Carl Gustav Jung’s analytical psychology was important in valuing the feminine in counterbalance to what he saw as an excessive shift towards “masculine” logos, rationality, and science in Western society. But, infused with patriarchal assumptions, Jung’s work on gender is flawed and lacks awareness of the issues raised by later feminist psychologists such as Crawford and Unger (2000). Jung’s work is however an important catalyst. Jung’s critique of religion has inspired some women and men to challenge the absence of the divine feminine and women leaders in their religions of birth and others to turn to goddess spirituality to find empowering religious images and roles.
Women in Switzerland
Carl Jung’s attitudes to women were formed in the conservative patriarchal culture of late nineteenth-century Switzerland. It was an era that saw the beginning of first-wave feminism; but women did not gain the vote in Swiss federal elections until 1971 (CFQF 2009b), and equality in education was not written into the Swiss constitution until 1981 (CFQF 2009a).
The conscious attitude of a woman is in general far more exclusively personal than that of man. Her world is made up of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, husbands and children. … the man’s world is the nation, the state, business concerns, etc. (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 7, para. 338).
Jung saw Eros (feeling, relatedness, and love) and logos (reason, spirit, and differentiation) as present in both sexes but women as oriented primarily towards Eros (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 9ii, para. 28). He spoke disparagingly of women who tried to make the sexes equal, rather than valuing difference. Attempting to follow a “masculine” profession might injure women’s “feminine nature”; for while women could “do anything for the love of a man,” only the exceptional could do something important for the “love of a thing” (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 10, para. 243).
Anima: The Female Within the Male
… fundamentally unconscious … an imprint or ‘archetype’ of all the ancestral experiences of the female, a deposit, as it were, of all the impressions ever made by woman … . (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 17, para. 338).
Jung comments that “Every mother and every beloved is forced to become the carrier and embodiment of this omnipresent and ageless image …” (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 9ii, para. 24). Jung’s thinking often appears to confuse women’s psychology with the male projection of the anima.
Women Analysts and Jungian Psychology
… Jung was inviting them to step outside their limited humanness and to become archetypal. Women were secretly to view themselves as living incarnations of the Goddess … . (Tacey 1997, p. 28).
Jungian psychology had in any event more practical attractions. The profession of analyst had much to offer in an era when it was difficult for educated women to make a career. Whatever Jung’s gender biases were, he saw women as excellent potential therapists and was willing to train them.
Many of those who trained were far from Jung’s Eros-dominated stereotype. Dr. M. Esther Harding was a strong-minded lesbian whose books were important for the development of goddess spirituality. Together with Drs. Eleanor Bertine and Kristine Mann, she founded the powerful New York C. G. Jung Institute. Dr. Jolande Jacobi drew up the original plan for the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich. Dr. Marie-Louise von Franz was Jung’s valued collaborator on his alchemical works.
The elementary fact that a person always thinks that another’s psychology is identical with his own effectively prevents a correct understanding of feminine psychology (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 10, para. 240).
It was women analysts who developed Jungian thinking on women. Toni Wolff argued that Eros is not the leading mode of conscious functioning of all women and that Judaism and Christianity, with their lack of the divine feminine, damage women. Drawing on sources including Bachofen on prehistoric matriarchy, Wolff created a typology that categorized women as mother, hetaira (in ancient Greece, an educated female courtesan), medial woman, or Amazon. Earlier generations might be limited to only one of the archetypal roles; but contemporary women should aim to move beyond this “one-sidedness” (Wolff 1941). Jung considered that the anima in men was mirrored in women by the animus, but his ideas were vague (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 9ii, para. 28). It was Emma Jung who developed the idea that as women matured psychologically, so too would their animus figures and that rather than projecting these qualities onto a man, women must reclaim what the animus symbolizes – word, power, meaning, and deed (Jung 1957, p. 20).
Religion and the Feminine
… nothing but a man's religion … Protestantism has obviously not given sufficient attention to the signs of the times which point to the equality of women. But this equality requires to be metaphysically anchored in the figure of a ‘divine’ woman … The feminine, like the masculine, demands an equally personal representation (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 11, para. 753).
Much of the theoretical basis for a modern defense of polytheism comes from Jungian psychologists, who have long argued that the gods and goddesses of myth, legend, and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower, permit us to be more fully human (Adler 1986, p. 28).
From a Christian perspective, analyst Ulanov accepts the idea of female identification with Eros but views Eros as of equal value to logos and criticizes the exclusion of feminine imagery from religious symbolism as psychologically and socially damaging.
Goddess as Role Model
In the same way the woman who is virgin, one-in-her-self, does what she does – not because of any desire to please, not to be liked, or to be approved, even by herself; not because of desire to gain power over another, to catch his interest or love, but because what she does is true (Harding 1971b, p. 125).
… a complex female character type that we intuitively recognize both in ourselves and in the women around us (Woolger and Woolger 1990, pp. 7–8).
Such psychological reductionism may offend the religious who worship ancient deities but points to how powerful deity symbols can help overcome sexual stereotyping.
… male-authored systems of knowledge … had either omitted or distorted the representation of women (Rowland 2000, p. 73).
… lead people to feel comfortable with or to accept social and political arrangements that correspond to the symbol system (Wehr 1988, p. 22).
has seen a reinterpretation of Jung’s concepts. Estella Lauter, a pioneer of feminist archetypal theory, argues that the animus is not reflected in women’s artwork and may not be numinous for women, as is the anima for men (Lauter 1985, p. 72). James Hillman considers that anima cannot be “contained by the notion of contrasexuality” and is relevant to women and men (Hillman 1985, pp. 53–55). Tacey comments that Hillman’s work has value in removing,
… the very dichotomy man/woman as an opposition between two rival entities may be understood as belonging to metaphysics (Kristeva 1979/1986, p. 209),
… the patriarchal assumptions and conservative biases of Jung’s psychology, adopting his androgynous understanding of the psyche without his moral imperatives ….(Tacey 1997, p. 31).
Susan Rowland argues that, from a postmodern feminist perspective, Jungian archetypal theory may overcome the influence of patriarchy because, not being culturally derived, the unconscious should “compensate for and combat cultural stereotyping” (Rowland 2000, p. 42).
Either sex is inhabited by the opposite sex up to a point… (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 9i, para. 58)
As civilization develops, the bisexual primordial being turns into a symbol of the unity of personality, a symbol of the self, where the opposites find peace (Jung 1953/1979, Vol. 9i, para. 294).
… engage in a revision of Jungian gender theory … to offer a Jungian contribution to gender thinking in the spirit of the other Jung: the Jung of the symbolic, the mythic, and the subtle body.
Despite its flaws, Jung’s work inspired many pioneering women in the field of psychotherapy, and it continues to be a fruitful resource for new generations of feminist women and men seeking to address some of the fundamental questions of the psychological meaning of religion for individuals and society.