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Supplemental Essay: The Great Father 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.


As I said in the main essay, a patriarchal orientation consists of respect for civilization, spirituality, and individualism; people can live with a patriarchal orientation productively for a lifetime. All the masculine attributes represented by patriarchal orientation are life-affirming, positive, and important in daily life. Males and females who are aligned with these values in moderation have a healthy outlook on life and enjoy the civilizing aspect of the Good Father.

Bivalence of the Great Father versus bivalence of the Great Mother

Recapping bivalence of the Great Mother: I have already discussed bivalence as it pertains to the Great Mother. In the chapter on Intuition I said: Awareness of the existence of the Great Mother leads to a growing sense that she sometimes represents nurture and at other times she represents pain and withholding. Thus, from the Great Mother arises a "bivalence" of sorts: the Good Mother versus the Terrible Mother. [...] Neumann continues: At the cultural level, this shows up in myth and religion as a "waking ego of humanity" dealing with a divided mother figure: "The wicked, devouring mother and the good mother lavishing affection are two sides of the great uroboric Mother Goddess who reigns over this psychic stage." [From the Intuition chapter under the section entitled "The Great Mother versus the Father at the N level"]


Bivalence of the Great Father: As was the case with the Great Mother, association to an excessive extent with the masculine influence and the Great Father can lead to trouble. The Good Father turns into the Terrible Father under conditions of stress, anxiety, and depression, setting off a Great Father fight.


The Terrible Father versus the Terrible Mother

Recapping the Terrible Mother: I said in the main essay that if feminine values are indulged to excess, they can lead to trouble: Adults who excessively crave the Feminine influence in the form of "community, association, and collectivism" can become slaves to it or martyr themselves before it, like the Son-lover in service to the Terrible Mother... [From the Sensing chapter under the section entitled "The Anima Fight and the Great Mother Fight"]


The Terrible Father: Similarly, if masculine values are indulged to excess they can lead to trouble: We can crave asceticism, spirituality, and authority until we become a slave to them or martyr ourselves before them. Deference to authority can turn into enslavement and martyrdom to a tyrannical Great Father, leading to excess and one-sidedness in outlook. At some point the ego finds this position unbearable to maintain over the long-term, and a Great Father fight is triggered.


In the main essay I said that the patriarchy doesn't just comprise the immediate religious or government authorities directly over an individual. The Great Father is also represented by the Cultural canon that the authorities teach to children:

  • The Great Father and the conscious side of life are represented by teachers, masters, and leaders who serve as civilizing authorities;

  • The Great Mother and the unconscious side of life are replaced with symbols of the patriarchal collective: country, community, church, or political movement. [From the Sensing chapter, under the section entitled "Great Mother vs Great Father at the S level"]


In other words, the Great Father fight isn't simply about fighting an authority figure in one's immediate vicinity; it increasingly turns into a fight against the entire Men's society and its teachings.


In The Origins and History of Consciousness, Erich Neumann describes the situation as follows: "[T]here is a Terrible Father who castrates the son by not letting him achieve self-fulfillment and victory. [...] He acts, as it were, like a spiritual system which, from beyond and above, captures and destroys the son's consciousness. This spiritual system appears as the binding force of the old law, the old religion, the old morality, the old order; as conscience, convention, tradition, or any other spiritual phenomenon that seizes hold of the son and obstructs his progress into the future. [...] All contents capable of conscious realization, a value, and idea, a moral canon, or some other spiritual force, are related to the father-, never to the mother-system."[1]


Similarly, in Symbols of Transformation Carl Jung describes how religion can degenerate and become a trap for its followers. Religion is traditionally part of patriarchal Cultural canon and represents the collective. "But with this kind of faith there is always the danger of mere habit supervening--it may so easily degenerate into spiritual inertia and a thoughtless compliance which, if persisted in, threatens stagnation and cultural regression. This mechanical dependence goes hand in hand with a psychic regression to infantilism. The traditional contents gradually lose their real meaning and are only believed in as formalities."[2]

Patriarchal castration versus matriarchal castration

In the main essay I described matriarchal castration as an excessive attachment to the feminine values of community, association, and collectivism to the point of slavery or martyrdom.


What does patriarchal castration look like? As the old patriarchal order becomes hidebound and rigid, it turns tyrannical. The vibrant Men's society degrades over time into inflexibility and authoritarianism: The Good Father becomes the Terrible Father. The child is too invested in the patriarchal order to simply walk away: Instead he struggles and then rebels, initiating the Great Father fight. Neumann describes patriarchal castration as a type of possession, an excessive identification with spiritual ideals to the point of hubris and angering the heavenly gods or earthly spiritual authorities. Neumann says, "This leads to the possessed state of heavenly inflation, 'annihilation through the spirit.'"[3]


Sons take on the duties of fathers before they are ready and abuse those duties, leading to a clash. For example, Neumann cites the myths of Icarus, Bellerophon, Prometheus and others. Neumann says that patriarchal castration is represented by various myths of sons who run afoul of angry gods by virtue of hubris. Neumann says, "Just because he is begotten by God the hero must be 'devout' and fully conscious of what he is doing. If he acts in the arrogance of egomania, which the Greeks call hybris, and does not reverence the numinosum against which he strives, then his deeds will infallibly come to nought. To fly too high and fall, to go too deep and get stuck, these are alike symptoms of an overvaluation of the ego that ends in disaster, death, or madness. An overweening contempt for the transpersonal powers above and below means falling victim to them..."[4]


Taken to the extreme, spirituality can result in ascetics, hermits, and anchorites living in huts in the desert. For such people, the Great Father can become as terrifying and demanding a god as the deadly fertility goddesses that represented the Great Mother. In The Origins and History of Consciousness, Neumann notes that patriarchal castration is often a mirror of matriarchal castration. For example, those who over-identify with the father-god may self-castrate via hubris and disaster, thus acting much as the "Strugglers" who resisted the Great Mother. Neumann describes a gnostic cult where the patriarchal gods are described as the "corpse, God, and barren." Possession by such patriarchal gods is unwelcome, but the ego is possessed by that god in the same manner that the Struggler can't escape the Great Mother.[5]


But Neumann also notes that there are differences between patriarchal and matriarchal castration. "Whereas matriarchal castration is orgiastic, the other tends toward asceticism." He notes that certain patriarchal gnostic sects indulged in sexual orgies, but such orgies were regarded as an ecstatic experience rather than a procreative one; "the fertility principle attributed to the mother deity or the demiurge was negated to the point of systematic abortion and child-murder."[6]


The daemonic mother versus the daemonic father

Recapping the daemonic father: Earlier in the main essay I discussed Great Mother fights and the appearance of the daemonic father at such times. I described the daemonic father as a "daemonic" or negative representation of the Great Father operating as a dangerous male companion who accompanies and assists the Terrible Mother in the Great Mother fight. [From the Sensing chapter, under the section titled "The Anima Fight and the Great Mother Fight."]


The daemonic mother: Similarly, the daemonic mother often appears as a companion of the Terrible Father during Great Father fights. The daemonic mother appears in some variation of the witch, evil seductress, female vampire, harpies, etc. (In this respect, the daemonic mother shows herself as a variation on the Terrible Mother.)


For example, religious hermits who isolate themselves for spiritual reasons often report being tempted and distracted from their meditations by female demons, temptresses, and vampires. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell says, "Not even monastery walls, however, not even the remoteness of the desert, can defend against the female presences; for as long as the hermit's flesh clings to his bones and pulses warm, the images of life are alert to storm his mind. Saint Anthony, practicing his austerities in the Egyptian Thebaid, was troubled by voluptuous hallucinations perpetrated by female devils attracted to his magnetic solitude. Apparitions of this order, with loins of irresistible attraction and breasts bursting to be touched, are known to all the hermit-resorts of history."[7]


Also, knights on quests may run into a seductress who tries to trap and divert the knight from his quest; she offers him a "bower of bliss," but the price for enjoying such pleasures is to abandon his quest, lay down his arms, and accept a type of spiritual castration.


Similarly, in The Odyssey the warrior Odysseus is trying to make his way home to his kingdom and his wife after the Trojan War. But he shipwrecks on the island of the sea-nymph Calypso and is trapped there for seven years. Calypso is a beautiful divinity who showers Odysseus with gifts and love and sensual pleasures and even promises to make Odysseus immortal if he will marry her. But Odysseus refuses her entreaties at every turn and spends the seven years weeping for home and trying to leave the island.


The distinguishing feature of the daemonic mother is that she is acting in concert with or at the command of the Terrible Father as part of a Great Father Fight. The religious hermit and the questing knight are seeking spiritual ends, but their zeal and spiritual extremes represent a type of hubris and are putting them in thrall to the Terrible Father; so the daemonic mother appears to provide an additional obstacle to spirituality and add a new dimension to the Great Father fight. The hermit in the desert can't reach new heights of spirituality if he is tormented by demons; the knight can't achieve quests and become a famous leader if he is distracted by a "bower of bliss."


As for The Odyssey: in a moment of heroic hubris Odysseus had previously angered the patriarchal sea-god Poseidon; Poseidon's punishment was to repeatedly shipwreck Odysseus and keep him from returning to his kingdom. Thus the sea-nymph Calypso might have been pursuing her own ends with Odysseus, but in a larger sense Odysseus's entrapment by Calypso was a facet of Odysseus's larger Great Father fight with Poseidon, insofar as Calypso's ends also served Poseidon's needs.


The daemonic mother shares many of the same attributes as the Terrible Mother; both are witches, seductresses, and vampires. As I said above, "In this respect, the daemonic mother shows herself as a variation on the Terrible Mother." Neumann and Jung both conflate the daemonic parent and the Terrible parent. For example, when discussing the Terrible Father and his various manifestations, Neumann describes the Terrible Father as the "Heaven Spirit" and the daemonic father as the "Earth Spirit" (because the latter accompanies the Terrible Mother and/or is working toward goals traditionally ascribed to the earthly Terrible Mother).[8]


Additionally, both the daemonic mother and the Terrible Mother are subject to devaluation by the spiritually-minded male. In The Fear of the Feminine, Erich Neumann says: "[S]he becomes the sorceress, seductress, and witch, and is rejected because of the fear associated with the irrational Feminine. [...] The spirit-man of all shadings who is characteristic of the patriarchate especially rejects the Feminine because it entraps him in marriage, family, and adaptation to reality, and hence confuses him as to his 'calling,' which, in masculine asceticism, he loves to conceive as 'higher' and 'spiritual.'"[9]

Fighting the Cultural canon

As I said above, when a male or female finds themself in thrall to the Terrible Father, they may find themselves in opposition not only to the authorities but also in opposition to the Cultural canon and thus the entire Men's society and its teachings.


In The Origins and History of Consciousness, Erich Neumann talks about "Great Individuals" who find themselves at odds with the existing Cultural canon. They find that the Cultural canon inhibits them and they fight against it. The Great Individual is a "seer, artist, prophet, or revolutionary." He sees and sets forth "new images. […] These are the founders of religions, sects, philosophies, political sciences, ideologies, and spiritual movements."[10]


The Great Individual doesn't just update the old canon; "The true hero is one who brings the new and shatters the fabric of old values, namely the father-dragon which, backed by the whole weight of tradition and the power of the collective, ever strives to obstruct the birth of the new."[11]


Thus the existing Cultural canon becomes outdated, and the hero registers this imbalance and fights to impose new values more in tune with the current times. Neumann quotes Carl Jung and say that the hero brings to birth "those forms in which the age is most lacking. Recoiling from the discontents of the present, the yearning of the artist reaches back to that primordial image in the unconscious which is best fitted to compensate the insufficiency and one-sidedness of the spirit of the age."[12]


For the Great Individual, "the only thing that counts is the extraordinary. He must conquer the ordinary because it represents the power of the old order that constricts him. But conquering normal life—which is the life of the unheroic--always means sacrificing normal values and so coming into conflict with the collective."[13]


Neumann says that, as part of this struggle, the hero "becomes alienated from the normal human situation and from the collective. This decollectivization entails suffering…" Jung speaks of "the fatal compulsion that draws the hero towards sacrifice and suffering" in the book Symbols of Transformation. Neumann says that this kind of patriarchal castration is represented in myths of martyred heroes:  The labors of Hercules and the sacrifices of Mithras, Jesus, and Prometheus.[14]


Neumann talks about the "Redeemer" who becomes isolated from the community: "He sees things they do not see, does not fall for the things they fall for--but that means that he is a different type of human being and therefore necessarily alone. The loneliness of Prometheus on the rock or of Christ on the cross is the sacrifice they have to endure for having brought fire and redemption to mankind."[15]


In another context, Erich Neumann suggests a psychological portrait for such "redeemer and savior figures." He says that these types of revolutionaries intellectualize their relations with humanity to such a degree that they are unable to bond with individuals. "[It] is often expressed psychologically in an intensive preoccupation with universals to the exclusion of the personal, human element. Their heroic and idealistic concern with humanity at large lacks the self-limitation of the lover, who is ready to cleave to the individual, and not to mankind and the universe alone."[16] 


Neumann relates such characters to the N-level struggler in flight from the Terrible Mother; but he describes the main problem here as a lack of connection to the anima and an excessive devotion to intellectuality and spirituality, which are hallmarks of patriarchal castration.


In turn, the collective of the Men's society traditionally rejects and fights such Redeemers. Neumann says, "Its resistance to the hero and its expulsion of him are justifiable as a defense against imminent collapse. For a collapse such as the innovations of the Great Individual bring with them is a portentous event for millions of people. When an old cultural canon is demolished, there follows a period of chaos and destruction which may last for centuries..."[17]


The teachings of the Great Individual are typically adopted by the collective only after martyrdom of the Redeemer: "If later the hero is honored as a culture-bringer and savior, etc., this is generally only after he has been liquidated by the collective. The hero's mythological accession to power is only transpersonally true. He and his world of values may conquer and come to power, but often enough he never lives to experience this power personally."[18]


The daemonic parent as salvation

Of course, such "Great Individuals" and saviors at the level of Christ and Prometheus are rarities. But common men and women also have their Great Father fights and patriarchal castration in the form of personal struggles with authority figures or conflicts with the prevailing Cultural canon. What of them?


I said in the main essay that Great Mother fights are often resolved by "leaning in" on the figure of the daemonic father. Similarly, the daemonic mother represents a way out of Great Father fights for those of us who aren't "Great Individuals."


Recapping the Great Mother fight: In the main essay I said, [I]n the earlier Anima fight, the Terrible Father appears in daemonic form as the dragon or the monster guarding the princess or treasure. But the father also represents civilization and spirituality. By accepting the obligations and duties of Men's societies and facing up to the challenges of the Anima fight, the boy embraces growth, self-discipline, and manhood, which frees the ego from thralldom to the Terrible Mother.​ [...] In short, matriarchal castration is defeated by embracing one's masculinity. In this manner the appearance of the daemonic father represents both threat and salvation. Salvation is achieved by leaning in on the daemonic and confronting it instead of running from it. [From the Sensing chapter, in the section entitled "The Anima Fight and the Great Mother Fight."]


The Great Father fight: Likewise, the appearance of the daemonic mother in the course of the Great Father fight represents both an obstacle and salvation. In the Great Father fight, the Terrible Mother appears in daemonic form as the seductress or the witch. But the mother also represents collectivism and community as well as change, novelty, and creation. By leaning in on the daemonic mother and embracing these feminine values, the boy moves past the punishing asceticism of extreme spirituality and submission to authority, and reconnects with nurture and sensuality. This frees the ego from thralldom to the Terrible Father. Basically the boy is reconnecting with his Anima, which was being ignored by the boy while he was subject to patriarchal castration and slavish obedience to the prevailing Cultural canon. The anima of the personal creative inner voice guides the boy to a new outlook on life with new solutions and new inspirations.


Erich Neumann puts it this way: "Whereas the average individual has no soul of his own, because the group and its canon of values tell him what he may or may not be psychically, the hero is one who can call his soul his own because he has fought for it and won it. Hence there can be no heroic and creative activity without winning the anima, and the individual life of the hero is in the deepest sense bound up with the psychic reality of the anima. […] Thus the anima component of the personality is connected with the 'voice' which expresses the creative element in the individual, contrasted with the conventionality of the father, of the collective, of conscience. The anima as prophetess and priestess is the archetype of the soul who conceives the Logos, the 'spermatic word' of God."[19]


Transition of the daemonic mother into the helpful sister

"Leaning in" on the daemonic mother may also result in the appearance of a so-called "helpful sister" figure who aids the hero in his fight against the phallic dragon of the Terrible Father. Such "helpful sisters" are Anima figures representing restoration of the connection between ego and the Feminine influence within.


Erich Neumann says that the positive female element can show up as a friendly female figure who assists in the killing of the dragon, such as Medea, Ariadne, and Athena. Such women are actively hostile to the dragon, and they "show us the helpful, sisterly side of woman, standing shoulder to shoulder with the hero as his beloved, helpmate, and companion, or as the Eternal Feminine who leads him to redemption." The sisterly side shows up in fairy tales; and it "stresses the common human element; consequently it gives man a picture of woman that is closer to his ego and more friendly to his consciousness than the sexual side. It is a typical form of relationship, not a real one." She can be represented by a number of different female family members. But basically she represents "the female as a separate, ego-conscious individual who is quite distinct from the feminine-collective aspect of the 'Mothers.'" [20]


In the myth of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the dragon, some ancient representations show the two of them fighting the dragon together. And in The Odyssey, Odysseus is finally rescued from Calypso's clutches by Athena, who has come to respect Odysseus' fidelity toward his wife and home. Athena defies Poseidon to aid Odysseus in his escape from the island, and she becomes Odysseus' staunchest ally and protector in his ongoing Great Father fight.

A similar phenomenon likely occurs the course of Great Mother fights, where the daemonic father may be converted into a "helpful brother" figure. In the Intuition chapter, under the section entitled "Great Mother vs Great Father at the S level," I mentioned that the childish ego comes to fragment the father into a Terrible Father versus a "helpful twin" figure. This latter "helpful twin" helps reconcile the childish ego to the Masculine influence and represents the glue that holds Men's societies together.


Resolution of the Great Father fight

So what is the goal of the Great Father fight?


Recapping the Great Mother fight: The object of the Great Mother fight was to return to the womb (via a trip into the depths or to Hades), confront the Great Mother, and fragment off an Anima in the form of a Princess or obtain a treasure or great secret. In a sense the retrieval of the Anima represents a (re-)union with the Great Mother, albeit with the mother transformed into the sanitized and permissible form of an idealized love interest. And the means for doing that is via the daemonic father: By leaning in on the daemonic father, the boy accepts the obligations and duties of adulthood and proves himself worthy of being the protector and possessor of the Princess or treasure or great secret.


The Great Father fight: Likewise, the object of the Great Father fight is to confront the Great Father by clashing with authority and the existing Cultural canon which has fallen out of date and become corrupted, redeem society by representing a new form of authority and Cultural canon, and thereby assume leadership of society. The assumption of leadership represents a (re-)union with the Great Father, albeit with the father transformed into an updated form of leadership that represents the needs of a new generation. And the means for doing that is via the daemonic mother: By leaning in on the daemonic mother, the boy taps into his creative spirit, replaces craven deference to authority with creativity, community, and a drive for change, and proves himself worthy of creating a new Cultural canon and redeeming the leadership and society as a whole.


Thus success is not measured in terms of overthrowing the old authority and Cultural canon, but rather by redeeming and restoring them; the son or daughter becomes the next phase of the Cultural canon by learning to reconcile their voice with the existing canon and lift the latter along with themselves. Mythologically this process is expressed as the union of the hero-son and the divine father, resulting in Jesus Christ's declaration that "I and the Father are one."[21]


It's a symbolic re-enactment of the son's initiation into the Men's society. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell says that, once initiated into the Men's society, the son is no longer a son; he has been reborn divine: "Ideally, the invested one has been divested of his mere humanity and is representative of an impersonal cosmic force. He is the twice-born: he has become himself the father."[22]

Link: Return to Sensing (S)

~Posted November 14, 2023


[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), pp. 186-187.

[2] C.G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 5), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton University Press, 1956), p. 232, par. 345.

[3] 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. 187.

[4] Ibid., p. 188.

[5] Ibid., p. 188.

[6] Ibid., p. 189.

[7] Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Bollingen Series XVII (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1949), p. 104.

[8] 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), pp. 186-191.

[9] Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine, and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology (Essays of Erich Neumann, Vol 4), trans. Matthews, Doughty, Rolfe, and Cullingworth, Bollingen Series LXI, 4, (Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 262-264.

[10] 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), pp. 375-376.

[11] Ibid., p. 377.

[12] Ibid., p. 376, quoting Jung from On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry, p. 248.

[13] Ibid., p. 375.

[14] Ibid., p. 378.

[15] Ibid., pp. 378-379.

[16] Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine, and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology (Essays of Erich Neumann, Vol 4), trans. Matthews, Doughty, Rolfe, and Cullingworth, Bollingen Series LXI, 4, (Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 206

[17] 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. 381.

[18] Ibid., p. 375.

[19] Ibid., p. 379.

[20] Ibid., pp. 201-202.

[21] Ibid., pp. 359-360.

[22] Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Bollingen Series XVII (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1949), pp. 115-116.

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