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that James Hillman was out to repudiate the work of C.G. Jung, I will write briefly here about his effort to correct an outdated idea of Jung’s. In response to Jung’s idea of anima, Hillman gives us a welcomed and necessary corrective written from the vantage point of living in a very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

19 thoughts on “Anima Rising

  1. Very cool distinction! It reminds me that it’s one thing to be alone, experiencing what I have come to call communion, where a sense of the divine seems to be pouring through me, giving me a feeling of being alive to powers that are beyond me, but it’s another to carry that feeling and to see the divine in every person that I meet. Although I am aware of the need to practice, to bring into life, the love that I desire for myself, to others, but I am not able to sustain that much generosity for very long!

    I am guessing that by “reaching a station” you mean to leave behind the temptation to become wholly absorbed in states of divine bliss, to be in service to others, to carry those states into a broken world that very much needs divine presence? I’m attempting to put into words my understanding of what Mother Theresa (and others) were doing.

    Having been an official member of five different religious communities (Methodist, Congregationalist, Baha’i, Ananda and Catholic, in that order), I swore off joining any more churches for as long as I am able. It’s freeing to take in the ideas and work with the practices that I learn along the way. But “freeing” may not be anything more than a way to dodge a more challenging practice or being more generous with my time to those in need. Admittedly, it is difficult for me not to spend my time in pursuit of my interests. If someday these pursuits bring something of value to others, that would not be because of some noble generosity on my part. 🙂

    So, I agree with you when you state in your post that it’s not fair to criticize unless you are truly a servant yourself.


  2. theburningheart

    Well, in life there is no such a thing as a static state, due to the always changing Nature of it.
    However experiencing bliss, its seeing either as SatChitAnanda, like in the Hindu Tradition, our true Nature, or as Fanā a stage of intoxication similar to drunkenness, in the Sufi tradition its considered just a stage, like in the many Rumi poems:
    “Lovers drink wine all day and night and tear the veils of the mind.
    When drunk with love’s wine, body, heart and soul become one.”
    But the higher state Bakā is Divine sobriety.

    “There are thousands of wines that can take over our minds. Don’t think all ecstasies are the same!”

    Returning from the trance that is Fanā, the “return to the world…is not a simple return to the pre-fanā state of the mystic, since his / her experience, has given the individual an altogether a new insight” Bakā is taking the spiritual knowledge and wisdom gained from Fanā and applying it to one’s daily life, “to be constantly both with God and with the world” To understand the world in both its physical attributes and the acknowledging that God is at the heart of everything is the highest achievement of Sufism.

    Its nice to be high, but not important.
    In the Sufi path its more important to acquire Stations, and not states, the states come and go, meaning our changing moods, blissful or not, Stations on the other hand are Spiritual achievement the sort of the one Mother Teresa had, she never experienced bliss, and I wrote:

    “Mother Teresa was a human being, maybe she did a lot of mistakes like we all do, but she worked tirelessly most of her life helping the downtrodden, and that in my opinion, it is to have achieved a higher Spiritual Station, regardless if she never experienced bliss, or ecstasy like some saints do, the more merit to her since she only relied on Faith to sustain her, and to persist on her work despite her dark night of the soul.”

    For years experienced drunkenness, and thought I had finally reached my goal, just to realize it was not important, as to reach a Station.

    Today drunkenness may come as a Grace, but now I know its not the goal of the seeker, deeds are more important.

    Blessings to you Debra. 🙂

    ,and sobriety consider as a higher Spiritual states


  3. theburningheart

    I have read some of Jung works, not entirely since I find him all over the place, and at some points dull, however he had some great insights, on the other part Hillman remember reading him as more contemporary view on Jung work, and he made sense to me, for which I agree with your view Debra.

    Something I would like to comment because the struggle of Women in our societies to find a voice, and the discrimination that its a daily reality to our days, even if more enlightened that at the beginning of the 20th century, still lacks a complete view of the feminine, and men in general see women as a ‘Mystery’ but a necessary counterpart to men.

    I do not pretend to know the many issues women face day, to day, being a man, however my curiosity on Spiritual matters, and my love for the feminine, have take me to consider women as equals, and counterparts of men, and that inside of each of us there’s an Anima, or Animus its the same thing but with the reversal role.

    Something I would like to share with you its the Power of the Shakti understood, and experienced by Indian sages through millennia, and maybe as old as time. that it will surprise many because being the Feminine aspect of Shiva the male, the word Shakti or Śakti; literally means; “power, ability, strength, effort, energy, capability”

    Meanwhile our Western society correlate those words more with the masculine, than with the feminine.

    When the Yogi on his Sadhana literally means accomplishing something, it refers to any spiritual exercise that is aimed at progressing the sādhaka towards the very ultimate expression of his or her life in this reality.

    The sādhaka goal its to wake up this force hidden within, and once he is able to do that, the Shakti takes over, and takes care of the rest, and the sādhaka has no need to worry about anything else, but to follow the commands of Shakti.

    I got no idea if Jung, or Hillman wrote about this but as Archetypes, and not as a latent power inside all of us.
    However as a practitioner of Yoga for quite a long time, I can attest to it.

    Blessings to you Debra 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The notion of soul, and whether or not it is different in men and women, is at least an opportunity to be aware of the ways in which we cannot help but feel some difference between the sexes. I like to think that when we can feel difference, there is a chance for differentiation to become a quality of how we see the other. To not assume, because of the sexual difference, is truly an opportunity to live and explore through the differences, not so much to obliterate them, but to experience something from and with the other that we can’t without them.

      And as well, where the contrasexual situation evokes difference, can we also see that the relations between males and between females, is more prone to states of identity where we assume more likeness? Through the identity of likeness, we might see more ourselves on the other, and that is a different, if still much needed perspective.

      Perhaps both relationships, in comparison to each other offer us a more transcendent view of relationships in general, something that seems more and more out of reach in modern culture where our need for each other, at least based on survival or economical purposes, has decreased, especially in western affluent cultures. Although I am not arguing here for a return to a time when women, especially, had fewer to no choices, acknowledging the trade off might help us understand the dynamics that personal and cultural changes brought.

      I appreciate your acknowledgement of the difficulties that women can and do still face. In some ways, the physical nature of the sexual differences will always be with us, just as it is between adults and children and any relationship dynamic where there is a disparity in strength, skill or societal/political position. My understanding here, is that weakness itself needs to be both respected and protected, but that it can’t be protected without first being respected. Perhaps when we see beauty in weakness, as much, or even more than we do in strength, love finds us wanting to serve where a strength has something to offer a weakness. The difficulty remains because imbalances of power will always afford the strong the ability to harm the weak. Water and gravity metaphors provide us with an image that might help (Taoist thought is helpful here). Water is life in so many ways. Moisture is a primary quality of living things, and its loss surely can be seen in moving towards dying and death. Water though, does not resist and yet can and does move and form mountains. I like to think of feminine power as having a similar nature to water.

      Thank you for introducing me to Sadhaka and Shakti. I had to do some research to more fully appreciate your thoughts here:

      “The sādhaka goal its to wake up this force hidden within, and once he is able to do that, the Shakti takes over, and takes care of the rest, and the sādhaka has no need to worry about anything else, but to follow the commands of Shakti.”

      Shakti then is associated with Kundalini? I have physically experienced this force, and although I know somehow the experience re-organized me in ways that cannot be fully articulated, I would say that even though I have become more sensitized since the experience, I would not say I have reached any goal, or static state, but have gained an ability to suffer more intentionally, and to trust that the suffering wants something and will, in time, reveal something to me that is much needed.

      I wonder what your thoughts are on states of enlightenment? I struggle with the notion that as fluid creatures, living in the day-to-day of endless changes in world of coming and going, how could there be a static state? I am most likely misunderstanding what the nature of enlightenment is, but how would one know what one has yet to experience? 🙂 Honestly, I find it useful to be aware of what one strives for, not in order to plan a course of action for achievement, but to know better the heart, and especially to locate the fear of being within what one does not have, or what one is not, if that makes any sense!

      Blessings to you as well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rachel NB

    I have an additional feeling regarding this, so obvious, and yet heretical that it is hard to discuss without a level of outrage. For men, the soul is often deeply unconscious, or they are possessed by it – still this possession is unconscious. For women, we are soul. As is the natural world. This is more conscious to us, our connection to, as well as, the rhythms of nature. It is far more conscious, and spirit is less conscious. In this light, it is men who are distanced from soul, not women or the world we are closer to. The projection of soullessness on us, and on the animal kingdom, is not real, but a projection of the masculine state itself. It is not women and the world who are without soul, but men! Who are distanced from it! Animus is this distance, this discrimination and separation, it is connected to the distant light of spirit and mind. It is without soul, until is has connected to the soul of feminine being, consciously or unconsciously.


  5. 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!


  6. 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?


  7. 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.


  8. 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

Your comments welcome here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.