Anima Rising

“I’ve got a head full of quandary
And a mighty, mighty thirst” Joni Mitchell

“We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reached such a pinnacle of clarity, imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases…” C.G. Jung CW 13 54

“The confusion of anima with feeling, and the attempt to humanize by feeling, is thus not psychotherapy at all. Rather it is part of contemporary secularism’s sickness of soul, or psychopathology. We have yet to discover which archetypal person has captured consciousness through the sentimental appeal of humanism and feeling. At least we know it is not Eros, who prefers the dark and silence to ‘relatedness,’ ‘communicating,’ and ‘sharing.’ Yet some archetypal power does influence therapy by interpreting the psychic movement of our images and their animal-daimonic forms into social relations and personal connections and by raising such guilt over ‘unrelatedness.’ ” James Hillman Anima An Anatomy of a Personified Notion

Partly in response to a claim by some that James Hillman was out to repudiate the work of C.G. Jung, I will write briefly here about his effort to correct an outdated idea of Jung’s. In response to Jung’s idea of anima, Hillman gives us a welcomed and necessary corrective written from the vantage point of living in a very different time and place. Rather than destroy Jung’s ideas, I see Hillman as amplifying their themes, taking us further down the road that Jung first introduced us to.

A primary corrective needed in Jung’s thought is his notion of the anima archetype.

In Hillman’s book, Anima, An Anatomy of a Personified Notion, he responds to Jung’s writings by exploring an array of ideas surrounding the anima as an archetypal presence and the part it plays in therapy. While Jung held that the anima was the unconscious feeling function in men, which, if not developed, leads to a lack of relatedness, Hillman sees the goal of relatedness itself as a misunderstanding of the broader nature and influence of archetypal forces in our lives. These forces are far from human, and we would do well to respect their impersonal nature when under their spell, which for Hillman, is nearly all the time.

Jung associated the anima with the unconscious feminine in the psyche of men. We might understand why the formula of assigning an unconscious anima feeling function to men, and an unconscious thinking animus function to women might have made sense nearly 100 years ago. The confusion for Jung, which likely stems from the culture of his time and place, strictly correlates one’s biology to the whole of psyche.

Jung suggests that a man must develop his relatedness by integrating the anima figure, for it is the anima as archetype which causes his feelings to be projected onto women, and, or feminine nature itself. Until a man becomes ‘related’ enough to see these projected qualities as part of himself, a man remains unconscious of his feelings, and therefore “unrelated.” While I agree that unconsciousness leads to outward projections of that which we fail to recognize in ourselves, this dynamic has more to do with an identity in which we believe ourself to be master and commander; never susceptible to any, especially, archetypal influences.

Hillman furthers the discussion with a refutation of the notion that only men have an experience with archetypal anima images, and for women, only that of an archetypal animus. He reminds us that at the archetypal level, these influences are not fully accessible to us except as they manifest through symbols, language, dreams, literature and other cultural artifacts, and even there, can never be fully exhausted or directly known.

Jung associates many feminine figures from diverse cultures with the anima, and the anima with the soul of biological man.

“The deceptive Shakti, must return to the watery realm if the work is to reach its goal. She should no longer dance before the adept with alluring gestures, but must become what she was from the beginning: a part of his wholeness. (The anima is thereby forced into the inner world…)” CW 13, 223 (and n15)

“He will learn to know his soul, that is, his anima and Shakti who conjures up a delusory world for him.” CW 15, 673

“What then, is this projection-making factor? The East calls it the “Spinning Woman” – Maya, who creates illusion by her dancing. (I have defined the anima as a personification of the unconscious) CW 9, ii, 20 (and n1)

One obviously troubling factor in Jung’s view is to nearly dismiss women as even having a soul! He doesn’t quite go that far to my knowledge, but gives to women the contrary function to feeling; thinking, as their inferior mode of relating.

Hillman’s response:

“At this level we can hardly attribute anima to the male sex only. The “feminine” and “life” as well as the Chinese, Indian, and Gnostic analogies to anima are relevant to men and women equally. We are now at an archetypal level of anima, the “feminine archetypal image” (CW 9,ii, 41n5), and an archetype as such cannot be attributed to, or located within, the psyche of either sex. We can take this one step further, for we cannot be sure that the archetypes are only psychic, belonging only to the realm of psyche, unless we extend psyche first beyond sexual differences, then beyond the human person and psychodynamics (compensation), and beyond psychology too.”

Michelangelo’s fresco Creation of Eve on Sistine Chapel ceiling

For some Jungians, Hillman’s ideas are heretical. No one shall dare to question even what seems an obvious bias of Jung’s – that the soul of woman is, only as it is defined by a man. Thankfully, things have changed enough in our culture that the idea that a woman can only be defined as a man sees her, is generally understood as archaic. But for some Jungian’s there is still a devotion to his ideas which refuses to see them rooted in a culture and time where women were rarely given legitimacy and a voice of their own. Hillman:

“We call these women anima types and we connect them with the ancient figure of hetaera; yet because of theory (no anima in women), we assume that the anima archetype can affect a woman’s life only through men and their fatuous projections.

Let us look at this more closely. The roles which Jung assigns to the anima – relation with the mysteries , with the archaic past, enactment of the good fairy, witch, whore, saint and animal associations with bird, tiger, and serpent (to mention only those he mentions there) – all appear frequently and validly in the psychology of women…Women have little girls in their dreams, and whores; they too are lured by mysterious and unknown women…they too sense soul and suffer its mystery and confusion.”

For Hillman to tackle Jung’s concept of the anima archetype head on is necessary if Depth Psychology is to allow for equal footing for its women and grant them a soul in their own right. It may be that Jung never fully gained enough awareness of women and that their mystery was necessary to him in some way. That is speculation of course. But, for Hillman, who based all of his work on the soul, or anima, as mediator between the body and spirit, this corrective to Jung was both primary and necessary to continue on with his own work.

“Don’t interrupt the sorrow
Darn right
In flames our prophet witches
Be polite
A room full of glasses
He says “Your notches, liberation doll”
And he chains me with that serpent
To that Ethiopian wall” Joni Mitchell

14 thoughts on “Anima Rising

  1. Hi Debra,
    This post is well-timed. As Symbol Reader remarked, Jung was perhaps the first to discriminate such complex ideas as what women may think from a man’s point of view psychologically with such an array of empirical material behind it. One thing I’d say as a reminder: It was suggested that Jung was the first to turn attention to the rejected feminine in man, and of course, that was a man’s viewpoint.
    Times have changed for sure. Jung’s writings were various and extensive and, no doubt, contradictory depending on where you land in your reading. One of the things I appreciated about his ideas was their broad expanse, and he also described anima as the archetype of life (of course from the masculine perspective). It draws a man into the world and entangles him in it. He did write that he wasn’t a competent spokesman for feminine psychology, and his admission helped me to take much of what he wrote about women with a grain of salt — how impossible is it to get outside the spirit of one’s own time? My daughter pointed out to me her misgivings about Jung’s representations of anima, and I could not but agree with her.
    Beyond that, I’ve struggled with dreams which were characteristic of what Jung saw as animus psychology — one of the reasons I think Hillman’s ideas are instructive. But it also drives home to me the need for individual reflection in the sense that we need to learn to trust our intuitions, I’m reminded of a quote from Faust when Mephistopheles advised him on his impending journey. Faust was afraid, as any man is when he confronts his opposite, especially in feminine form whether inside or out and especially both — it has a tendency to make him put up or shut up if he’s honest, and when he is it’s a very subjective and uncertain world that ensues: “For that, my friend, this is the remedy I give: Just trust yourself and you’ll know how to live.”
    Good post, thanks.


    1. “he also described anima as the archetype of life”

      Hi Evan,

      Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. I hope to write more especially about Anima as the archetype of life. It’s as if Jung did eventually see through his own restrictions on anima, and so, expanded his understanding of soul as greater than just a contrasexual notion.

      I can’t fault the theory, or the experience that any of us have in which anima, or soul, is understood as that which leads us into life through not only contrasexual relationships, but through any relationship in which we are finally able to gain a sense of introspection and differentiation between ourselves and others. Ultimately, what Jung was pointing to was the insight that all personifaction carries archetypal qualities that affect us according to the particular qualities of archetypal influence we are experiencing. Hillman refers to this as gaining the ability to see an aspect of the impersonal that comes through each of us as archetypal powers that continually influence us.

      I, too, have had dreams in which anima figures haunted me. Agreed, it is sage advice to trust that there is psyche, an aspect to our experience that is very influential, but ultimately helpful if we do not fear it, but respect it as an other, an angel, or a god bringing us messages that we could not otherwise receive.

      Thank you Evan!


  2. Thank you for writing this, Debra. I have a lot of thoughts on this, not sure I can articulate them all. Coming from a strictly intuitive place, I also have sensed this kind of crusade that Hillman was on vis-a-vis the biases of Jung connected with the spirit of the times he lived in. I remember talking about this with my therapist, who opened my eyes to one undeniable fact: Jung redeemed the feminine for psychology and was the first one to do so. He surrounded himself by brilliant women and had a lot of professional and fruitful relationships with them. We may say he sensed the whole return of the divine feminine long before it actually started happening.
    Best wishes and lots of love on the Solstice. Excellent time to write about the anima!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Monika,

      Thank for your note. I am happy to further the discussion because the subject warrants it. Hillman, perhaps with his strong Ares nature, was in many ways a warrior for his ideas. Everything I have heard him say or anything he’s written strikes me as having an edge to it; whether it’s a sense of insistence, rebelliousness, or teaseful provocation, he had the soul of a warrior.

      I whole-heartedly believe that Jung gave us many, many gifts. His extensive research and writings, primed by his breakdown experience, have reverberated throughout the western world and beyond. I would never even have heard of James Hillman were it not for the work of C.G. Jung. Jung, like so many of us, lived in contradictory ways; he engaged women with his thoughts and ideas and was very much influenced by his female friends, but, he couldn’t always see, or completely understand them without seeing their biology. Perhaps none of us can. So, some of his conceptual formulations seem archaic now. But among his many gifts to us, he gave recognition and respect to a variety of cultures other than our western one, and opened our eyes to the value, humanity, divinity and beauty in them. He wrestled with a lot of western history and attitudes that continue to haunt us as we long for peace and reconciliation with our cultural past, present and future.

      Ultimately, I think that the ideas of Jung, Hillman along with so many others, continue to shape us individually and collectively, revealing ever greater depths. Who hasn’t heard of Myers Briggs? As I said in my note to Jim below, I think Hillman was highly aware that Jung’s intiatory experience which he recorded in his Red book, was the impetus for everything that came after. Not that there was never a new thought or idea, but that the powerfulness of Jung’s experience inspired him the rest of his life to find adequate expression for what he called the Unconscious. Hillman often said that Jung’s greatest gift to us was the practice of Active Imagination. I agree with this. Because after all of the discussions, agreements and disagreements about JJung, and Jungian concepts, what we are left with is our own direct experience of the mysteries. Jung, I believed, wanted us all to have that gift of discovery that is hard-won for anyone who takes up the task, but, it is also the greatest, most rewarding work of our lifetime.

      Like Hillman, I don’t always feel comfortable thinking and speaking in the Jungian language of concepts. I think I understand what the concepts mean, but as Hillman points out so brilliantly, using concepts like wholeness, individuation, anima, etc., that are handed down interpretations of our raw experience, may allow us to leave the experience behind by using interpretative conceptual tools for defining that experience. I’d rather live life in the raw, as much as possible anyway. But, I admit, I want to get along, meaning, be able and willing to use a language that others can hear.

      Sorry, this is so long!
      Thank you as always Monika, for your inspiring thoughts here and in your own writing.
      Happy Solstice to you too! There is definitely a sense for me lately of being “in the zone” with lots of energy flowing through me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Jim,

        First off, I don’t see Hillman’s works as a threat. How many people read Hillman? He didn’t even leave behind an organization to carry on his works in the way that Jung did. The irony, which you alluded to by quoting Jung as saying, “I am glad I am Jung and not a Jungian,” is that Jung himself did not create concepts of anima, individuation, Self, self, ego, etc., until after his breakdown in the early period, right after his break with Freud. The concepts were the result of Jung’s attempt to formulate his experience.

        And it’s not that I think Hillman should not be criticized, but my sense is that some of the critics are not reading the same Hillman I am reading. My opinion, it seems as if Winthers is misinterpreting what Hillman actually said and assigning meaning to his works that I don’t see. Hillman had no desire to be a Jungian, Post-Jungian, or what have you. If there is a beef, it shouldn’t be with Hillman, but, rather, with the Jungians. There’s a lot of straw man arguements going on around Hillman, many coming from psychologists who are trying to align Jung’s ideas with their own brand of Christianity:

        Enough said, I think…well for now anyway!

        Do you have any thoughts?


  3. Spectacular piece.
    I have always wondered, quietly of course, why we get this idea that these aspects of our selves are split off into any part at all.
    Jung said it best when he said “I am glad I am Jung and not a Jungian.”
    We cannot help but see the world through the biases and paradigms of the world we inhabit. It is impossible to see it any other way if we are to communicate our ideas to others.
    I have always felt that the “anima,” “animus,” form was just Jung speaking through his bias.
    Just like the Big Book of A.A. which was written in 1935, could only see Ggod as a Him, I think Jung’s work is best understood by seeing his culture, knowing his history and understanding his bias.
    Awesome piece. You draw together ideas that left separate can be perceived as incongruent, but are really not.


    1. Hi Jim,

      Thank you for your kind words.
      Yes, I do agree with you. We cannot even see some of our biases until some future rearrangement of either culture or ideas brings forth something unknown to contrast them to.
      Thank you so much for the note.


  4. Thank you so very much for this post. You have at once educated me and confirmed a bias I too detected but had been unable to articulate so clearly. We are all products of our time, and no teacher’s words, however wise, are sacrosanct. I believe there is no authority between our own souls and The Divine, and while we learn and stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, so too must we contribute our own discoveries – and this especially true for women, whose voices have not been heard for far too long!

    Liked by 3 people

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