In the history of humankind the differentiation of man and woman belongs among the earliest and most impressive projections of opposites, and early humankind took the male and the female as the prototype of opposites in general. Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness
So far in this series I’ve written about three qualities of the Epoch II ego: a preference for masculine values; dualistic, either/or thinking; and repression of disliked qualities in oneself. A fourth distinguishing factor of Epoch II is conflict between pairs of opposites. A major conflict experienced by almost every Epoch II is between masculinity and femininity. All these qualities go into the formation of our God-images.
For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with the idea that God is a male. Many spirit persons don’t think of God as a supernatural gendered being, but many ordinary people do. Everywhere we turn, religious language still speaks of He or Him and tells us we are His. As a child I found this curious. By midlife I was finding it annoying. Now I think it’s just plain silly, because this way of thinking limits our ability to open to all we are and what the Mystery really is about.
Still, there are levels of spiritual awareness. And there are times when describing the Mystery in terms of gender can be helpful, as it was for our early forbears. When it comes to seeing our assumptions and biases, it still is. To that end, I offer two lists: one for concepts associated with the “Feminine Principle” and another for the “Masculine Principle.”
I put these terms in quotes because I might as easily say the “so-called” feminine and masculine principles. Of course there are males and females, but both physically and psychologically many people find themselves somewhere between the two. Some feel like one gender living in the body of the other. Some have physical attributes associated with both genders. And we all have psychological attributes associated with both genders.
In Part II of this series I noted that we can associate the instinct, or drive, for self-preservation with the “masculine” striving for knowing, competing, and individuating, and the drive for species preservation with the “feminine urge toward relating, creating, reproducing, and evolving”. As psychologist and philosopher Eric Neumann noted in the quote above, people broadly accept this basic polarity and use the terms “masculine principle” and “feminine principle” as metaphors or category heads under which to classify all phenomena. The terms persist because they serve a useful purpose. In her book Androgyny, Jungian analyst June Singer agreed. She wrote that they symbolically express “the energic power behind all of the other polarities.”
This is the basis for my lists, using these terms as metaphors for pairs of opposites in every psyche. None of the qualities at either pole is inherently good or bad, but any of them can be taken to negative extremes if we obsess over it and repress its partner. All have positive value for both genders—whether you are a female or a male you have the potential to develop every quality listed.
The associations I give for masculine and feminine have generally held sway in mainstream Western thinking for two millennia; but earlier, and in other parts of the world now, we find many differences. For example, while Westerners today usually associate the sky with masculinity and the earth with femininity, ancient Egyptians symbolized the sky as the goddess Nut and the earth by the god Geb. Likewise, whereas traditional Tibetan Buddhism sees compassion as a masculine virtue and wisdom as feminine, the current Western trend is toward the opposite associations.
Such anomalies prove my point about the metaphorical value of the terms. The sky is no more literally masculine than the earth is literally feminine, and both genders are equally capable of being wise and compassionate. Epoch III thinkers know this and lose the need for such classifications. But associating phenomena with masculinity and femininity can be helpful in our Epoch II efforts to better understand ourselves and our ideas about God. It provides a basis to help explore the truth of our opinions and discover philosophical contradictions and solutions. Developing this dialectical ability is crucial to our psychological and spiritual maturity.
DRIVE FOR SPECIES PRESERVATION DRIVE FOR SELF PRESERVATION
Feminine Principle Masculine Principle
Shared Authority Hierarchical Authority
For more examples see pp. 50-52 of Healing the Sacred Divide.
Do some of these associations bother you? Which ones? Why? Remember, you contain the opposite qualities as well.
Art Image by Michael Cheval. Delighted by Light.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.