The Scholar and Wisewoman archetypes represent our instinct for reflection. Like the two sides of the brain, they symbolize two distinct yet complementary forms of mentation: logos and mythos. Release from delusion is the aim of both, and each pursues this goal in different ways. The Scholar is like a spotlight which enables our ego to think with clear, focused consciousness and logic. The Wisewoman is like a moonlit bridge which connects our ego with the subjective wisdom of our body, instincts, emotions and personal and collective unconscious.
He specializes in discerning differences and discriminating details; she specializes in connecting and comprehending the big picture. He is master of logic, abstract ideas, theories, collective knowledge, objective facts, and technology. She is mistress of imagination, metaphors, emotions, personal truths, spiritual meaning, physical awareness and intuition. Together, they represent the fullest kind of wisdom of which we are capable.
A primary feature of her mythos is analogical thinking. This has to do with our ability to see meaningful analogies: similarities and underlying connections between things. Where logical thought is factual, verbal, literal, historic, linear, objective, and “Mosaic”, analogical thought is symbolic, visual, mystical, mythic, intuitive, subjective, and “Hermetic”. As logical thinking is sequential, analogical thought is relational: one idea leads to another not because of an orderly arrangement of incremental steps, but because of an inner connection or comparison that is meaningful to the thinker.
Analogical thinking enables us to make intuitive leaps over vast amounts of information which, although it may be perfectly relevant, can bog us down in a morass of details, preventing us from seeing the big picture or grasping underlying relationships which weave the big picture together. Analogical thought guides all invention, culture, art, architecture, literature, poetry, myth, philosophy, psychology, and religion. This is not to say our accomplishments in these areas are devoid of logic. Far from it. It simply means that without mythos we would not have the imagination to create and beautify them or the insight to imbue them with meaning.
Elaine Pagels, Princeton University professor of religion, says that through analogical thinking one can also receive insights or intimations of the divine which validate themselves in experience. Spiritual illumination and awakened consciousness cannot be fully explained with logic because they are subjective states of being that have to be experienced to be understood; yet they are products of the mind, just as logical thinking is. We have no means by which to prove they exist, but they are nonetheless as real to our souls as any event in the physical world.
Think of it this way. Logical thinking builds the Sistine Chapel. Analogical thinking designs it and paints the ceiling. One honors Sacred Otherness in the outer universe. The other honors Sacred Otherness within. Together in intimate partnership they explore the heights and depths of our reverence for the miracle and blessings of life.
Our Scholar and Wisewoman aren’t about opposition or gender, but the cooperative interaction between the masculine and feminine in every psyche. As Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Coyne said when asked whether women judges decide cases differently because they are women: “A wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion”.
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It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave