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Jung and the maternal feminine

This psychic split is an inevitable outcome of his polygamous relationships, which are in turn reflective of his early experience of a nurse who took care of him during his mother’s hospitalization. No one can dismiss Toni Wolf as a mere femme fatale, the woman with whom Jung lived more or less openly as his mistress for nearly 30 years. She was called the “anima type,” a woman well suited to carry Jung’s projections and one over whom he has power (at least according to Jung, and she was a former patient). She is credited with keeping him grounded during his confrontation with the unconscious. She played a pivotal role in Jung’s conversations with his anima which led to his profound insights on the anima archetype. Yet together they concretized the anima into a man-mistress relationship which prevented Jung from dealing with the elemental aspects of the succubus - the Terrible Mother with the Evil Eyes whom heroes can’t hope to conquer. Where Jung lived openly with Toni as his mistress his knowledge of maternal elements was blocked. This prevented Jung from receiving wisdom from the maternal feminine - exactly what is missing in his theories.

Had Jung truly integrated the maternal feminine, his system of individuation imaged in mandalas would have shifted from a patriphallic to a matriphallic consciousness - he would have realized the Great Mother in the heart of the mandala - yet this did not occur. Self alone became the deity at the center of the mandala, and “a god” replaced the goddess. His focus, of course, was the need for a sacrifice in order to cut the hero away from the power of the unconscious and give him his individual autonomy. Jung’s form of sacrifice is somehow assured of conquering, while a sacrifice of his whole self, where he is “Christ,” would have required complete submission, completely beyond his ego command and control. The Great Mother is preponderant over the anima; for Jung, detachment of the anima from the Terrible Mother remains incomplete.

It is for this reason that Jung by no means escapes the power of the cultural attitudes towards the feminine, and remains at the very least theoretically bound to masculine dominance structures. Jung’s model, depicting as it does the masculine entering culture by splitting off from the mother, creates for the masculinist ego an inherently negative relation to the mother. The connection he makes is one that repudiates the mother so that the hero can enter culture, similar to Freud’s identification with paternal authority to enter fully into the world of power and intellect. Yet Jung’s thinking is in some ways even more repressive to women than Freud’s condemnation. Jung’s concept of the feminine had the result of limiting women, although he seemed to think that he was trying to get it a better place in patriarchal thinking. According to El Saffar,

despite the great following that Jung has enjoyed among women for his sympathy with and interest in those aspects of the psyche traditionally linked to the “feminine,” his gender ideology is in fact more conservative, for being archetypally based, than Freud’s. The notion that “femininity” is an adaptation to a cultural requirement that women become reproductive objects locked out of the institutions and power structures of society is more openly acknowledged by Freud, who sees femininity as acquired, than by Jung, who tends to regard the psychological structures that lead to femininity in women as innate.

(1994: 47)

Jung’s inability to fully metabolize his shame (at least until he could realize the meaning of his visions) naturally leads to his dualistic world view that distinguishes between inner and outer, the rational and the irrational, the anima and the animus, man and woman, autonomy and dependency. Dualism is a form of thinking that eliminates the possibility of recognition, and its persistence alerts us to the unchanging image of the mother of infancy in the deepest strata of Jung’s psyche. Behind Jung’s dualistic thinking was a nearly explosive temper (evidence of unresolved Oedipal material) and a fear and hatred of women that leads to a desperate attempt to restrict and silence them:

No matter how friendly and obliging a woman’s Eros might be, no logic on earth can shake her if she is ridden by the animus. Often the man has the feeling - and he is not altogether wrong - that only seduction or a beating or rape would have the necessary power of persuasion [shame is the deepest affect behind violence to women] . . . No man can converse with an animus for five minutes without becoming the victim of his own anima. Any who still had enough sense of human to listen objectively to the ensuing dialogue would be staggered by the vast number of commonplaces, misapplied truisms, cliches from newspapers and novels, shopsoiled platitudes of every description interspersed with vulgar abuse and brain-splitting lack of logic.

(Jung, 1951: 15)

It is clear that Jung remained plagued by a deep feeling that a woman could destroy him. In the same way that Oedipus tries to get a glimpse of his own origins without confronting the brutal maternal forces of nature, Jung enters onto a path of selfknowledge that has a huge blind spot: his autistic attachment and difficulties with premature separation, object loss and abandonment.

Toni Wolf dies very late in his life (in 1953), and Jung continued on. But with the shock of Emma Jung’s death on November 27, 1955, Jung realizes that a “great illumination” took him by surprise two days before she died. The content of the revelation is unknown; Jung only says of it

I can only think that the illumination came from my wife, who was then mostly in a coma, and that the tremendous lighting up and release of the insight worked back upon her and was one reason that she could die such a painless and regal death.

(Jung quoted in Wehr/Weeks, 1987: 424)

Yet perhaps it is behind his later comments on the hetaira. In a letter of June 18, 1958, simultaneous to the beginning of his work on Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Jung writes:

It is unfortunately true that when you are wife and mother you can hardly be the hetaira too, just as it is the secret suffering of the hetaira that she is not a mother. There are women who are not meant to bear physical children, but they are those that give rebirth to a man in a spiritual sense, which is a highly important function.

(1975: 455)

In a field near his beloved Bollingen tower, in the same garden where his tribute to Spielrein is located, sits a phallic milestone engraved with an inscription in Greek: “To the most beautiful Attis.” Attis is the son lover of the “regal” Queen Cybele, the mother of the god who personifies the longing for the mother of early infancy alive in every psyche. Attis holds the impulse to sacrifice but lives on through being the ideal child of the mother. Eventually driven insane by his mother’s mad love for him he castrated himself, symbolic of a man’s resistance to incest in protection of the mother. Jung connects Attis’ auto-castration with subservience to the Great Mother; “This is the dream of the mother in matriarchal times, when there was as yet no father to stand by the side of the son” (1955: 259). Indeed, Attis’ castration symbolizes a very different expression of male sexuality for Jung, the kind that is naturally included as a part of marriage.

Psychic development moves to a higher level: from the darkness of blind instinct to a feminine anima that brings illumination - although for a full resurrection of the maternal feminine, Jung would have had to let the anima, which for Jung remained dominated by a preponderance of the maternal, be the one to take the lead.

Notwithstanding all his faults, Jung ultimately sought truth above all else, and felt that a man must bring himself to recognize and accept a hidden and terrifying feminine part of himself. Jung believed that the repression of the feminine is bad for the whole human race, and that if it is not restored to its archetypal place in Western religion the results would be catastrophic. This conviction is surely reflected in the restoration of Salome’s vision. His whole work was a selfunfolding of his individuation process, and he stayed devoted to the inner forces guiding his existence - two of which manifested in his visions. Jung quotes the words of St. Paul, “I live; yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me.”

In Jung’s concept of the anima, the feminine remained other and became a place where Jung was able to differentiate himself. This higher union of opposites transcends opposition, in turn facilitating a transformation of power over into creative empowerment. He was buried with a tombstone inscribed with a saying from the great resurrection chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (I Cor. 15:47):

The first man is of the earth and is earthly, the second man is of heaven and is heavenly.

Lilith has presence in “the first man” of the earth. Lilith is the female of Adam, the first man, or Adamah, the Hebrew feminine word for earth or soil.

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