Further Brief Thoughts on Jung and the Divine Feminine
In response to a recent article of mine on Carl Jung and the need for a revival of the Divine Feminine, Wes Hansen has published a response. Much of this seems irrelevant to me, namely his involvement with two cults which had absolutely no connection with Jung — at least Hansen doesn’t mention any. He also references two writers obviously hostile to Jung — Donald Lopez Jr. and Richard Noll. He quotes the first as if his highly subjective and debatable statement is the truth. The second is the author of The Jung Cult, so his title shows where he is coming from.
None of that is meant to suggest that Jung was perfect or beyond criticism. However, I’m not going to get into a discussion of it— please check out Hansen’s article if interested. I’ll just focus on his main point. He says: “I am just confounded by this idea that the Virgin Mother is said to represent matter. It baffles me”. He later says: “It seems quite clear to me, what the Mother Mary represents, and it’s not matter. I cannot even imagine that association. The symbolic, metaphorical elements of Mother Mary are the fact that she is virgin and impregnated by the Holy Spirit: this just is, gnosis! The Virgin Mother represents gnosis and gnosis is responsible for the spiritual birth”. “The Virgin Mother as matter!?! It makes absolutely no sense to me”.
He is referring to certain comments in my article about the Catholic Church’s announcement of the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the implication being that Mary had been incorporated into the Godhead, and had become divine. Frank McLynn, one of Jung’s biographers, had said that for Jung this meant “the enthronement of the feminine principle; the integration of matter”, and comments “Christianity was at last jettisoning its age-old disdain for matter”; the Doctrine raised “a symbol of matter to the level of godhead”. Hansen then mentions a comment of mine from the comment thread with Armand Diaz: “But in Christianity both the Devil and the Feminine are missing. I wouldn’t want to equate the two, except in the sense that Mother Mary is a symbol of matter, and Christianity equates this world with original sin”.
Hansen is not against the idea of a Divine Feminine in principle, for he says that “in tantric Buddhism we have the Yab/Yum (Father/Mother), an image of a Celestial Buddha with consort”. His alternative understanding is that “Mother Mary was NOT the biological mother of Jesus, rather, she was the spiritual mother of the Christ”. (For more details of his argument, please see his article.)
Some clarification of my article is therefore necessary. We have to distinguish between the figure of the (supposedly) virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, as presented in the New Testament, and the fact that the Church decided to elevate this figure to the status of divinity. As McLynn says: “the fact that Mary was now a goddess seemed to Jung to pose theological problems overlooked by the papal advisers”.
I don’t understand why the association between ‘matter’ and ‘mother’ makes no sense to Hansen. It is not always possible to be completely certain about the etymology of a word, given the thousands of years of language evolution. However, an association between ‘matter’ and ‘mother’ is well known, and possibly established. For example, this website says that, according to two researchers de Vaan and Watkins, ‘matter’ is derived from ‘mater’, or “origin, source, mother”. ‘Mater’, both the Latin and an old-fashioned word for ‘mother’, is very close to ‘matter’. It is quite likely therefore that there is an etymological connection.
It is the Divine Feminine (Great Mother) that is associated with — or is a symbol of — matter, not the Virgin Mary. This may account for the reason that God is often considered masculine. In the philosophy of panentheism God is both transcendent and immanent. This can be interpreted as God transcendent as spirit/creator (male), God immanent as the material world (female). In various mythologies we have a Sky Father and an Earth Mother. Even in modern times, we still speak of Mother Nature and Mother Earth.
Another example can be found in the Tao Te Ching which says that “the nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things”. The feminine principle is therefore seen as the source of the material world.
Whether or not you agree with any of this is not the point; the association between Mother and Matter is clear. It was the Church’s decision to elevate the Virgin Mary to the status of divinity that created the association with matter, not her role as the (virgin) mother of Jesus.
Wes Hansen has reacted strongly to this article. Please see his responses.
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