The Genius-Demon of Women: and the Challenge of Staying Sane after 35Anja van Kralingen
I am currently working with a most exceptional woman through a process of articulating the hidden, or what Jung called the second, personality. Whilst doing this work I had the most astounding realisation about the genius-demon that lies in a woman’s soul, and brings a great charge of libido with it that is so very difficult to contain in today’s world.
This awakening came to me the way so many truths do. It is something I have been aware of for a long time. Naturally being involved in Jungian studies I am well aware of the extended Jungian community and much of the Jungian and pseudo-Jungian inspired work that goes on. Now in that world feminism, feeling and goddess work has been, and continues to be, one of the dominant themes. Connecting with the feminine archetype, with what has been lost and disavowed in our overtly patriarchal society.
I have never felt much affinity for this work- not only because I am a typically chauvinist male. I feel much the same about movements like the Mankind Project and Boys to Men. I’m not sure why but they just don’t resonate for me. A bunch of older men teaching boys what it is to be men, singing hymns to the moon and running around naked on a mountain…
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but basically I don’t buy it. It’s not psychology that’s for sure, and I seriously doubt it is what Jung had in mind when he birthed Analytical Psychology into the world. I think if one is attempting to access the Dionysian archetype then the inter-gender, trance music, outdoor transformational dance festivals, besides being more honest, are also a lot more potent.
Anyway forgive me I have digressed.
My point is that although I have known for a long time about Goddess work ‘ I never really got it. I’m not saying I have it now either, but I have had this insight that makes me feel a lot closer to the work; and also to the feminine psyche.
So what is the insight?
Meeting the Genius-Demon
For whatever reason woman approaching and in mid-life seems to have a tough time of things psychologically. With the fading of the first bloom of their youthful beauty and procreative potential, questions are asked for which there are no readymade answers. Women, much like men, exist for the first half of their lives in a state of grace. The instinctive drives dictate the way forward. The existential dilemma could not be further from their minds.
However once the kiddies have been born and are well on their way to growing up, the procreative instinct no longer contains the feminine psyche. Generally speaking we can identify certain typical responses:
- Their youthful beauty and sexual attractiveness is defended, supported, fought for, reengineered, financed and desperately held onto against the inexorable and cruel hand of time.
- A younger, different or more exciting lover is sought to rekindle the dying flame.
- The available libido gets directed into a career or project. This is the mature and no-nonsense-woman-of-the-world who knows how to get things done and is certainly not standing around waiting for a man to do what she can so much better.
- A life lived in service of hubby and the children.
- A new spirituality is discovered! One that has a decidedly pagan flavour, is closer to mother earth and seeks to reconnect with the divine feminine principle.
Not to exhaust the options I think that is a fairly encompassing list of the principle containers. Of course there are others and a convergence and cross habitation between those listed. What I think is consistent though, across all of these, is that the women acting out one or more of these roles are, by and large, uncontained by them.
That the second half of life is tough is something we all know. But from my observation I would have to say it is tougher on woman than men. With few exceptions women bettween the ages of 35 and 55 spend much of their lives in quiet desperation, clinging by their fingernails to the purpose that animated them so serenely in their youth.
Now this is not an original finding . It is these woman and their legion of neurosis that have kept a million psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists in business for the last century. And I am sure that there are many well established, researched and scientific reasons for this phenomenon.
Freud for his part attributed hysteria (and I think the subject under discussion could fall into that categorisation) in woman to a sexual disturbance. Whilst Jung focused on the contra-sexual soul or animus in the woman as being at the source of the disturbance.
However it is ironically this goddess or archetypal feminine element that I want to focus on and that has really captured my attention.
According to Jung we are all caught between two autonomous personalities, a conscious and an unconscious personality. And I am leaning more and more to understanding this, unconscious personality in women, as being dominated by this goddess archetype rather than the animus or contra sexual soul.
What are the challenges in connecting with this unconscious personality?
The challenges are formidable. We are already aware of the overt patriarchal structure of our society. Although arguably this may be shifting, it no doubt still creates a significant challenge to the expression in the ‘real world’ of this archetype. Beyond this, connecting with what has effectively become unconscious in the personal and the collective is no easy feat. It requires time, attention and perhaps most importantly desire.
Very often the distress that sets in, which signals the archetype being activated, is treated pathologically. It is something to be ‘cured’. I would certainly argue that this is the role of psychoanalysis in the masculine dominated social system. The psychoanalysis itself becomes the panacea with which this impulse is rendered harmless or impotent. It is far more acceptable to the subject in question’s husband and to her, in as much as she has adopted the patriarchal values, that this is contained in analysis.
This is not surprising consider the alternatives. A radical break with the status quo. The re-imagining and practice of ancient pagan traditions in honour of the Mother. Women not recognising their husband’s conjugal rights. I don’t think it is going too far to say that the very fabric of our society depends of the suppression of the Goddess or an expression that is effectively only window dressing, so that nothing fundamental to the patriarchy is meaningfully challenged.
I think the greatest gift of this feminine archetype is an appreciation of the irrational and it is this that is most threatening to the current order. The gift of the Enlightenment is the gift or reason and our modern society is founded on its ‘superior value’.
These political and social considerations aside, the very act of entering into discourse with the Goddess is difficult. For one, what language does the Goddess speak? Is it the language of love, of creation, of the earth? Is it the voice of the irrational that is so violently opposed? Or does She speak the language of the Patriarchy, of the Bible, of the Lawgivers?
What do you think?
So what does the Female Demon-Genius want?
Well of course it is not without irony that I, as a man, feel entitled and believe myself qualified to speak on Her behalf . Nevertheless these are my thoughts, you do with them as you will. The following suggestions, about the archetype’s intention, are not meant be read as commandments but rather as a vague intimation of what may be the case.
- She wants autonomy.
- Not to be the supplicant to the masculine but a lawgiver in her own right.
- She sees herself as innately superior to the masculine- at least as it is manifest in the world.
- Men are there to serve a s specific purpose for the Feminine- and that purpose is definitely not to be the sun around whom they revolve.
- She loves the children, the animals and the earth.
- She is highly protective of that which she loves or which needs love.
- She is a storyteller.
- She is fiercely independent, sometimes excessively so- to her own detriment.
- She sees, She hears and She knows.
- She creates.
- She destroys.
- She binds.
- She breaks.
That is about as much as I want to say about who She is and what She does at least in her archetypal, abstract, form. The challenge, as with any archetypal presence, is to understand what form She assumes in you, in your soul and in your life.
How does She love, create and destroy in you?
What does She ask of you?
This is what needs to be understood in order to bring the unconscious into consciousness. Whilst this impulse remains an abstraction, an archetype, an idea, it is both very dangerous to your individual psyche and almost impossible to do anything meaningful with.
However if you are able to listen carefully to what is being communicated by the Goddess and then translate this into meaningful action in your life, personalise the impersonal, well then I think the result may be very different and very interesting.
Until we talk again.