I’ve enrolled in an art class at our local art center. The class, which begins Sunday evening, will cover the basics of drawing. This is one of my manifold attempts over the past year or so at trying activities that may assist me along the path of individuation, and may encourage my more unconscious, repressed, or shy aspects to show themselves. Put another way, perhaps it will show them that I care.
As a child I was always writing, drawing, painting, or making music. I played the flute and the harmonica (yes, the harmonica), and always longed to play the piano. I gave up the flute when the pressures of popularity became too large in high school, and my life began to be predominantly externalized. Everyone knows that the kids in band are dorks. So I sold my creative self down the river and plugged my ears to his objections.
There is a lot written by depth psychologists from Jung on about the value of art–so much, in fact, that the thought of trying to corral the subject into a handful of pithy posts overwhelms me. How can I do it credit, while still working so imperfectly on integrating the creative animus influence in my own life?
Perhaps sharing a dream will illustrate the art of relating to one’s contrasexual part by showing how it’s working in my life. If this is your first visit to the blog, you may want to read my first post about Jungian dream interpretation before continuing.
Hello, My Friend, Hello
I dreamed last month that I went to visit a friend, who embodies aspects of the great earth mother archetype, at her home, which was situated in a grove of tall, ancient trees. The house was a small white frame house that had been added onto time and again and had the air of a comfortably tousled bed. I realized upon entering the house that my friend, who in real life has been divorced and single for over a decade now, had a new partner or husband (which never became clear during the dream). He had the tweedy, relaxed air of a somewhat rumpled but intelligent and reservedly friendly professor. The two were so engrossed in their lively conversation that they barely paid me any attention.
I wandered through the house, encountering this and that, but found myself unsatisfied because the couple wasn’t terribly interested in entertaining me. At one point I meandered through a series of three connected bathrooms which were tiled but had no counters and no fixtures–suggestions of purification rituals and shadowy, private content waiting to fully manifest.
I found my way back to the front of the house and realized I was in an underground aquarium and could see through huge plate glass windows into the outer world beyond. What I saw through the window was a great tsunami, which was sweeping scores of men, women, and children away in its huge waves. I saw mothers and fathers trying to save their children; I saw their mouths open as they cried out. There was a beach nearby from which a person might effect rescues, or upon which a lucky victim might be thrown by the wanton waves. I looked for a way to go into the water or to get onto the beach, thinking that perhaps I could help a few people. But it was obvious that I could do nothing, for there was no ready means of ingress. I hesitated before the plate glass window.
As I stood there frozen, a strange man approached me. Like my friend’s partner or husband, he too had a rather professorial air about him, but his gestures to me indicated that he wanted to lead me in prayer. I had the impression that he was Catholic, and I already knew the prayer we were to pray. I had the sense that a few other people, perhaps a woman or two, were nearby him, hovering in my peripheral vision, and would join us for prayer. He looked at me expectantly again, inviting me to pray as tides of people were carried away before us. Neither he nor his companions seemed the least bit worried about the waves or the people, but rather had the air of serious single-mindedness bestowed by resolute self-confidence.
But I turned away from him and pretended not to see his signals, thinking, “Praying is useless!” I noticed then that small plaques were affixed near each window, just as in an actual aquarium or museum, describing the scene. I pretended to read the plaque but never actually read its words. The whole time I maintained the thought that prayer was ridiculously inappropriate in the face of such a disaster and I wouldn’t participate with the stranger.
After I woke up, I knew I had twice encountered my animus in the dream. He was a manifestation of the third stage of animus development, inviting me to enter into a world which would unite symbols of the deep feminine unconscious I could see beyond the window with the here-and-now world of the scholarly observer and interpreter. My friend symbolized the great mother and the world of the earth; her partner or husband, a professor, symbolized the intellectually creative world, the opposite of the mother world or the earth-bound. As well, since large numbers of people and bodies of water may also represent the collective unconscious, my animus was inviting me to enter into an intimate spiritual dialogue surrounding the state of humanity, so that I might receive something personal.
Because I left the couple to go by myself to look through the aquarium walls into the depths, my dream signifies that I will meet my animus in the unconscious and in an intimate setting. His orientation to the book (and the Bible) symbolizes the creative, objective, generative, and impersonal world, which again counterbalances the instinctive, diffuse, subjective world of the mother. The priest or praying professor is the great father, while my friend (whom I have often referred to as a “great earth mother” sister) is the great mother; when I move beyond relating to these two as an observer to sitting at the table in conversation as a peer, I will also enter into dialogue with Spirit at the invitation of my animus figure to pray.
But, still, I turned away.
Many times the turning away or running away motif occurs in dreams during which the dreamer first encounters the anima or animus during a new phase of psychic activity. Even if the animus or anima has been encountered many times and is integrated into conscious living, there are many facets to the inner guide that will always lie outside the grasp of the conscious mind. When the dreamer is ready, the contrasexual inner guide will appear to invite her (or him) into deeper relationship. Nearly always, the initial meeting is rebuffed by the dreamer, often because the dreamer does not want to face something frightening or upsetting. For example, if the stranger actually is a scary figure (robber, rapist, witch, hag, succubus, etc.), it is only natural for the dreamer to run away or try to hide.
“You can run, but you can’t hide” from the animus or anima, though. The challenge for the dreamer is to move toward the animus or anima and to face what the dreamer has been avoiding.
At once when I awoke from my dream, I knew I had offended my animus by pretending not to see his gesture of invitation, and by not being willing to discuss my feelings of the uselessness of prayer with him. I told him that I saw what I had done and was sorry; but I also told him that I was of the same opinion still–prayer would not have helped the people being washed by on the waves. In both settings in which I encountered the animus–as he sat with my friend, engrossed in conversation, and as he beckoned me to pray for the people being swept away by the tsunami–there was an abiding sense of impossibility. I could not break into the conversation between my animus figure and my girlfriend, and I could not break out of the aquarium into the flood to try to save people being swept away to their apparent deaths.
The obstinacy of animus contents that have become rigid are legendary. There is a drive to completion and ownership that is every bit as insistent as a man’s erection compelling him to satisfy his sexual urge. Certainly, he may be able to overcome his urge by sheer force of will; but generally not without a lot of determination to distract himself. This is exactly how demanding the animus is when he wants something; what we deny, he demands with more force and insistence. If I continue to resist him, in upcoming dreams my animus may very well regress to a Johnny Depp figure, coming aboard without permission and plundering my booty.
My animus is showing me that my obstinate focus on the big picture–the big waves, the hordes of people who are suffering, my guilt over my currently secure position, my intelligent observer status, my helplessness–is getting in the way of intimate relationship with my Great Father and Great Mother figures, which, when seen together, are figures of wholeness. Indeed, I see a complex here, for my actual mother and father were and always have been so engrossed with their love for one another and their eternal romance, that they had fewer spiritual or emotional resources left for their children. We were raised to be thinkers and doers, not feelers or diviners who search for water with no more than our intuitions and a thin willow branch.
Jung wrote that individuality and group identity are incompatible: you can have one or the other, but not both. He said, in fact, that
Any large company of wholly admirable persons has the morality and intelligence of an unwieldy, stupid and violent animal. The bigger the organization, the more unavoidable is its immorality and blind stupidity. . . Society, by automatically stressing all the collective qualities in its individual representatives, puts a premium on mediocrity, on everything that settles down to vegetate in an easy, irresponsible way. Individuality will inevitably be driven to the wall (par. 240).
One of several challenges my dream presented to me was that I must leave the familiar if I am to go forward into the great unknown. I must leave the crowd; I must also leave the conventions of parents, who seemed to hold the opinion that prayer was only marginally useful to weaklings who could not pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. It will clearly be impossible for me to advance to the Ghandi stage of animus development with an animus who is a living prayer and who is willing to die for his faith, if I refuse to even pray with the Herr Professor Animus of my recent dream. Jesus said that anyone who is not willing to leave father, mother, sister, brother, homes and ancestral lands behind is not worthy of the kingdom of God. So it is with our archetypes: anyone unwilling to defy the powerful taboos of the first mother and father absolutely cannot contain the bounty of the real Great Father and Great Mother. “Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned,” is my familiar prayer; I see how all too often I choose the lesser, safer path rather than take that courageous plunge into the waters of baptism.
And Paper White as Snow
This is why I enrolled in the drawing class: it is my sin offering to my animus and to God, who animated him and breathed life into him in the first place. I take a drawing board, and a part of me that feels it is still in Mr. Chain’s 9th grade art class turns it into an altar. I offer Him newly sharpened pencils, an unkneaded artist’s eraser, charcoal, and paper as white as snow.
Why? Simple, really. Professors teach, which is both a science and an art. If I focus only on the man of the word part of my animus, I am doing something I’m already technically good at, which leaves me vulnerable to the hindrances inherent in techniques and technicalities rather than open to the move of the Spirit. In art, although there is certainly technique, there is also a much greater likelihood that unconscious elements might be objectified. This is why people have and do art.
My animus came to me in my dreams and he drew me to himself with an invitation to enter the spiritual world through dialogue or prayer. I denied him. My peace offering to him is to go to art class with him. While this may seem a sad little response to what large things might have occurred had I turned toward him and entered into whatever prayer he was going to pray, it’s still something. At least I’m not turning away, pretending I don’t see him.
I’ll report back on how my animus and I are doing after our first drawing class which is, incidentally, taught by a man.
Jung, Carl. The Collected Works. Vol. 7. Trans. R.F.C. Hull, Ed. H. Read, et al. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953-1979.