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Supplemental Essay: The Anima Fight

This supplemental essay contains quotes and expanded explanations as background for the material in the main essay. You can skip this supplemental essay if you're not interested in the details.

Introduction

Sigmund Freud noted that hero myths are similar in many cultures. Early psychologists and ethnographers such as Otto Rank and Leo Frobenius carried out studies of comparative mythological and cross-cultural similarities in myths, folklore and legends. Jung wove the idea of the Hero Fight into his psychology of human development and the anima, and his students carried the idea forward. Joseph Campbell later elaborated on it and developed a theory of a "Hero's Journey" as a universal "monomyth" with identifiable stages and variations, and others have followed in Campbell's footsteps.

As I noted in the main essay, the Anima fight is a variation on the Hero Fight that focuses specifically on a symbolic threshold or transition at puberty, and which is traditionally symbolized by a hero fighting a dragon in order to rescue a princess. So I am separating out the Anima fight as a developmental phase and assigning it to the Se Champion.

 

Recapping the N level: In the chapter on Intuition, in the section entitled "Uroboric Environment," I noted that Freud said that infants show evidence of unfocused pleasure/libidinal drives, a state that he called "polymorphous perversity." In other words, at the infantile N level pleasurable experiences are perceived as sexual, giving the infant's relations with the mother a libidinal aura.

 

But with individuation, the divide between the infant and the Great Mother widens and the infant increasingly sees the Great Mother as a castrating entity with phallic attributes. (See the chapter on Intuition, under the heading of "The Great Mother versus the Father at the N level.") Infantile sexuality is tied up with the Great Mother, and from the child's point of view this represents an increasingly dangerous type of sexuality: As Neumann puts it, the Terrible Mother aspect of the mother has the power "to seduce the ego and then to castrate and destroy it in matriarchal incest."[1]

 

At the S level: As the infant grows and reaches the S level, the Great Mother's aggression and phallic attributes are fragmented off and attributed to the father and then subsequently appropriated by the son himself upon his rapprochement with the Great Father. (See the chapter on Sensing, in the section entitled "Great Mother versus Great Father at the S level.") But the castrating Terrible Mother still inhabits the unconscious, and she has some dangerous attributes that are uniquely female.

 

In her book Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia suggests that this unconscious manifestation of the Terrible Mother resurfaces in sadistic female imagery such as the femme fatale, the "toothed vagina" (vagina dentata), and "women's latent vampirism."[2]

 

These are the daunting obstacles the child faces in the Anima fight. In his book The Great Mother, Erich Neumann traces the vagina dentata back to Native American tribes, where the Terrible Mother is converted into a princess/Anima in the following manner: "a meat-eating fish inhabits the vagina of the Terrible Mother; the hero is the man who overcomes the Terrible Mother, breaks the teeth out of her vagina, and so makes her into a woman."[3] Camille Paglia comments, "The North American Indian myth of the toothed vagina (vagina dentata) is a gruesomely direct transcription of female power and male fear. Metaphorically, every vagina has secret teeth, for the male exits as less than when he entered. The basic mechanics of conception require action in the male but nothing more than passive receptivity in the female. Sex as a natural rather than social transaction, therefore, really is a kind of drain of male energy by female fullness. Physical and spiritual castration is the danger every man runs in intercourse with a woman."[4]

 

Paglia concludes, "For the male, every act of intercourse is a return to the mother and a capitulation to her. For men, sex is a struggle for identity. In sex, the male is consumed and released again by the toothed power that bore him, the female dragon of nature."[5]

Anima fight as the son's assimilation of his own sexuality

Thus, with the approach of puberty, Neumann says that the ego must conquer its fears and "do the very thing of which it was most afraid. It must expose itself to the annihilating force of the uroboric Mother Dragon without letting itself be destroyed."[6]

 

Neumann says that the Anima fight is a symbolic act of incest by the Hero: It is "an active incest, the deliberate, conscious exposure of himself to the dangerous influence of the female, and the overcoming of man's immemorial fear of women. To overcome fear of castration is to overcome the fear of the mother's power which, for man, is associated with the danger of castration."[7] The son's aim is to emancipate his sexual drive from the power of the Great Mother: It is about "overcoming the inertia of the libido, which is symbolized by the encircling mother-dragon, i.e., the unconscious."[8]

 

Confrontation with the Great Mother

Neumann says that the aim of the Anima fight is "the conquest or killing of the mother." The ego has been masculinized by identification with the masculine consciousness via Men's societies, driving it into opposition against the "dragon of the unconscious" and preparing it for the fight with the dragon.[9]

 

But victory over the Terrible Mother means steering the child's sexual drive away from the Great Mother and finding an appropriate replacement. It is time to move beyond the incestuous mother-child bond: Carl Jung says, "The developing personality naturally veers away from such an unconscious infantile bond; for nothing is more obstructive to development than persistence in an unconscious—we could also say, a psychically embryonic—state. For this reason instinct seizes on the first opportunity to replace the mother by another object. If it is to be a real mother-substitute, this object must be, in some sense, an analogy of her."[10]

 

From here, the male fragments the Good Mother off from the Terrible Mother and the nurturing Good Mother becomes the princess who needs rescuing from the dragon. The rescued princess then becomes the Anima, as described in the main essay on the Anima fight. Thus ultimately the task of the hero is to conquer fear: He must turn fear into creativity and a source of joy.[11]

 

Anima Fight: Role of the Men's societies

As discussed in the main essay, the Anima fight is promoted by the Men's societies and serves as an initiation for entry into such societies. Quoting Neumann in the main essay under the heading of "Great Mother versus Great Father at the S level," I said that young men are expelled from the maternal world and taken into a masculine world to be "reborn as children of the spirit rather than of the mother." Part of this process involves devaluation of the feminine. 

 

Naturally, to the modern reader much of this discussion of Anima fights and Men's societies will probably seem quaint, anachronistic, and even "toxic" given its anti-feminine foundation. And in fact modern man seems able to make the transition from love of mother to love of a wife without such things.

 

But in his book The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious, Carl Jung makes much of both a) the universality and importance of these puberty rites in tribal societies, and b) the harm associated with the absence of such rites in modern society.

 

a) Jung discusses the universality and importance of these rites in tribal societies. (He refers to the Anima as a "soul-image.") Jung says, "The first bearer of the soul-image is always the mother [...] Because the mother is the first bearer of the soul-image, separation from her is a delicate and important matter of the greatest educational significance. Accordingly among primitives we find a large number of rites designed to organize this separation. The mere fact of becoming adult, and of outward separation, is not enough; impressive initiations into the 'men's house' and ceremonies of rebirth are still needed in order to make the separation from the mother (and hence from childhood) entirely effective. Just as the father acts as a protection against the dangers of the external world and thus serves his son as a model persona, so the mother protects him against the dangers that threaten from the darkness of his psyche. In the puberty rites, therefore, the initiate receives instruction about these things of 'the other side,' so that he is put in a position to dispense with his mother's protection."[12]

 

b) Concerning the harm associated with the absence of such rites in modern society: Jung says that because modern civilized man no longer has access to these old initiation rituals, modern man seeks a wife to serve as replacement for his mother and then becomes a truculent child toward his wife. "The safeguard against the unconscious, which is what his mother meant to him, is not replaced by anything in the modern man's education; unconsciously, therefore, his ideal of marriage is so arranged that his wife has to take over the magical role of the mother. Under the cloak of the ideally exclusive marriage he is really seeking his mother's protection, and thus he plays into the hands of his wife's possessive instincts. His fear of the dark incalculable power of the unconscious gives his wife an illegitimate authority over him, and forges such a dangerously close union that the marriage is permanently on the brink of explosion from internal tension--or else, out of protest, he flies to the other extreme, with the same results." Jung goes on to talk about how marriages become touchy and unstable with husband and wife projecting their unconscious onto each other.[13]

Link: Return to Sensing (S)

~Posted November 14, 2023

References

[1] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XLII (Princeton University Press, 1954, First Princeton Classics edition, 2014), p. 318.

[2] Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae, Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (First Vintage Books Edition, 1991), pp. 13-14.

[3] Erich Neumann, The Great Mother, an Analysis of the Archetype, trans. R. Manheim, with a forward by M. Liebscher, Bollingen Series XLVII (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1955), p. 168.

[4] Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae, Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (First Vintage Books Edition, 1991), p. 13.

[5] Ibid., pp. 13-4.

[6] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XLII (Princeton University Press, 1954, First Princeton Classics edition, 2014), p. 318.

[7] Ibid., p. 156.

[8] Ibid., p. 154.

[9] Ibid.

[10] C.G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 7), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1953), p. 104, par. 171

[11] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XLII (Princeton University Press, 1954, First Princeton Classics edition, 2014), p. 312.

[12] C.G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 7), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1953), p. 197, pars. 314-315.

[13] Ibid., p. 198, par. 316.

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