Scholar and Wisewoman Archetypes


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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0 Responses

  1. dear and divine…. wisdom post….
    left hand governed by right brain represents the “soul”.
    right hand governed by left brain represents “body”.
    fold them together for prayer to experience oneness that is present and taste of God…..and eternal happiness.
    that is namaste (eastern greeting gesture ) to bow to God in oneself.
    Happiness is prayer and thanks to Cosmic spirit….we call by the name we like….OM , ALLAH , GOD, …..and millions more….

  2. Jeanie~
    Another eloquent and thought-provoking article!
    I am always so appreciative when I can come away with a new and more accurate way of describing our common experience. This sentence of yours, “As logical thinking is sequential, analogical thought is relational” is just such a lucid perspective. I generally think of this apparent duality as “linear and spatial”, in the sense that a river is linear and the sea is spatial. Linear thinking being word-by-word sequential thinking, while spatial awareness involves no words—it comes more all at once, the way a rose is just “all there” without any sequential thinking: it just is, and can only be fully appreciated in its non-temporal, spatial, pre-logical existence. Such moments, of course, bring us back into contact with that same aspect of ourselves.
    But this word “relational”, I think, adds another dimension to the concept of “spatial”. It still holds the force of spatial being but opens it up with the image of a web of self-existing relationships. A village, for instance, is not linear. Houses, families, crops, herds, changing and yet not changing over the generations, a timeless network of relations centered, perhaps, around the community well…..
    So, thank you, this is a valuable new tool in my kit. It will be well-used in the coming years.
    And thank you, too, Jeanie, for bringing out this united duality of the Scholar and Wisewoman—a union of archetypes that you yourself have come to embody.
    Be well & ecstatic,

  3. Dear William,
    Your village analogy is a marvelous illustration of this concept. I imagine myself sitting on a bench in Central Park watching an Easter parade pass by (sequential) while responding to the multiplicity of life coming at me from all directions (relational); people watching, listening to birds and bands, smelling flowers and grass, petting dogs, licking an ice cream cone. I can choose to focus only on the parade, but if I soften my focus to include everything, the moment is infinitely richer.
    Thank you so much for your always apt and enlightening comments. And may I be worthy of your humbling compliment.
    My very best,

  4. Hi Jeanie,
    On opening your blog post, I was quite surprised and delighted to see an image of the Veiled Virgin. While home on a visit, my sister took me to see Strazza’s sculpture, housed at the Presentation Convent in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the summer before last. I’d not seen nor heard of it before and was completely enthralled by the beauty, the inspired art, and Strazzo’s creative vision. And then I read the Veiled Virgin was meant to symbolize Italy, as Hibernia symbolized Ireland, Britannia, Britain, and Lady Liberty, the U.S. — and now you put a whole new depth to this presence of the feminine in our world–I’m enthralled all over again! Thank you! bett fitz

    1. Dear Bett,
      How fortunate you were to have seen her in person! I was very drawn to this picture but did not know who sculpted the bust or where it lives. Thank you for filling in that information for me! I’m especially delighted to learn she’s a symbol of Italy, as my husband is half Italian and we’ll be traveling there again next month! Perhaps I’ll see more images of her there! If I do I’ll try to take pictures and share them on this blog! Thank you for another interesting and informative comment.

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