Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Understanding Feminine and Masculine Energies
More often than not, speaking of the concepts of 'feminine' and 'masculine' lead to general statements, confusion, conflict, and sometimes, argument and anger. These terms describe two complementary forces in the universe that are intangible archetypes. It’s been suggested that the best course might be to get rid of gender stereotypes altogether and just agree that all attitudes and behaviors belong to both sexes. C. G. Jung pointed out that each of us has a contra-sexual psychic element operating within us. Psychologically as well as biologically, maleness contains recessive feminine traits and femaleness contains masculine traits.
We could just get rid of our concepts of masculine and feminine and say everyone is the same, an easy way out of a difficult situation. But being equal does not mean that we are the same. Women are equal to men under the law, but we must still demand that the feminine perspective on life is equal to that of the masculine. Our modern rationality so often is willing and eager to dismiss questions that disrupt our view of reality. We have become lazy thinkers!
What we are having trouble with are the stereotypes of gender, not the reality behind them. That still remains a mystery, and its deepest reality always will remain one. But we can dismantle our stereotypes and allow new images to arise from the depths of life. Stereotypes are merely the outer husks of a reality, a shell or image that has lost its power to express that reality in life. These husks are what need to be discarded, so we can begin to discover where the life that was once theirs has been reborn. We are living in a time of transition and transformation, and we must be willing to explore the possibilities of a renewed understanding of these two different, yet complementary, ways of being in and experiencing the world.
Why do we want to neglect the most lovely mystery of our differing sexuality - our dual nature as human beings - and its reflection in the inner and outer worlds? Why devalue our bodily differences as 'nothing but' when we can explore the mysteries of our bodies as symbolic of the mysteries of the basic principles and dynamics present in ourselves and our world? Why not imagine that the chaos in our understanding and of the times we live in is the prima materia of a new consciousness, the forerunner of a new evolution in spiritual understanding, the dissolving and transformation and rebirth of the masculine and feminine manifestations of spirit and their eventual re-union?
Many people are already engaged in this work as we work to heal the wounds in our lives and in our society. The alchemists found that the Philosopher's Stone, the divine essence within each person, was born of the chaos of the prima materia. This prima materia had to be distilled, and burnt to ashes, and separated and worked, until it yielded up two essences, which were symbolic of the King and the Queen, Sol and Luna, the masculine and the feminine, the Yang and the Yin. It was only after the separation and discrimination of the elements that a new union was possible. This was achieved in the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage, which produced the Philosopher's Stone, or in Jung's terminology, the Self.2 The reality behind these images renews itself through new images; the worn-out images and beliefs of past ages can be left behind if they are no longer life-enhancing, for new images will arise that will integrate the new truths that are being born.
Being in a state of transition, the concepts of 'masculine' and 'feminine' can be imagined in many ways. The fact that all cultures make the distinction between maleness and femaleness indicates the given nature of this polarity in the collective psyche. Therefore, the opposition and complementarity of the masculine and feminine archetypes are the underlying symbols of our experience of duality. The ancient Chinese speak of this polarity as the cosmic principles of Yin and Yang, and all other polarities have been connected to this sexual polarity: solar and lunar, light and dark, initiative and receptiveness, heaven and earth. These polarities are not fixed and static, but interweave in various proportions throughout all of creation.
In our Western tradition, the masculine principle has come to be associated with the left side of the brain. Along with that, we associate the masculine principle with solar symbolism and consciousness. It represents spirit, logos, creativity, the striving for individual consciousness, discrimination, separateness, discipline and order. It is represented by the image of the great solar hero who slays the dragon and triumphs over the darkness.
The feminine principle, represented by the right brain, is usually associated with the moon and lunar consciousness. This principle has been devalued in Western culture, and so we know less about it - it is more unconscious for us. It symbolizes actualization and manifestation, the senses and sensuality, body and soul, creative play and imagination, and the realm of dreams and fantasies. Lunar consciousness is much more opened to the realms of the magical, mystical and psychic dimensions of life, to the intangible, intuitive, feeling side of life. It is these elements of our psyches which we are re-discovering and which will eventually birth a new collective consciousness. On the whole, women know more about solar consciousness than men do about lunar consciousness because women have had to adapt to a masculine culture, while men still distrust and diminish feminine ways of knowing.
C. G. Jung defines solar consciousness as the ego-consciousness of modern humanity, while lunar consciousness gives rise to the more feminine workings of the unconscious. Jung also felt that creativity, new births, new stories, and new possibilities emerge from this feminine realm. A Cartesian mechanistic world-view has been the paradigm of Western science since the 17th century and the Age of Enlightenment, and it has trained us in a separatist masculine consciousness, which ignores the emotional, mental and spiritual implications of our materialistic culture. It is the more feminine, holistic world-view of the new physicists which experiences a holographic universe, a universe which is seen as a dynamic web of interrelated events, and which postulates the inter-connectivity of all things.5
Some feminist writers assert that since most of the masculine qualities once belonged to the Great Goddess of antiquity, they should be considered part of the feminine, or at least not only masculine. The Celtic goddess of war, the Morrigan, is a dark, war-like aspect of the Great Mother, such as Kali in India. Today, we think of war as something more closely related to masculine occupations, although women fought and died as soldiers in both Iraqi Wars. Yet, the ancient Celts saw war as a feminine preoccupation! There has been a change in consciousness since those days and the newer differentiations have settled into the collective unconscious. To reject all differentiation or to consolidate all qualities under the umbrella of one concept can lead to the continued domination of the dominant viewpoint, i.e. the masculine viewpoint.
It is the Feminine Spirit and its consciousness of images, rhythms, play, body, mystery, soul and being which has been devalued by our Western civilization. To recover a feminine standpoint, we have to find out what it is - learn about it, experience it, and live it. When these aspects of life are renewed and reverenced, understood and made available for the purposes of life, we will have a conscious feminine standpoint. This is very much the image of the Woman Clothed with the Sun: a feminine consciousness which can balance a new masculine consciousness. Our old masculine consciousness needs renewal, because for too long it has repressed and used feminine consciousness for its own purposes, instead of honoring it as an equal. A new relationship of equality between these two primeval forces, working through men and women, can help us all heal the Earth, our relationships and our society.