Sunday 11 February 2024

The twentieth century idea/insight/error that men need to "balance" their animus with anima ("feminine" with "masculine") - what is the way ahead?

Jung's terminology can be used to describe an idea that had great currency through the twentieth century; which was that men had a female "side" (anima), and women had a male "side" (animus), and that it was healthier/ more-balanced/ better-integrated/ more spiritually-advanced when the sexes became aware of their opposite archetypal qualities - and achieved some kind of "blend" of the two sides.

Looking back, 21st century Christians can readily see that this idea has been socially-deployed in many evil ways; to confuse and even invert the sexual self-understanding of the population. 

And indeed that, in practice, the idea was applied one-sidedly as asserting the need-for/ benefits-from men to become more feminine, and traditionally male social structures to become feminized. 

This has been a disaster. 

So it seems necessary to conclude that making men/ institutions/ society "more feminine" is a very bad idea, with consequences that are turning-out to be spiritually, psychologically, and physically lethal. 

But, the widespread nature of the basic idea or feeling behind the anima/ animus suggests to me that there was "something" in it; and that the false and demonically-hijacked implementation was nonetheless rooted in a genuine insight (albeit misunderstood and distorted) concerning the nature of individuals and society. 

This true insight was (I think) largely negative and critical; and it was that men and women's psychology and social roles, Christianity itself, and Western institutions generally; were all one-sided and incomplete in their basic nature - in ways that made them partial, incoherent, and spiritually-stultifying at an individual level. 

In other words; there was indeed by the twentieth century "something wrong" (at least most of the time, for many people and situations) with the pre-modern separation/ segregation/ division of the sexes in the context of the distinctive twentieth century consciousness.  

So, we may be able to agree that there were serious, indeed fatal flaws with the understanding and actuality of "sexuality" a century-plus ago; and that explains why counter-revolutionary/ reactionary attempts to reverse the changes of the past century, and restore the previously-existing system and psychology have been almost completely ineffectual. 

(Much talk, but near zero effect! Much posturing, but mostly (unintentionally) revelatory of its fakeness.)  

By my analysis, the twentieth century demonstrated that Christianity lacks the theological and metaphysical resources to deal with the challenge of the anima/ animus insights. Such mainstream ideas as the androgynous/ sexless angels, the loss of meaningful sexual identity after death, the dissolving of all marriages by death, the uncreative and non-procreative activities of resurrected men and women... 

When combined with modern consciousness; all of these assertions of traditional Christianity seem like positive inducements to the sexual confusions and distortions of the 21st century!  

With such a confused and feeble basis in theology; "Christians" divided into those Liberals who passively followed the secular trend of individual and social feminization; and Traditionalists who tried to maintain and restore pre-modern forms...

The liberals ceased to be Christian; while the traditionalists failed - and continue to fail - to address the underlying inadequacies and deficiencies of pre-modern Christianity.

(Which is why people don't really want traditionalism, and why it never goes anywhere.) 

I believe that some of the most valuable clues to valuable answers can be found in Mormon theology (and I mean Mormon theology - not the actual current practice of the CJCLDS - which is mostly very different, and increasingly liberalized). 

When God is recognized to be a man and a woman, and when the highest spiritual form of heavenly activity is recognized to be an eternal marriage of resurrected man and woman; then there is a (simple and clear) theoretical basis for a way of considering masculine and feminine that is both new, and also seems to fit with what we know of pre-civilizational tribal Men.  

As always, we need to by guided by what Mormons call Personal Revelation; and which I have characterized as the explicit and conscious recognition of the primacy of an intuition that is rooted in Primary Thinking leading to Direct Knowing

The answer to what each-of-us individually should do; cannot, therefore, be discovered from general rules about sexuality and sex. There are so many exceptions to general rules of this kind, that the exceptions typically outnumber the valid applications! 

While eternal marriage of a resurrected man and woman in Heaven is the spiritually-highest state; not all of us currently (or foreseeably) desire, or are suited to, such an outcome. And although all human lives ought to be rooted in love; mortal marriage is not, and never has been, the right thing for everybody. 

(For instance, for many people - past and present - family love, that is love within ones birth family - is and should be primary.)

It is learning the divinely-destined life-lessons of our experiences in this actual current mortal life which ought to be our primary concern: here-and-now. 

It is what we are here for. 

But - in this evil-dominated world of official lies and officially-sanctioned sins - those lessons can best be learned when we have a coherent and spiritually-valid understanding of the ultimate basis of masculine and feminine.



cae said...

My two cents on anima/animus:
I agree that it has been taken too far and by evil design...but...

My understanding of Jung's meaning was that men and women simply need to acknowledge that men have 'some' innate female qualities and vice versa for women.
And what actually underscored my interpretation was pondering the observation that in the case of widows and widowers with children, men are quite capable of rising to their children's need for 'mothering', while women can (though perhaps not as capably) provide 'father' nurture at need.
So, I think Jung's position on the anima/animus concept is that problems arise when individuals 'deny' the quality of opposite 'maleness' or 'femaleness' within them. Thus, Jung's intended interpretation was not that those qualities should be in balance within men and women, but that when those qualities are acknowledged and integrated as an accepted 'part' of the individual, he or she will have a better psychologically balanced personality than those who are in denial of the 'opposite' within.

Bruce Charlton said...

@cae - Thanks for your summary.

But I regard Jung as being in error to call these different qualities male and female; to make that link.

They are different attributes of people - not sexual archetypes.

e.g. When a man is nurturing, he does this as himself, as a development of what is in him - not by becoming more feminine, nor by activating the female in him.

Michael Coulin said...

"..there was indeed by the twentieth century "something wrong" (at least most of the time, for many people and situations) with the pre-modern separation/ segregation/ division of the sexes in the context of the distinctive twentieth century consciousness."

I have to wonder - was there / is there anything wrong with these traditional gender roles? OR was the problem more that the modern project, seeking to cut all ties with God, made the maintenance of these ordained roles untenable? As someone who identifies with Traditionalism I tend to think that these pre-modern roles are timeless, whereas our modern secular form of civilization is just a temporary aberration; a rebellion against the cosmic order.

Alexey said...

Jung in a sense is like Nietzsche - a lot popularity and cult, but no real useful ideas. I thought about the anima thing, it at first looks interesting, but at closer look doesn't make any sense, why would evolution create two opposite sexes and then make each of them psychically both male and female? Nonsense. Man and woman have qualitative differences, though both of them coupled make a dialectic unity(which was intended by the Evo)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alexey "Jung in a sense is like Nietzsche - a lot popularity and cult, but no real useful ideas. "

I agree that neither N no J could be regarded as essential, and also that both have done more net-harm than good; but I could not agree with "no useful ideas" since both were, at their best, extremely stimulating and exciting thinkers.

Lucinda said...

My own view is that the beings God invited to be His spirit children were essentially incompatible in their primal existence, and that part of God's project in mortal life was to create a circumstance in which they would be necessary to each other, in the hopes that mutual tolerance would develop for some over time, then a chance of real bonding love might follow. The mistake people make is to take for granted the essential compatibility of the sexes.

So as humankind has become more cut off, beings return more to their primal and chaotic incompatibility, which can only be overcome by conscious choosing. The problem can't be solved by people who have decided that they are entitled to a reality in which their fantasy of ideal compatibility will be forced on others.

It's better to see God's creation as truly miraculous in bringing us a taste of 'impossible' eternal life and love.

Bruce Charlton said...

@lucinda - That's a very interesting insight; and there is surely something to it - especially in terms of the general trajectory within creation.

Something for the future, that our past civilization didn't seem to understand, is the possibilities of relations between the sexes, especially marriage; in terms of the uniqueness of individuals.

In my experience, I am more and more struck by the uniqueness of individuals - but also that this is deliberately covered (and spoiled) by an atavistic and impossible craving to dissolve our-selves into group identities. At the same time, the differences between men and women are fascinating and deeply mysterious, once we get past the stereotypical/ categorical way of thinking.

As I've said before, the mutual situation of men and women is (or can be) rather like the relations between Tolkien's races (men, elves, dwarves, ents) - we know the world differently, and these differences are (or can be) complementary.

It is love that makes the differences good; and the original love (which led to creation) arose between a man and a woman -- so there is something special and destined about any genuine attempt at spiritual marriage.

(Accepting that in this mortal life, everything ends in failure - i.e. death, if nothing beforehand; and it is only in light of resurrection that the inevitable failure of death can be transcended.)

Phil said...

Modern life brings two things that impinge on tradition: radical equality and finance.
Once "all men created equal" includes women, the trad roles are viewed with suspicion since they are subservient. When we introduce factory model capitalism, the wife's role is doubly inferior, since she's not making any money. The old saying goes, "The man he works from sun to sun, but women's work is never done." But this didn't count any more. Further, the factory owners were delighted to get female (and child) workers - you could pay them less & they would take more abuse. Now men became more feminine because Daddy went to work, while Momma had to take on more male roles.
The ultimate is of course the social insects - queens and female workers, with a few males hanging around in case a new queen needs to be fertilized.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Phil - One general point about "tradition" is that (so far as is believed) agricultural societies are relatively recent in human terms, and most of human history seems to have been in nomadic hunter-gatherer societies - which are extremely different from agricultural societies in many ways.

I tend to regard hunter-gatherers as more "natural", and more genuinely "traditional" than the agricultural societies that were in existence at the time of Christ and until the last two hundred-ish years.

(This is another reason why I don't accept the classical-medieval Christian forms of church and society as being the sole God-intended and necessary form of Christianity. I don't for one moment suppose God would create the world such that any of humanity were excluded from salvation, simply because specific social structures were absent or impossible.)

However, that is biology and anthropology and leaves out God and creation; so I regard the primary causal factor behind such changes as being the changes in human consciousness that themselves led to the core social transformations of hunter-gatherer, to agriculture, to industrialization.

Rory said...

This is really fascinating stuff BC.

One thing about your response to Phil, about the novelty of agriculture, reminds me of this post I read:

In summary: Christianity spread better in pastoral European cultures than agricultural ones. Shepherds, who were more nomadic, whose lives were more dynamic, latched onto the ideas of Christianity far easier than the settled, more civilised people in agricultural societies, based around the static, regular patterns of the harvest.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not mistaking what you've said, as if your point is "Post-industrial society has gone wrong, and a return to trad agricultural life is no answer -- we need to go back to nomadic life!"

But it does speak to this point that the right Christian life isn't rooted in some specific mode of life. It flourished well in medieval agricultural society, but that's because we fitted it to that mode. But we can't just turn the clocks back now -- the industrialist genie is out of the bottle. And it may be that more pastoral, nomadic ways of life are, for whatever reason, genuinely well suited (as you point out, it is the oldest form of existence) to Christian life, but again, we can't go back.

The notion, as I understand it, is that we can't go back. We can't ignore the past in some New Soviet Man way either. We have to learn something from it, not in a pragmatist "what works and what doesn't work" way, but to understand that spiritual flourishing happens in a certain, in response to circumstances, and the adjustment of theology. We have to not be afraid to innovate our fundamentally theological and metaphysical concepts of man (inc. stuff about sexuality and sexual roles) in the face of the world we are in now. We cannot just "RETVRN".

Of course, the New Soviet Man is the fear. We're all too aware of people trying to change people for their own spurious political ends, in rebellion to God, to come up with something to satisfy their own selves. And so there is a natural resistance to this idea. And it leads to a reactionary doubling down, to say: NO! We *just* have to go back, wind things back a few hundred years, go back to the farms. We don't need to think any further about man and his nature and we don't need any more innovations. It was the innovations (feminism, socialism, marxism, racism, etc) that got us into this mess, of people coming up with this stuff that led us wrong.

The thing I would say is that, what's not appreciated in all this, is: (a) that those ideas came up because of real crises in thought caused by the shift to an industrial (and now post-industrial) mode of living (not to sound too much like a materialist philosopher), and (b) we just *cannot* unwind all of that, short of smashing all the machines and putting some kind of religious prohibition on any technological development (as far as I understand them, even the Amish don't believe in that).

Anyway, sorry for the long essay. I've been reading a number of your posts - a friend sent them my way - and I finally felt able to synthesise a bunch of things that have been whirling around in my head.

I'd be interested in how you see the new way forward in resolving conceptions of masculine and feminine. I don't agree that people are all so unique as you say, but I do agree that forms of masculinity and femininity are far more complex than the trad memes like to make out, even granting a biblical grounding for these things, and that personal circumstances in a post-industrial world only make those circumstances more unique and strange for each couple.

John said...

Emmanuel Swedenborg absolutely insisted on every angel he saw was a pairing of male and female and in his Trinity too of Divine Love and Divine Wisdom with men and women each being an expression of Love and Wisom, men externally presenting Wisdom but internally Love and vice versa for women. And not forgetting Genesis's describes humans as being made "male and female" both men and women being so.