I was intrigued by the discussions of Jung and Jungian motifs, such as the sacred marriage, that sprang up in response to Mary Sharratt’s wonderful post “The Via Feminina: Revisioning the Heroine’s Journey,” partly based on Maureen Murdock’s book. Carol Christ pointed out the problematical nature of the whole notion of the sacred marriage, relying as it does on our stereotypes of the masculine and feminine.
Sara Wright reported that her sense of the dangers of Jungian thought led her to change her profession; she had once been a Jungian analyst. Barbara McHugh put forward a well-thought out and articulate version of the Heroine’s Journey, corrected for sexist thought.
Years ago, I taught a women’s literature class in which we examined five works of women’s literature through the lens of the hero journey archetype. In devising the class, I referenced Murdock’s book, as well as The Female Hero: In British and American Literature by Carol Pearson and Catherine Pope, a wonderful book of feminist literary criticism that I’ve turned to again and again over the years for insight, inspiration, and guidance. I was also influenced by Carol Christ’s terrific discussion of women’s spiritual journeys in Diving Deep and Surfacing. I taught a creative writing class I called Vision as Voice, which used stages of the hero journey as writing assignments.
The great bulk of my teaching, however, was on the Goddess—Goddess Worship in Prehistory and Women’s Spirituality. In my research for the class, the Jungians were among the first I encountered to acknowledge the existence of a matriarchal era and the persistence of the goddess in our psyche as an archetype. I think Esther Harding’s Women’s Mysteries was the first book that I read, following up on my own mystical experiences and intimations of the Divine Feminine. Erich Neumann followed, along with Sylvia Perera, Betty Smith, Christine Downing, and Jean Shinoda Bolen. I went to a weekend workshop on the Goddess with Joseph Campbell, based on the work of Marija Gimbutas, at Esalen Institute. I attended numerous slide lecture presentations by Campbell and others at the SF Jung Institute.
Over the years, I was no longer actively researching these subjects and I stopped receiving notices from the Jung Institute. By request, I was put back on their mailing list two years ago, and though I never attended anything, I enjoyed perusing the content of their workshops.
This came to a grinding halt one day when I saw the announcement for a workshop on the #Me Too Movement: Embodied Shame and Scapegoating Sexuality in Modern Day America. “Polarization and blame are on the rise in the social narrative. The perpetrator and victim complex is being enacted politically and culturally …”
Contrary to my expectation, the workshop was being taught by three women, an MD, a PhD, and an MFT. The illustration for the course was a statue of Proserpina attempting to fend off Pluto.
I was infuriated. Is this how depth psychology was framing this movement, a phenomenon of abuse and predation so prevalent as to be legion—apologizing for the perpetrators and blaming the victims? Is this how Harvey Weinstein saw himself when he yelled out after the verdict in the courtroom: “I’m innocent. This is America.”
My longstanding absence from the mailing list at the Jung Institute began to make sense. A path had forked in the woods and we had gone our separate ways.
When I saw the 2011 movie “A Dangerous Method,” about Jung’s affair with analysand Sabina Spielrein, I had a much clearer understanding of Freud’s break with him. This time, I saw the break from Freud’s point of view and I agreed with him.
The Jung Institute will be moving to my neighborhood in San Francisco this year, but I doubt I will be attending many (any?) of its lectures. Ideas and organizations once important can be outgrown and left behind. We move on, go in another direction. None the less, some of its ideas can be foundational to some of our own. The Hero/Heroine’s Journey, which can be tweaked and repurposed to our own ends, meanings, and values, is one of these for me.
The sky rolled back, a leaf was torn
A page dropped down and fell away,
As though I’d broken through a seal.
My hair stood up, as though some hand
Above my head had gathered it into a knot,
And then I heard my name.
I saw the crimson sky, the sun,
And then the Gotterdammerung, the ending of an age,
Amidst the blazing of the new.
And in the fatherland I saw a mechanistic thing of death,
A clock that ticks till it’s unwound,
An arms race to oblivion, and angels dancing on a pin.
Then the voice I’d heard before
Arose and spoke and said again,
The reign of men has run its course and reached an end,
It’s only years before it’s buried in the ground.
A silver scarab perched upon the wall.
A hand much larger than my own placed
The scarab in my mouth and bade me eat.
I chewed the living, bitter thing
Its blackened juice ran down my chin
I felt its struggling leg and wing inside my throat.
I screamed and writhed and then the scales fell from my eyes,
A sea of vision rushing in on me.
The strangest sea I’ve ever known, a remnant of an ancient mind
Atlantis and the Amazon, the matriarchal clan and tribe,
Repealed, taboo, now back again.
A new and glorious mind I had, so full of light
But darkness too.
And now the perfect balance struck,
The golden mean, the androgyne,
The equidistant sun and moon.
The earth shimmers in her radiant health,
Her dawning light and emerald dress, and precious dew.
O glorious day! O brave new world to be.
Sally Mansfield Abbott is the author of a coming-of-age novel, Miami in Virgo, that focuses on feminism and mysticism. She has taught classes on Goddess Worship in Prehistory at several colleges and universities in the Bay Area and is a poet and antiwar activist.