Friday, March 24, 2006

Hermaphroditus and the Anima

Knowledge of the gods presents us with a vocabulary and rhetoric to discuss human behavior or psychology.

Yesterday, I told the story of Hermaphroditus; however, because I chose to enter the story through D.H. Lawrence’s novel Women in Love, we saw the corrosive effect of Salmacis’s behavior because that is the lens that Lawrence provides us. Lawrence constantly struggled against the female and his battle was always a variation of the dynamics that existed in his relationship with his mother.

The fact of the matter is that the literary Lawrence, like Hermaphroditus, is a “weakened” man. Ironically, this so-called weakness was really the source of his strength as a novelist and as a psychologist.

In Jungian terms, his struggle was against his anima, which he tended to throw out or project upon the women with whom he involved himself.

Jung defined the anima as the feminine archetype, which was differentiated from animus, the masculine archetype. In his early writing he delineated the anima as the feminine aspect in man and postulated that the anima was “that aspect of one’s psyche in intimate association with one’s unconscious” (Dictionary of Psychology, Arthur S. Reber, Penguin 1995).

Jung explained the concept of the anima in an article entitled “Marriage as a Psychological Relationship” (1925):

Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the living organic system of the man, an imprint or 'archetype" of all the ancestral experiences of the female, a deposit, as it were, of all the impressions ever made by woman-in short, an inherited system of psychic adaptation. Even if no women existed, it would still be possible, at any given time, to deduce from this unconscious image exactly how a woman would have to be constituted psychically. The same is true of the woman: she too has her inborn image of man. Actually, we know from experience that it would be more accurate to describe it as an image of men, whereas in the case of the man it is rather the image of woman. Since this image is unconscious, it is always unconsciously projected upon the person of the beloved, and is one of the chief reasons for passionate attraction or aversion. I have called this image the "anima."

In our discussion of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, I believe that a fruitful examination of the myth would be to turn the Lawrencian lens away from Salmacis' corrosive will and instead focus upon her complex. In other words, what can we learn about human psychology by developing Salmacis into a full fledged being.

Rather, than viewing her as a stereotypical devouring female predator, let’s look at her actions and her motivations.

By pursuing Salmacis in a future post we may be able to locate her feminine traits in all of us and devise a rhetoric to describe this trait.

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