
As much as it is important for women to consciously integrate the archetypal Feminine, it is vital for men to relate to the femininity within. Although, all indiviuals will relate to the Feminine in distinctly diverse, or sublte ways, there are typical patterns. Carl Jung gave the term Anima to the feminine aspect within a man. This can be seen as equivalent to the term “soul” or “muse,” used by Plato. Only through overcoming the pull of the Mother (the dragon), which represents the regressive, vast and potent forces of the unconscious, can a man begin to integrate and relate to the Anima.
The Anima is the, “Angel of grace, her wings containing the feathers of destiny, her eyes beholding the beauty and wholeness of life, her hand holding the messages of the greatest mysteries.” (Abelow, 2017) She is the vehicle for the male ego to relate to the unconscious — the moving force behind a man’s inspiration, feeling, intuition and love.
When externalized, men project their inner image (the Anima) onto the women they meet. Because of this, a man often cannot appreciate the full-breadth of a woman, as an embodied individual, who has many sides — including flaws and needs of her own . When the Anima is left undeveloped, a man’s perception of women may remain superficial and crude, as in pornography, or in overly romanticized beauty.
This is exemplified in Trump, who’s wife is seen to be vacuous and doll-like — a “mail order bride.” Contemporary women, striving to express the fullness of their deeper personality, will not stand for these old-fashioned and restrictive values. As pacifying as it may be to those who want to “Make America Great Again,” those who are becoming conscious cannot fully acquiesce again. We are beginning to access and honor the Feminine, in her many dimensions.
The Path Forward: Consciously Embodying the Archetypes
Therefore, it becomes integral for individuals to come to terms with the inner Feminine. As a pragmatic example, if men can integrate the Anima — giving them more capacity for empathy and the needs of the group — we would see a change in family dynamics and the business world. When looking back historically, ignorance of the Feminine has lead to a hubris in men. The great power of the Feminine archetype for both spiritual insight and all-consuming destruction must be understood in order to actuate these energies in a way that is congruent with conscious values. Women are challenged with integrating what is most essential to their being — the vast mysteries of the Feminine, which wish to be embodied, as they have been neglected for too long.
Carl Jung wrote, “In themselves archetypal images are among the highest values of the human psyche. Our task is not, therefore, to deny the archetype, but to dissolve the projections, in order to restore their contents to the individual who has involuntarily lost them by projecting them outside himself.” It is time that we take the power of these energies and bring them into ourselves, as conscious aspects of our personalities. This is done through understanding the symbolic meaning — Solitude’s resilience and Kali’s connection to instinct, for example — and embodying those energies in our own lives.
It is certain that Trump, as the Trickster, whose rampant, bewildering success, followed by subsequent regression into destructive stupidity, will have painful consequences. Because of this, it is also the opportune time for us to recognize the archetypal forces within ourselves, discern our relationship to them and subsequently act more authentically and fully in this world; this is a moment when women can consciously embody Kali and stand-up for their sovereignty and dignity; it is a time for men to consciously relate to their Anima and reveal their sensitivity and love, as well as their connection to the mysteries, which invite wisdom and humility.
A great series of challenges are before each of us: overcome the urge to remain unconscious and neglect personal responsibility, which allows the Trickster to reign; work towards integration of the Feminine, which remains latent, and in its neglected state remains an unharnessed resource. This is the enduring predicament we must absolve ourselves to honestly and responsibly confront and grow through.
1: For more on the archetype of the feminine: Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 9, Part 1.
2: “Projection: An automatic process whereby contents of one's own unconscious are perceived to be in others. See also archaic, identification and participation mystique.” (Taken from FrithLuton.com)
3: For more read: Goddesses in Everywoman, by Jean Shinoda Bolen
4: For more on the development of Anima read, Amor and Psyche by Erik Neumann
Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung, Marie Louis Von Franz, Angela Jaffe, 1961
The Great Mother, Erik Nuemann, 1955
Four Archetypes: Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster, Carl Jung, 1971
A Woman Named Solitude, Alan Friedmanfeb, New York Times, 1973
Solitude and the Abolition of Slavery: Commemorative Art in Guadeloupe II, RepeatingIslands.com, 2009
Ladies' Home Journal: Cruelty in maternity wards, Schultz, 1958
Period, Rupie Kaur, RupieKaur.com, 2015
Angel of Grace (from unpublished excerpt), Sam Abelow, 2016