The Couple: A New God-Image


gerard_francoispascalsimon-cupid_psyche_endIt is my belief that the problem of opposites…should be made the basis for a critical psychology. A critique of this sort would be of the utmost value not only in the narrower field of psychology, but also in the wider field of the cultural sciences in general. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, par. 260.

In my last post, “What is Enlightenment” I introduced the Couple archetype. One reader responded with some thoughtful observations about same-sex couples, and I look forward to exploring this rich topic in future posts. But first, I’d like to lay the psychological and spiritual foundation for the Couple archetype. The following material comes from my manuscript, The Soul’s Twins.

According to Dr. Lawrence Odermatt of the Jung Institute in Zurich, the Couple holds profound spiritual meaning for many people in today’s world. Dr. Odermatt’s research has convinced him that the Couple is, in fact, emerging from the collective unconscious as a symbol of the Self. By this he means that people today expect things from the couple relationship that were formerly expected from their God-images, or ideas about The All, and from the religions created around these images.

Dr. Odermatt cites the following as some examples of the spiritual expectations people have about relationships today. People expect the couple relationship to provide a space or place of relaxation and regeneration from the stress of work and economic pressures. This is exactly what people in the past expected from places of worship, sacred rituals, and sacred festivals and days like Beltane, Christmas and the Sabbath.

People want their couple relationship to bring emotional security and satisfaction. This has not always been true. In the past, when marriages only took place between men and women and were primarily for social and political power and financial security, people rarely hoped to be emotionally fulfilled by their marriage partners;  they did, however, expect it from their spiritual lives and practices.

People today also want their couple relationships to be containers for their spiritual and intellectual development, for their deepest yearnings and newest insights. They want the couple relationship to nurture their creativity and unique potential, to provide meaning for their lives. These functions too, have traditionally been associated with religion.

Finally, and to me, this is the most telling and pertinent expectation of all, Dr. Odermatt says that today people want partners who will confirm and accept them as unique individuals while at the same time providing them with an opportunity to merge with another so as to experience oneness, togetherness, wholeness. In other words, today the couple relationship is becoming a symbol for the creative union between humanity’s two basic drives, the two halves of the Self:

1. The drive for self-preservation is our compulsion to express our individuality. The need to find, develop and manifest our unique skills and passions in meaningful work has traditionally only been associated with and assigned to males and denied to females. In some parts of the world it still is. Nonetheless, it is inherent in all of us, regardless of gender.

2. The drive for species-preservation is our compulsion to experience oneness with another in caring, intimate relationships which nurture our creativity and bless our community with new life, whether physical, cultural, psychological, spiritual or all four. This drive has traditionally been associated with and assigned to females, and some families and cultures still discourage its expression in males in any outlet other than sexuality.


Humanity is evolving and here, in our time, our collective God-image is undergoing a dramatic transformation. We are imagining God as something far more balanced and complex than a superior masculine spiritual authority who is fascinated by the feminine other—whether the world of physical matter (L.mater or mother), the Mother Church, or women—while remaining separate and aloof from her. In a development prefigured two millennia ago in the beautiful myth of Psyche and Eros, we are imagining God as an inner reality: our potential for a sacred intimate union, a loving partnership between our masculine and feminine sides. This new God-image honors the masculine and feminine principles equally and in all of us as a spiritual reality. In other words, each of us is in and of God.

This way of imagining God has already had thrilling, far-reaching effects. In the social and political arena it has allowed us to consider granting people ultimate authority over what they do with their own bodies and offering full and equal opportunities to everyone regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, or sexual preferences. Such a God-image also gives contemporary religious institutions far more freedom than their predecessors had to encourage individuality and celebrate mutually meaningful relationships free from fear-based prohibitions and prejudices. And it gives religious groups permission to offer instruction on world religions, mythology, psychology, dreams, meditation techniques, and the newest scientific advances in medicine and physics because of a growing awareness that this knowledge liberates people from debilitating fears and helps them live more purposeful, meaningful lives.

The internal union between our masculine and feminine sides was anticipated by the practice of alchemy in the Middle Ages and the great wisdom traditions throughout the world before that. It was brought to our attention by Carl Jung, who likewise used the over-arching metaphors of masculine and feminine to represent every pair of opposites. Conducting our own magnum opus of uniting our inner opposites into our conscious awareness is our hope for wholeness, individuation and enlightenment.

The coniunctio in alchemy is a union of the masculine and feminine, of the spiritual and material principles, from which a perfect body arises, the glorified body after the Last Judgment, the resurrection body. This means an eternal body, or the subtle body, which is designated in alchemy as the philosopher’s stone, the lapis aethereus or invisibilis. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 158-167.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.  Psyche and Amor, also known as Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard: a symbolic butterfly hovers over Psyche in a moment of innocence poised before sexual awakening. 

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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15 Responses

  1. For so long religion has been associated with rules, and not with love. You should not do this and not do that, and only than are you a good person. I love the fact that people are breaking free from that. the couple, the eternal marriage is of course the ultimate goal for spiritual growth. It is good to align your spiritual engagement, between your animus and anima, with the relationship with your partner. In that sense this blog is revolutionary 😉
    I hope you will write another post one day about how your relationship with your partner and your spiritual inner relationship are entangled. Maybe there is a balance: when your inner relationship is great, your own relationship is unbalanced and vice versa, maybe they have to be balanced (or unbalanced) at the same time.

    1. Hi Susanne, You’ve touched on a subject that is very dear to me: the connection between our inner and outer relationships. I will, indeed be writing about this as I think it’s key to what “wholeness” and “enlightenment” are really about. Thank you for your encouragement.

  2. Dear Jeanie, Wow! That was truly awesome and I’m so grateful that you included a hyperlink for those closing comments from your last article. Absolutely superb, which I highly recommend that others also read – for Kirsten’s and Jeanie’s in-depth comments take us straight to the heart of the “Couple” archetype, further “enlightening” us all. Oh my goddess, you’re on fire! You’re my inspiration and spurs!!! Keep on with the dusting off your papers because I’m never gonna get tired of listening and connecting to your soul.
    Well, this poet’s heart leapt as soon as I saw your header image, it’s breath-taking, beyond words really! “The Soul’s Twins” manuscript, is this to be a new book? I’m truly hoping so!!! It’s pure bliss to read how this archetype is now evolving as the new Self/God/Goddess image. A beautiful, harmonious vision of true equality! Hmm, for ages (it seems!) we have known that the masculine and feminine sides within need to be balanced, and yet somehow all this divine, sacred, ancient wisdom was buried along with the Goddesses’ and their holy temples … until the sacred feminine began to re-emerge! What a time to be living!!! Love and blessings, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah,
      “The Soul’s Twins” is a manuscript I was working on in the late nineties after Dream Theatres of the Soul came out. It was originally intended as a sort of workbook/book, with thought-provoking and soul-enriching questions, activities, exercises and rituals to go along with each section. My dear friend, Ann Kennedy, a Jungian-oriented therapist, wrote most of these. And I created a self-assessment tool titled The Partnership Profile for it that I’ve used many times in workshops and classes over the years. But by the time I was “finished” with the first draft, (500 + pages long) I had developed a lot of doubts and questions about how to present this material, so I decided to let it sit for a while and work on other themes that were calling to me. But now The Soul’s Twins are calling me again 🙂 so I’m seeking advice from a book development professional. We’ll see if it’s to be a new book or not—perhaps a book with an accompanying workbook. It feels like the time may be right for this. I hope so.
      Thank you for your comments. They always warm my heart! Love, Jeanie

  3. Thanks Jeanie for this lovely post! There is a transformation underway it seems, slow, steady, sure as we untangle ourselves from all that conditioning towards union. Both inner and outer. What better place to experience that than in relationship – a treasured container –
    Jung’s quote is pretty powerful : “It is my belief that the problem of opposites…should be made the basis for a critical psychology. A critique of this sort would be of the utmost value not only in the narrower field of psychology, but also in the wider field of the cultural sciences in general’. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, par. 260.
    Here’s to your manifesting ‘The Soul’s Twins’ –

    1. Thank you, Susan and Deborah. I, too, sense a transformation underway. There are always daunting challenges and obstacles to growth and change, but for those who are truly dedicated to healing ourselves and our world, they only serve to heighten our resolve.

  4. This post is really wonderful—thank you so much! It clarifies some of the issues I raised, and really brings out the deeper dimensions of the archetype. I’m looking forward to reading more!

  5. This is terrific, Jeanie. I’m far behind on everything as my body recovers from the trip to DC–and it was worth it.
    The couple image is close to my heart. This surprises me. Even though my husband died in 2008, the projection of positive animus has a life of it’s own–stronger than I imagined it would be. I know my inner partner is all me now, but it still speaks with his voice. (And Vic isn’t here to clash with the projection which happens all the time in a living marriage. This is what I mean when I say the masculine in my inner couple is all me.) I found myself having inner conversations with Vic in DC, especially when the crowd felt crushing and because I had to take out hearing aides and be completely deaf to withstand the noise. I called on my inner masculine without thinking about it. It just happened. I felt his grin and his courage and calm affirmation. When I couldn’t speak outwardly to my friends, I had conversations within about what I was witnessing and the hope I felt that day. I never know when these conversations will pop up in waking life or in dreams, but if I need support, it’s always close by.

    1. Oh, Elaine. What an exquisite example of what the inner partnership should look like, and feel like, and how it can be of immense help to us in our everyday lives. Thank you for sharing it here.
      I find that over the last few years when I’ve been in a stressful situation or had to do something I wasn’t sure I knew how to do…or simply didn’t want to….I’ve thought of how Fred would handle that feeling or situation. Bringing his image to mind never fails to turn me around and get me moving in the right direction. You and I have been particularly fortunate to have lived with men who are models of healthy and positive masculine energy (well, not all the time, of course, but for the most part!) for so long. It’s helped us both grow bolder and stronger in many ways.
      I think it’s important to note here that I certainly don’t believe a woman needs to live with a man to find and strengthen that positive energy in herself. Anybody, regardless of gender, who develops and manifests any of the masculine archetypes in positive ways can be a model. Even a dream image, or an animal, symbol,admired teacher, coach or activist……
      Again, thank you for adding so much to this conversation.

      1. Your third paragraph is essential. I agree completely. My example (as a memoir writer, I tend toward personal examples) are just my experience. Thanks for clarifying.

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