Recently a reader asked this question: “If a woman performs the function of being an artist’s ‘muse’ and if the artist believes (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell in ‘The White Goddess”) that ‘she is a representative of the goddess deconstructing and remaking him’ then where does muse/anima begin and end?”
I wasn’t exactly sure I understood the question fully, but here’s how I replied…in a slightly revised form now that I’ve decided to make a post of it.
Well, right off hand I’d say that the muse is one of several functions of the Anima. Anima is the name Carl Jung gave to a man’s unconscious feminine side. As I use the term however, I essentially mean the unconscious or undeveloped feminine in everyone. Sometimes I use Anima and Soul interchangably. I do the same with the unconscious masculine: i.e. Animus or Spirit.
Our feminine side is associated with empathy, intimately relating, nurturing, receptivity, tender feelings, the instincts, and all the soulful, material, physical aspects of human life. Whichever of these are not consciously developed remain in the unconscious as our Anima.
Our instincts are the source of all creativity: i.e. we need to eat (the instinct for nurturance), so we create weapons and tools to catch and kill animals and fish. Or look for work we can enjoy and earn money doing. Paradoxically, we contain an instinct for creativity itself, although not everyone activates it as much as artists and other unusually creative people.
Patriarchal culture educates us into a one-sided way of thinking and behaving with values that are active, productive, dynamic, goal- and achievement-oriented, practical, clear, structured, logical, linear and competitive. In this masculine-oriented environment, many of us repress our Soul into the unconscious, thus losing the ability to care deeply and have empathy for others, cultivate intimate relationships, feel and express tender emotions, tend lovingly to our bodies and the everyday physical requirements of life, and be receptive to our own repressed needs and instincts. Soul requires more time, quiet, stillness, space, receptivity and contemplation to get in touch with the inner life—including inspiring inner images, visions, dreams and imagination—than the fast track allows.
As a result, many, if not most, men project their Anima onto a woman and let her carry it for them. A man can learn a lot about Soul vicariously through her, but he won’t necessarily learn to experience his own Soul, which might be quite different from hers.
“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” ~Dante Alighieri