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Supplemental Essay: The Great Mother 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

In the main essay I described the Great Mother fight. I said that We are captured by the Great Mother when we become possessed by an idea or a problem and can't find an easy fix for the situation. [...] Jungian psychology would consider this kind of "possession by an idea" to be a case of entrapment by the Great Mother, in other words "matriarchal castration." [...] At such times the task of the Hero (who can be of either sex) is to find a solution to the dilemma, fight his or her way free of the Terrible Mother's clutches, nullify the castration, and restore harmony and balance in his or her life via a return to centroversion.

 

Journey to Hades

First, a bit more about the symbolism of the journey to Hades. Neumann says that this process is represented in myth as "the entry into the cave, the descent into the underworld, or being swallowed, i.e., incest with the mother."[1] "For the ego and the male, the female is synonymous with the unconscious and the nonego, hence with darkness, nothingness, the void, the bottomless pit. [...] Mother, womb, pit, and hell are all identical." This association harks back to the N-level uroboric environment, which is associated with unconsciousness and return to the womb. To delve into the unconscious means retracing one's path back to the N level and facing the Terrible Mother.[2]

 

In his book The Fear of the Feminine, Neumann says that the Great Mother Fight was originally an initiation: "Inire (to go 'into') in the sense of initiation means originally, it appears, to go into the earth, and the place of this initiation was the cave, the uterus of the Great Mother, this primordial image of the holy place, the temple, and the house. At the center of every initiation, whose ultimate creative significance is not our concern in this context, there is always the deadly peril represented by the Terrible Mother. She is the devouring West*, the place of death on the hero's path, which is an essential part of every initiation. The confusion of the labyrinth, the devouring monster, the dragon of chaos, death, the underworld, and hell, are only some of the unpropitious symbols that express the darkness of the terrible primordial Feminine. And gathered around this central place of evil fortune are the alluring, captivating, deceiving, misleading, destructively demonic powers, which appear always differently and in new forms as animals, monsters, sorceresses and witches, fairies and pixies, etc., and are the expression of the deadly peril that menaces the candidate for initiation, the hero. [...] It is the world of affect, of instincts and emotions, the exuberant energy of the chaotic, the demonic, and the evil in the depths and the shallows of humanity, which seems to be released here. [...] The hero must dare the descent into the peril of the dragon in order to prove himself stronger than the apparently overwhelming power of the fearful darkness. [...] The hero always represents consciousness and the Terrible Mother the unconscious..."[3]

* [In saying "West," Neumann is referring to sunset and nightfall, in other words, the commencement of sleep and unconsciousness.]

 

The daemonic father as devil in hell

The daemonic father is a key feature in both the Anima fight and the Great Mother fight. In the main essay I said, Like the Great Mother, the father can be split into a Good Father and a Terrible Father. Men's societies represent the Good Father; whereas the Terrible Father is fragmented off and repressed, to reappear in "daemonic" form as a dragon or other menacing male/phallic monster.

 

In normal life, when everything is in balance, the Great Father represents the spiritual realm and the Great Mother represents the earthly realm. But at times of stress and anxiety the ego may fall under the sway of the Terrible Mother and become caught in matriarchal castration. At such times the daemonic father appears as a companion of the Terrible Mother and acts in concert with her. Erich Neumann calls the daemonic father an "Earth Father" as opposed to the Good Father who normally acts as a "Spirit Father."  Neumann says of the daemonic father: "The Earth Father, lord of all chthonic forces, belongs psychologically to the realm of the Great Mother. He manifests himself most commonly as the overwhelming aggressiveness of phallic instinct or as a destructive monster."[4]

 

In other words, the Great Father is a symbol of spirituality; and both the daemonic father ("Earth Father") and the Good Father ("Spirit Father") are essentially spiritual beings. But the daemonic father ("Earth Father") represents a corrupted form of spirituality, that is, a hellish serpent who lives in the depths or even the Devil himself. Neumann says, "The emergence of the Earth archetype of the Great Mother brings with it the emergence of her companion, the Great Serpent [...] namely the Devil. What has to be redeemed from the hell of Earth and matter [...] seems to be nothing more or less than "the Spirit of the Earth."[5]

 

Elsewhere, Neumann delves into the symbolism of the Great Mother accompanied by a devil-serpent as her companion: "As in religious history, the archetypal inhabitant of these female depths is the snake. Just as in Crete and in Greece and with Nathan of Gaza, so even today we are still met there by the snake of the abyss, the Devil, who is at the same time the snake of Mercurius, the spiritual principle that animates the depths, the 'Earth Spirit.' Seeing this masculine snake-companion of the Great Mother in a phallic sense as a symbol of sexuality corresponds to one of the infinite possibilities and realities of interpretation. [...] Even Hermes, the guide of the soul, who is the same god as the alchemists' Mercurius, has a phallic, snake aspect. [...] Having to descend into the earth really means to fall into hell, and many dreams, images, and fantasies of modern man show the witch-like character of the earth and the devilish nature of its spirit who dismembers, boils, roasts, tortures, and torments those who become his prey."[6]

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. 154.

[2] Ibid., pp. 157-158.

[3] 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. 189-191.

[4] 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. 186.

[5] 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. 197.

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

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