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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


"When animus and anima meet, the animus draws his sword of power and the anima ejects her poison of illusion and seduction."-- Carl Jung, AION, pt. II.

First, one more go-round for the assertion made in an earlier essay that engendered this essay series:

The action-heroine is a better symbol of the Schopenhaurean Will than the male action-hero.

I'll amend one minor aspect of that statement: it should read "Schopenhaurean-Nietzschean Will."  Reason being that although Schopenhauer may be the first great philosopher to expound upon a concept of The Will, Nietzsche's reconfiguration of the concept to suit his own priorities is no less significant.  Indeed, one might hazard that the two men have given us the opposite sides of one coin, both of which suggest an emotional dynamization invovled, whether one is denying or celebrating the allure of The Will.

At the end of WHAT WOMEN WILL PT. 1, I wrote:

In the next installment of WHAT WOMEN WILL, I'll explore a little more as to the archetypal associations that arise when the woman is "Taker" rather than "Giver."

In point of fact Part II contained only intimations on this subject, as I deciced that a side-excursion into Nietzsche-Land would prove valuable.  The above topic will now be addressed here in full.

I also said, at the end of Part II:
In part 3 I will examine more fully the two archetypes I find implicit in the writings of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche-- the Compassionate Man and the Barbarous Woman-- and relate them further to the archetypes arising in modern popular fiction.

Note the word "implicit."  I am not stating that these archetypes are consciously promulgated by the two philosophers, but that I find them implicit in certain of their writings.  Schopenhauer, who exalts men over women because the former sex possesses both greater strength and greater reason, must be imagining his ideal in the Compassionate Man, who alone possesses the power to deny the life-force within the Will.  Thus Schopenhauer should be viewed as a thinker aligned with "the ancient force that gives," though his ideal exemplars of this force are male.  Nietzsche aligns himself with the virtues of "the ancient force that takes," and generally praises male qualities almost as much as Schopenhauer.  However, he admires the feminine skills of "dissimulation" that Schopenhauer professes to despise, and goes so far as to say that:
Woman is indescribably more evil than man; also cleverer: a good nature is in a woman a form of degeneration." - Nietzsche

I suggest that Nietzsche was charmed, perhaps even titillated, by his own image of the Barbarous Woman, who might thus be seen as a better representative of his celebration of "the force that takes" than any male archetype in his repertoire. That said, I freely admit that Nietzsche's left-handed compliments to his idea of barbarous women sustain only a tenuous connection to the archetype to which I alluded in Part II with my citation of "the Bloodbath of the Goddess Anat," or earlier references to the "action-heroines" of popular fiction.

And yet, the connection is there, and can be glossed somewhat by the above quote from Carl Jung, whose psychological theories were influenced by both philosophers.

Like the two philosophers, Jung was a man of his time.  In the essay "Woman in Europe" (1927) he devotes a modicum of respect toward the changes feminism was wreaking in the society of his time.  He avers that feminism represents a "step toward social independence," even while he worries as to whether "woman is doing something not wholly in accord with, if not directly injurious to, her feminine nature."

Given that Jung did not believe in gross essentialism-- i.e., that women had a single nature any more than men did-- he evolved the theory of the anima/animus archetypes, "anima" being the feminine soul within man and "animus" the masculine soul within women.  As shown in the quote above, he imagines the female's animus possessing a "sword of power," emblematic of physical strength, while the male's anima possesses a witchy power of "illusion and seduction," like Schopenhauer's "dissimulation."

From this idea, that women could have masculine portions of their souls and men could have the complementary feminine aspects, it's no great step to what I like to call the "reverse-archetypes" found throughout mythology and literature.  Jung does not elaborate on these in AION, but mythology is certainly replete with "Males Who Give"-- Osiris, Orpheus, Jesus-- as well as "Women Who Take," ranging from female monsters like harpies and sirens and war-goddesses like Anat.  These are, in my view, examples of what Schopenhauer calls "the more developed Idea resulting from this victory over several lower Ideas or objectifications of will."

Now, on the cultural level, these inversions of expected male and female propensities would be equally valid.  But why o why (at long last) have I said that "the action-heroine is a better symbol of the Schopenhaurean Will than the male action-hero?"

Simplicity itself.  Whereas the two reverse-archetypes are equal in cultural terms, they are different in terms of their contravention of natural law, as discussed here

In the "real world" of experience, males, especially in their role of rulers, are capable of becoming cultural lawgivers or dispensers of wisdom.  Some men may choose to emphasize "the force that takes," and become warlords of mythic proportions, and some may choose to emphasize compassion, "the force that gives." However, real women-- culturally known for representing "the force that gives"-- have a physical disadvantage in terms of attempting to act out the role of "the force that takes."

Given that fact of physical law, why then do we have mythologies that depict goddesses of battle?  Why Anat, Athena, and Ishtar, among many others?  And why should literature take any pleasure in presenting mortal women as winning battles against men, whether it be Britomart in THE FAERIE QUEENE, Mrs. Corney in OLIVER TWIST, or non-superpowered fighters like Batgirl and Black Canary?

Precisely because, as I discussed here:

'"the desire to be recognized as the equal of other people," even if it were sufficient for human beings politically, can never be sufficient in the world of literature.'

Thus, when fictional action-heroes do their kickass thing, they are in essence "going with the flow," conforming to an archetype of male behavior based in both culture and physical nature.  When fictional action-heroines kick ass, they are in essence "swimming against the current." This current is best incarnated by the literary trope of "what women want," which in Chaucer and elsewhere is nothing less than "sovereignty over their husbands." In the real world this can only be done by manipulation of the "force that gives," by persuading the man to do her will through "dissimulation" or sexual attractiveness. 

Action-heroines, however, work their own will.  They align themselves with a reverse-archetype that describes not real experience but a gesture toward desired experience.  That implies a greater level of conflict in this reverse-archetype in that it contravenes (albeit in fiction, where nothing is impossible) both physical law and cultural experience.

This manner of conflict, or "strife," is best described with one more quote from gloomy old Schopenhauer:

Thus from the strife of lower phenomena the higher arise, swallowing them all up, but yet realising in the higher grade the tendency of all the lower.


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