If you haven’t read last week’s post, you might want to go there first to hear my thoughts about the basic masculine archetypes. This time I want to highlight the feminine ones. Please remember that these energies and qualities, so-called “masculine” and “feminine,” are part of the psychological inheritance of everyone, regardless of gender.
As Mother’s Day approaches, Greer’s dream reminds me that tending new life, whether in the form of personal growth or societal reforms, is the province of our feminine, nurturing sides. Everyone has one.
Since I left my job to write in 1989 I’ve always been part of at least one women’s circle with sometimes as many as four ongoing groups at the same time. My Jungian study group was formed in 1989 and our weekly meetings lasted for ten years. The Purple Pro’s, my writing group, has met monthly since 1990 and usually shared home-cooked lunches. This year is the first we haven’t had a meeting because of changes in our lives that make it too difficult.
The archetype which represents the union between the Lover and the Beloved is the Healer. Healers develop the kind of love that takes energy, courage, and mindfulness. Capable of being honest about their emotions, healers are willing to be vulnerable. They invest their good wishes and positive intentions in others all the while knowing they risk the possibility that their love will not be returned, that the objects of their love might reject them, abandon them, or die.
Many who are fascinated with the psyche have tried to draw clear boundaries around the archetypes. I’ve worked on this for years in search of a framework that could help me understand myself, and I’m passing on what I’ve learned because it’s been useful; however, nobody knows for sure how closely our descriptions fit reality. In truth, it’s not possible to fully understand.
Love and pleasure are related to the instinct for sex. For primitive humans, whose struggle for survival must have consumed almost every waking moment, sex was probably the only activity that took them away from the daily grind of work and provided emotional satisfaction, if only briefly. Even today, most people still find it extremely difficult to separate their desire for love and pleasure from their desire to have sex with another human being.
In my system, the feminine archetypes are the Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These images of our basic instincts serve our “feminine” drive for species-preservation and relationship. The ways we see and use their energies are transformed over time as our egos mature through three phases:
Tending new life is the province of our feminine sides. Everyone has one. This is why some men are very mothering as are many women who have never physically birthed a child. But in today’s world many healthy aspects of Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved are unconscious and undeveloped in males and females alike.
Until I was about 47 my spirituality was guided by the God of Christianity. But somehow this was never quite enough. I thought religion was supposed to have all the answers to the mysteries of life and fully satisfy my every yearning, yet I was haunted by a spiritual hunger I could not satisfy. Then I discovered Jungian psychology and sparks began to fly.
The lives of many, if not most of us were touched and shaped in important ways by the elder women in our families or neighborhoods. Yet, as a society, we rarely give credit to the crones or sing their praises in any public way. Indeed, in the West where youth is worshiped, the older one gets, the less visible one becomes. Respect for the Goddess archetype in her aspect as Crone may have disappeared from the world, but She remains a reality within the psyche.