The Role of the Animus in a Woman's Spiritual Journey



Jung developed his theories about anima and animus in a place and time where gender stereotypes ruled. Despite his intention to draw from “the spirit of the depths” where these archetypes have universal meaning, to modern sensibilities some of his ideas might seem to have been contaminated by the spirit of his times. For example, in his day men were generally considered to be more intellectually capable and women more emotional, and these assumptions occasionally crop up in his writing. To us this is obviously related to the fact that women in his time were still subjugated in many ways, including being denied equal educational and work opportunities. Nonetheless, he developed far more objectivity in this area than most people before or since; because of this, and because ignorance about these issues creates so many problems,  his descriptions are still useful.

In essence, he believed the animus matures as we cultivate an independent, non-socially conditioned idea of ourselves, growing more aware of what we truly believe and feel, and more articulate in expressing these beliefs and feelings. In sum, if the anima’s “soulful” activity is centered on nourishing inner and outer relationships to preserve the species, the animus’s “spiritual” activity is focused on becoming more conscious and individuated to preserve oneself. In the big picture, of course, both goals are vital to the mature development of soul and spirit, individual and species.

Jungians believe that like the anima, the animus develops in four stages. In Jung’s Man and His Symbols, analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz writes that in the first stage the animus appears as “a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or ‘muscle man'” such as Tarzan. Next, the animus demonstrates initiative and has the capacity for planned action; thus, it might show up in a dream as a romantic poet, war hero, hunter, etc. Third, it becomes associated with inspired verbal and intellectual proficiency and might manifest as a dream image of a professor, clergyman, lawyer, or politician. At its most mature it becomes, like Hermes and Sophia, a messenger of the gods who mediates between the unconscious and conscious mind. Thus, the highest calling of the animus, is, like the anima, to embody Wisdom and incarnate meaning.

Is this a true and accurate description of the animus?  No one really knows because our ideas about masculinity and femininity have been forming for thousands of years and vary widely from culture to culture.  I have no doubt that as the ego grows more conscious these ideas will continue to change. But currently in the West we tend to think of a healthy animus as  the part of us with the strength, drive, motivation, self-discipline, and courage to peel away the layers hiding the Self’s light, and we recognize him in the temptation to risk letting that light shine through until we are transparent in our uniqueness.

In the long run our uniqueness may not look anything at all like traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity. But that, of course, is a very good thing. It will simply look like who we really are.  In essence, the message of both anima and animus is to know ourselves and develop loving relationships with everything no matter how this might look to anyone else!

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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0 Responses

  1. Jeanie, I really appreciate this background information so much. I think putting Jung’s ideas in context of his time is necessary, providing us with more objectivity when taking his genius into account. Perhaps, as you seem to suggest here, time and culture make definitions of the anima and animus “moving targets” that do not have to be nailed down with certitude. Maybe all we have to know is that we each contain our own complementary nature that becomes more conscious and wiser the more we attend to it and nurture it. I know that I am gentler and more tolerant than I was when younger. I can see that my wife is stronger and more confident than she was when younger. I see men take on what used to be thought of as more feminine traits as they age and women take on what used to be thought of as more masculine traits as they age. And I see these changes make those people happier and more fulfilled. I see those changes make me happier and more fulfilled. These are all ideas that make more emotional sense than “rational sense” since we have trouble conceiving “why” such changes should occur……After all, why have bodies with gender differences if, as we age, those differences get erased? However, this is just one more amazing, mysterious, paradox in a world full of amazing, mysterious, paradoxes!
    Such a fascinating conversation !!

    1. William,
      My husband and I have undergone the same changes as you and your wife and both experience far more well-being because of it. Moreover, we both know that learning from each others’ differences has been crucial to these changes. So in reference to an earlier comment of yours I would have to say that it has been my growing familiarity and comfort with his animus, or masculine side, that has helped me strengthen my own. I guess you would say that my animus learned from his animus and his anima learned from my anima!
      I totally agree that all we really need to know is that we each contain our own complementary nature that becomes more conscious and wiser the more we attend to it and nurture it. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter at all how we define anima and animus, as long as we don’t use our definitions to limit anyone of either gender to specific roles, behaviors or opportunities. Until we stop doing that, individuals and societies need to keep having conversations like this to bring our unconscious attitudes about maleness and femaleness into the light and remind us of our fuller potential.
      Thanks so much for your input.

  2. divine……earth also is graduating to enlightenment…..or earth is enlightenment of cosmic intelligence……slowly flowering…..and we all are witness to it…… is like a performance invitation……along with dinner and
    dance and freedom…..
    soul is driver of the car….feminine in nature…….
    body is car…….the masculine in nature………
    car has to be perfect to travel…..needs lot of horse power….so also exposed to heat , cold…dust…..research in known how to make this travel comfortable……..and today scientific progress…….all due to masculine aspect of us whether in male or female… male were physically more
    suitable the role to face the world or take a role of outer core or bread earner so masculinity became associated with male…….feminism movement
    by female to have equal rights has come from this masculine part of our being…….In Indian culture or western culture……an invitation always started with …….Radha Krishna…..Laxmi Narayan……or Mrs. & Mr……..
    Second world war saw……a new face of being…….masculine drivers ….body
    taking the control of soul…..soul by nature is warm…the reason we are warm till our death……body nature is cold……..that is reason we call certain
    crimes as cold blood crimes……
    science came to the rescue again……atom particle energy explosion…….war got
    over…..but the atomic explosion happened in our souls also……freedom…equality….communication….to be honest we are in a age of enlightenment but it is not reflected in society……as media is with a masculine mind…..again changes are coming there…..internet….news networks……blogging……all part of journey of earth enlightenment…..
    soul is driver ….inside the car….sensitive…caring….music ….creativity……
    as harmony increases…….car also runs silently…….that is the reason oneness is so important……and in spiritual world we call enlightenment……the balance of masculine and feminine or oneness of right ..soul brain and left…
    body brain…..and that oneness we call mind to no mind……
    whether you are male or female…….one has to be masculine outside ….perfection outside……worship of work outside ……and feminine inside…love…totality…compassion inside……
    balance of two will be a enlightened society….and good news is we are on the right path……
    correction is needed in feminism movement… has made many women….
    masculine…..hence body became important……but we lost the beauty of
    female……as we learn ….it will also correct with time……
    you write so good …..feminine…..
    bless you….
    love all…
    science also is a masculine part of us………as science progress

  3. Ram0Singhal,
    I also think Earth is graduating to enlightenment and love your metaphor of being invited to the performance, complete with dinner, dance, and freedom! Such a lovely image. It speaks to the observer in us, the one with the eyes to see and the ears to hear the miracle of life with every breath and beat of our hearts.
    Your “driver” and “car” are helpful additions to our storehouse of meaningful images of our fuller potential.
    Thank you for your thoughful response.

  4. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge on this blog. While much of it goes over my head (because I don’t have a background in psychology or Jung), I simply trust that the essence of what I need to learn will be absorbed and retained. 🙂 I particularly like this line in your comment: “Ultimately it doesn’t really matter at all how we define anima and animus, as long as we don’t use our definitions to limit anyone of either gender to specific roles, behaviors or opportunities.” Gorgeous!

    1. There are many ways of stating my essential message, which is that we all, regardless of gender, have masculine and feminine sides. Jung called them animus and anima, and he believed that understanding the value of, and accepting both sides of ourselves leads to psychological fulfillment and spiritual growth. I’ve said this in many ways in my blog because there are so many ways of looking at the task of becoming who we were created to be, and so many different aspects of the journey. Sometimes I emphasize the psychological aspects; sometimes the spiritual. Both use a symbolic language that is rarely used in popular culture. I think it’s crucial that we learn this language because it’s the language of the soul. Because contemporary culture emphasizes the surface values and neglects the deep, it can take a while to understand what I’m trying to say. The line you quoted speaks to both levels, which is why I think you did, indeed, get the essence of what I was saying! Thank you very much for writing.

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