When the masculine and the feminine are in balance, there
is fluidity, relationship, a flow of energy, unity, totality. This fluidity
and balance is perhaps best illustrated by the Taoist image of the indissoluble
relationship and complementarity of Yin and Yang. In the broadest terms,
the feminine is a containing pattern of energy: receptive, connecting,
holding things in relationship to each other; the masculine is an expanding
pattern of energy: seeking extension, expansion towards what is beyond.
More specifically, the feminine reflects the instinctual matrix and
the feeling (heart) values of consciousness; the masculine reflects
the questing, goal-defining, ordering, discriminating qualities of consciousness,
generally associated with mind or intellect. For millennia women have
lived closer to the first pattern; men to the second. But now, there
is a deep impulse to balance these within ourselves and our culture.
There is an urgent need to temper the present over-emphasis on the masculine
value with a conscious effort to integrate the feminine one.
----- In the ancient world the feminine
principle in the image of the goddess stood for the principle of relationship: the hidden connection of all things to each other. Secondly, it stood
for justice, wisdom and compassion. Thirdly, and most importantly, it
was identified with the unseen dimension beyond the known world — a
dimension that may be imagined as a vast and invisible matrix or web
connecting unmanifest spirit with manifest nature. The word used then
to name this matrix was Great Mother or Goddess; later it became soul.
The feminine principle offered an image of the oneness, sacredness and
inviolability of all life; the phenomenal world (nature, matter, body)
was regarded as sacred because it was a theophany or manifestation of
----- The greatest flaw in patriarchal
civilisation has been the over-emphasis on the masculine archetype (identified
with spirit) and the devaluation of the feminine one (identified with
nature). This has been reflected in the fact that the god-head has no
feminine dimension, in the neglect of the soul and in the misogyny responsible
for the oppression and suffering of women. The history of the last 4000
years has been forged by men, determined by male perspectives and directed
towards goals defined by men – principally the goal of conquest. (this
is no sense intended as a criticism; in the context of prevailing belief
systems and general level of consciousness, things could not have been
----- However, because of the powerful
influence of this long formative experience on the development of religion
and science as well as our cultural ideas and patterns of behaviour, civilisation has been built on this unbalanced foundation. Throughout
this time, everything designated as "feminine" (nature, body, woman)
was devalued and repressed, and with it the rich diversity of the Pagan
legacy of the ancient world. In the domain of religion, heretics were
eliminated; diverse ways of relating directly to the transcendent were
lost. Naturally, this created a deep imbalance in the culture and in
the human psyche. It has led finally to the tyrannies of the twentieth
century where the lives of some 200 million people have been sacrificed
to totalitarian regimes. We can see the brutal legacy of this imbalance
in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Kosovo (as well as currenly in many different areas of the world). But we can also see it in the ethos which still dominates
modern Western culture. The modern tyrant is the extreme reflection
of a deeply-rooted pathology derived from a long-standing cultural imbalance
between the masculine and feminine archetypes and, at the human level,
between men and women. I would like to read you this extract from a
"This is…a world of monstrous tyranny. Everywhere
there are governments which by design or neglect are starving people,
wrecking their livelihoods, breaking up their families. Everywhere there
is the oppression of women, of other races, of ways of life which are
dear to people. Property is confiscated, villages are set on fire, disease
and malnutrition left to rage unchecked. And what all these victims,
tens of millions of them, have in common - what brings their suffering
to the forefront of my indignation - is this: they did not ask for this;
they cannot avoid this; there is nothing they can do to change this;
they have no choice." (Matthew Parris, The "Times,"London 6/9/98)
-----Where there is no relationship
and balance between the masculine and feminine principles, the masculine
principle becomes pathologically exaggerated, inflated; the feminine
pathologically diminished, inarticulate, ineffective. The symptoms of
a pathological masculine are rigidity, dogmatic inflexibility, omnipotence,
and an obsession with or addiction to power and control. There will
be a clear definition of goals but no receptivity to ideas and values
which conflict with these goals. The horizon of the human imagination
will be restricted by an overt or subtle censorship. We can see this
pathology reflected today in the ruthless values which govern the media,
politics, and the technological drive of the modern world. We can see
the predatory impulse to acquire or to conquer new territory, in the
drive for global control of world markets, in the ideology of perpetual
growth, in new technologies such as the genetic modification of food.
We see exaggerated competitiveness: the drive to go further, grow faster,
achieve more, acquire more, elevated to the status of a cult. There
is contempt for the feeling values grounded in the experience of relationship
with others, with other species, and with the environment. There is
a predatory and compulsive sexuality in both men and women who increasingly
lose the capacity for relationship. There is continuous expansion in
a linear sense but no expansion in depth, in insight. The pressure of
things to do constantly accelerates.
----- The result? Exhaustion, anxiety,
depression, illness which afflict more and more people. There is no
time or place for human relationships. Above all, there is no time for
relationship with the dimension of spirit. The water of life no longer
flows. Men and women and, above all, children, become the victims of
this harsh, competitive, uncaring ethos. Women, in their desire to be
accepted in a world ruled by men, and because the feminine value has
no clear definition or recognition in our culture, are drawn to copy
the pathological image of the masculine which itself incorporates fear
of the feminine.
----- Because to a large extent, this whole
situation arises unconsciously, not much can be done about it until
catastrophe intervenes. Reflecting on this, I remembered the following
Once, not long ago, there was a great drought in a
province of China. The situation was catastrophic. The Catholics made
processions, the Protestants made prayers, and the Chinese burned joss-sticks
and shot off guns to frighten away the demons of the drought; but to
no avail. Finally the people said: "We will fetch the rain-maker." And
from another province a dried up old man appeared. The only thing he
asked for was a quiet little house somewhere, and there he locked himself
in for three days. On the fourth day the clouds gathered and there was
a great snow-storm at the time of year when no snow was expected - an
unusual amount - and the town was filled with rumours about the wonderful
rain-maker. Asked what he had been doing during the three days that
had caused the snow to fall on the fourth he said: "I come from another
country where things are in order. Here they are out of order; they
are not as they should be by the ordinance of heaven. Therefore the
whole country is not in Tao, and I also am not in the natural order
of things because I am in a disordered country. So I had to wait three
days until I was back in Tao and then naturally, the rain came."
-----The rain-maker did
not do anything. He waited until he was in balance. Then, his quality
of being rectified the state of imbalance that existed around him. Perhaps
we need to become rain-makers...
----- I feel we are living in a time of
kairos - a mythic time of choice - a time of stupendous scientific
discoveries which are enlarging our vision of the universe, shattering
the vessel of our old concepts about the nature of reality. Yet the
delicate organism of life on our planet and the survival of our species
are threatened as never before by technologies driven by an ethos of
the conquest and control of nature, technologies applied with an utter
disregard of the perils of our interference with the complex web of
relationships upon which the life of our species depends. The choice
is between clinging to an outworn and unbalanced ethos and maturing
beyond it towards a more responsible and sensitive capacity for relationship.
If we are unable to develop this empathic capacity to relate, we will
surely destroy ourselves and the environment that sustains our life.
----- So how could we help to redress the
balance between the masculine and feminine in ourselves and in our culture?
First of all, where are we, as individuals out of balance? Where are
we driven by the unbalanced cultural ethos of achieving power and control,
ignoring our feelings of depression, anxiety or symptoms of our body's
distress? Are we allowing ourselves enough time for reflection, for
relationships, for connection with a deeper dimension of reality?
----- The priority as I see it is to make
the fact of this pathology a matter of public discussion. Shift the
emphasis from achieving power to achieving balance. Secondly, here are
some suggestions for strengthening the feminine principle in our society.
----- 1. Free the Imagination from
the stranglehold exercised by a controlling minority which banishes
the non-rational from inclusion in our understanding of life and the education of our children.
----- 2. Formulate a new image of spirit
as the totality of all that is – both seen and unseen. Recover the lost
and devalued feminine aspects of spirit: restore nature, matter and
the physical body (including sexuality) to the realm of the sacred.
----- 3. Imagine the Soul as a cosmic
internet. We belong to an immense unseen field or matrix of relationships.
We could imagine the soul in this new way as something we belong to
and can develop a conscious relationship with.
----- 4. Religion - Relinquish the
dogmatic formulations of the past. Recognise the negative effects of
deeply rooted beliefs – such as the belief in original sin – on our
interpretation of life and its meaning. Welcome the idea of direct individual
experience of the sacred and the numinous.
----- 5. Science - Integrate the
principle of empathic relationship with what is studied in scientific
teaching and practice. In the field of education aim to give children an empathic
understanding of their own bodies and of nature. Help them to see the
universe and the body as an organism rather than a mechanism. Help them
to become aware of their environment as a great web of relationships
in which their own lives are embedded. Nourish their sense of wonder
----- 6. The psyche: develop a greater
insight into predatory and psychopathic patterns of behaviour. Learn
to recognise and transform patterns of imbalance. Devise ways of healing
the split between mind and soul and mind and body. Recognise that feeling is a valid mode
of perceiving reality and needs to be integrated with thinking.
----- 7. Politics: develop a forum
beyond national and international politics where the true problems of
the planet can be articulated and addressed. Recognise grandiosity,
standardisation, the drive for control, the proliferation of bureaucracy
as symptoms of the pathology of an inflated and unrelated masculine
principle which seeks to manipulate and control.
----- 8. Medicine: integrate complementary
methods of healing with orthodox ones as a deliberate policy. Focus
on preventive medicine. The modern GP has no time for an empathic relationship
with his or her patient. The pressure of numbers is simply too great.
However, in some surgeries and hospitals complementary practices are
being integrated with orthodox ones. This integration could be expanded.
----- 9. Agriculture: Focus on increasing
the production of organic food. Removal of pesticides, anti-biotics
and toxins from our food and water.
----- 10. Care of Children: Aim for a much
higher level of perinatal care. Attention to the quality of children's diet
and to nourishing the imagination as well as the mind.
----- 11. Educate Women to be aware
of their own specific value and the importance of their contribution
to the culture. Give far greater attention to women's physical and emotional
well-being during pregnancy and after birth. Recognition of the need
to learn how to articulate feeling values without fear or shame. The
vital importance for both women and men of choosing partners with greater
care; value and prepare for the responsibility of parenthood.
----- 12. Educate Adolescents in
awareness of the responsibility of bcoming a parent. Teach them the psychology of the child; its dependency; its sensitivity,
its potential for emotional growth. Teach them about the fascinating
discoveries of neuro-science so they understand how their emotions affect
their bodies and vice-versa. Ask them to invent ways of caring for the
----- 13. Control bulling by raising
the profile of this pattern of behaviour. Institute a deliberate policy
of making schools a sanctuary. Children could help to make their own
schools sanctuaries. Meditation in schools from the beginning - positive
effects on capacity to learn and emotional balance.
----- 14. Teaching Methods: integrate
imaginative right-hemispheric consciousness with the linear consciousness
of the left hemisphere – opening to the creative power of the image
– poetry, art, drama and music. Balance in the curriculum between developing
the capacity for logical thought and creative imagining and participation.
This poem by a 12 year old boy at school in Southampton shows how a
teacher can provide the environment in which a child can dare to express
his true feelings:
I hear my inner voice talking to me,
Opening the part of me that I thought was lost.
In this world of cruelty and fear little lights are burning.
Everyone has a flame inside their hearts,
If only they had the courage to find it.
The light can trickle out through a hole in your mind.
When the inside is out
You are transformed and revealed.
There is no need to be afraid,
But be curious
As you will probably never know
where the force is coming from. ----- -----
Jonathan Schell wrote the following
words in his book, The Fate of the Earth, "Because everything
we do and everything we are is in jeopardy, every person is the right
person to act and every moment is the right moment to begin." Each of
us is called to focus on re-balancing the masculine and feminine in
ourselves and in our culture. This could effect a profound alchemy in
our lives. Women and men could both participate in a process of transformation
which could bring into being a new cultural focus whose emphasis is
no longer on power and control but on relationship, balance and connectedness.
The phrase "the conquest of nature" could be replaced by the awareness
that humanity and nature participate in a deeper and still unknown reality
which embraces them both.
----- At the end of The Undiscovered
Self, Jung asks, "Does the individual know that he [and she]
is the make-weight that tips the scales…that infinitesimal unit on whom
a world depends, and in whom, if we read the meaning of the Christian
message aright, even God seeks his goal?" Millions of people have no
choice. Those of us who do have a measure of choice could rise to the
immense challenge of defining and living a new and responsible role
in relation to each other and our planetary home.