Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Logos vs Eros: Should Manhood be Continued?

article by Bud Harris
The idea that male energy could be good has come to be considered impossible. Yet all the great cultures have lived with images of this energy.(1)  —Robert Bly
Recent years have brought a growing emphasis on the concept of androgyny. Are men and women basically alike underneath it all? If they are, should we strive for an androgynous plateau after doing away with cultural sex roles? Is our common bond in humanity the place we should equally meet? Or do the differences in the masculine and feminine really complement and enhance one another? What about the joyful, tender, romantic moments? Will they be homogenized out of existence? Or have they already been lost as we have replaced the mystery of sex and love with the technology of sex and “how to” manuals for relationships? Or have they been lost as we have become involved in the polemics of sexual politics that mark the angry suspicion that one sex is somehow ahead of the other?

Most writers and lecturers I have heard advocating androgyny have based their discussions on Plato’s myth of the androgyne or hermaphrodite.(2) Plato developed his ideas from myths of primordial unity already ancient by his era. According to Plato human beings came originally in three types: man-man who sprang from the sun, woman-woman who sprang from the earth, and man-woman who sprang from the moon and partakes the nature of both earth and sun. Each unit was joined back to back, had four arms, four legs, two sets of genitals and a single head with faces front and back. Each being formed a rounded whole that could walk upright, or run cartwheel fashion, but they could never face each other. Their strength, vigor, and pride were great and they began attacking the gods. Zeus decided to split them down the middle to make them weaker. From this time forward each individual would feel incomplete and seek to return to this ancient state of wholeness by merging with another person. This story has two important implications in addition to the need to merge. It sets the stage both for heterosexuality and homosexuality, and the genders are of equal significance. 

The myth of the androgyne implies a model of oneness that offers symbiotic comfort on the one hand, and the angst of separation on the other. This implication can be interpreted in many ways, and can be metaphorically connected to a host of psychological issues such as inflation, separation anxiety, and so forth. But most advocates of androgyny idealistically see a possibility for the reunification of these opposites that will result in a higher total consciousness. In fact, this view is usually masking a deep longing for an easy way out—a “return to paradise”—that ignores the importance of conscious awareness, discrimination, and the true value of opposites (three important points I will continue to discuss throughout this book). Indeed, analytical psychologists (analytical psychology is the name given to the psychology of C.G. Jung) consider the process of “separating the opposites” as the ego develops from the unconscious to be the origin of consciousness. This means that real life will never be a perfect unity and real people will always experience tension and conflicts from the fact of “opposites,” such as good and evil, “I and thou,” light and dark.

In one of the many Hindu myths of creation,(3) nothing exists except in the form of Brahma. Seeing that he is alone, Brahma is lonely and afraid. In his desire for company, he sees he is large enough to be more than one and splits himself into two pieces. These two halves became a husband and a wife. From this splitting we also came to experience ourselves as incomplete in the absence of the other. This story, however, has a slightly different twist from Plato’s. Brahma fills his emptiness with his wife. They make love and create the people in the world; but when she realizes she had once been part of the husband who now makes love to her, she feels ashamed. Trying to escape his embrace, she turns into a series of animals. At each transformation, Brahma also turns into the male of the same animal and makes love to her. In this way all living things are created in pairs.

Here, as in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the feminine was originally contained in the masculine. Elsewhere, the concepts of masculine and feminine are often conceptualized according to the ancient Eastern principles or images of Yang and Yin. Everything in the world partakes of various portions of Yang and Yin including both men and women. The Yang/Yin principles are symbolic representations of masculine and feminine energies: the Yang principle is thought of as being the creative or generative element, the initiating energy, penetrating power, strength, impulsation, aggressiveness and arousal. It is assertive and outgoing. It is represented as heaven, sun, and spirit, and manifests itself in discipline, discrimination and separation. Yin, on the other hand, is represented as receptive, yielding, withdrawing, cool, wet, dark, and containing. It is form-giving, connecting and collective—not spirit, but nature.

Eastern mystics tell us that they experience all things and events, including the Yin/Yang principles, as manifestations of a basic oneness. But at the same time they recognize the individuality of each thing and by no means suggest that all things are equal. They maintain that all differences and contrasts are relative within a universal unity. These mystics attempt to transcend purely intellectual concepts by developing an awareness of the relativity and polar relationship of opposites. If we focus our attention on one concept, we have also, by this very act, created its opposite. Lao Tzu says, “When all in the world understand beauty to be beautiful, then ugliness exists. . . .” Good and evil, pleasure and pain, life and death, and yes, even masculine and feminine, are not absolute experiences belonging to different categories, but simply two sides of the same reality and extreme parts of a larger whole. When examining the Eastern concepts, we must be careful to remember that they are never static. There is always a dynamic interplay between the two extremes. An overemphasis on one pole necessitates a need for bringing the opposite pole into prominence. The development of awareness emphasizes the notion of dynamic balance in the experiencing of the opposites. In nature, the cycles of life circle continually. Only human beings have the capacity to create a temporary static plateau such as Western man has created by traditionally favoring the Yang over the Yin. Such a polarity of position (in terms of dynamic energy) invites a “backlash” from the opposite polar position as nature attempts to correct the imbalance.

Depth psychology has been profoundly influenced by the theory of opposites giving us a picture of the human being made up of entirely mutually opposite tendencies—intellect and feeling, introvert and extrovert, masculine and feminine, and the amoral drives of instincts and the conscious moral codes, to name a few examples. If we look around, we can see daily confirmations of these affiliations. Priests and ministers have affairs, respectable matrons shoplift, intellectuals make relationships a series of reasoned propositions, professors fall madly in love with young students, ideal marriages end in vicious divorces, and in the name of play men make games a competitive science. We can all remember from childhood when something was going to be done to us for “our own good” and we usually anticipated the result to entail suffering. This notion of opposites is one you will frequently encounter as you pursue this book.

Myths and stories almost as old as time (Oedipus, for example) inform us that fate strikes us through “not-knowing,” the lack of self-awareness that the myth illustrates. Conscious awareness of life’s cycles and forces is the only way to prevent us from being constantly thrown back and forth between polarities, compelling fate to punish us with tragedies. Conscious awareness is the indispensable condition for maintaining a dynamic balance between the opposites and transcending the tensions expressed in the different sides of human nature as well as the universe.

The beauty of the Eastern concepts of Yang and Yin is that they are not combative. They complement each other as opposites (retaining their own identities), reaching toward a universal harmony. The receptive completes the creative and the creative completes the receptive. Most importantly, both principles exist in men and women.

C.G. Jung, in his effort to examine the ongoing core of human problems, showed us that just as every man has recessive female chromosomes and hormones, he also has a group of psychological characteristics that make up a minority feminine element in his personality. A woman, likewise, has a psychological masculine minority component within her.(4) Jung uses the terms masculine and feminine to denote age-old principles much as the Eastern mystics did—not to describe cultural roles or stereotypes. Therefore, in normal development each man has a predominantly masculine personality with a complementary feminine component, and each woman has a predominantly feminine personality with a complementary masculine component. Men and women come in many varieties, however. His theory does not limit the roles and lifestyles of men and women nor how they may express themselves. The man’s feminine side Jung called the anima, the woman’s masculine side he called the animus.

Jung also continued using the term eros to describe what he conceived of as the feminine principle. Eros in the Jungian sense generally means personal relatedness, a keen interest in relationships and a prevailing attitude that works for conciliation and reconciliation. Eros evokes self-integration, subjectivity, and the concerns of individuals. Eros is rooted in the material universe and the earthy feminine qualities such as passivity and receptivity.

Contrasting with eros is the word logos, representing the masculine principle. Logos signifies power, meaning, deeds, and ideas. Logos stands for objectivity, structure, discrimination, and the abstract. Logos is also equated with the spiritual in the sense of the non-material. Jung emphasized that both eros and logos are equally necessary in human life and complement each other.

As I proceed I will try to deal with our individual differences without devaluing any of the components. We are accustomed to thinking otherwise, but differences in the sexes does not imply discrimination or roles. When we deny the differences, physical and psychological, we take a destructive path, because we are then denying essential components of our physical, sexual, and psychological identities. To deny the differences devalues the effects we have on each other and the need we all have for the confrontation of the other in order to help us find out most fully who we are, how we are different from and how we are like those closest to us. It also denies us the healing power of the other and our own capacity to be healers in the human arena of differences. My conclusion is the same as Jung’s: as individuals we have dominant and complementary components, and like the Eastern mystics (and Jung as well), I see the masculine and feminine components as equal, of necessity complementing each other as universal forces. The gift of each enhances the other.

The masculine and feminine, logos and eros, grow hand in hand in healthy circumstances. Over and over as I have dealt with people in therapy, first one grows and then the other. They follow each other step by step as if endeavoring to maintain their balance. The masculine inspires the feminine and the feminine inspires the masculine.

Robert Bly notes that “the idea that any male energy when in authority could be good has come to be considered impossible.”(5) Bly tells us the Greeks understood the nature of the positive male energy and termed it Zeus-energy. This energy includes intelligence, compassionate authority, health, physical authority, good will and leadership, and it represents positive power when utilized by the male to be of service to the community. He further states that all the great cultures since the Greeks have lived with images of this energy—except ours. This Zeus energy has been disintegrating in our culture.

The destruction of Zeus energy is reflected in comic strips and television situation comedies where the male appears childish and foolish and is saved or directed by his practical, intelligent (and managerial/matriarchal) wife. These insidious attacks combine with the absent or almost absent father and the aggressive stance of women to indoctrinate boys, starting at a very young age. For several generations our sons have tried to become men not only without connecting to the teachings and energies of older men, but also in the face of cultural denigration of the masculine. The absence of full-fledged masculine models and a cultural tradition of masculine development has abandoned boys to the conflicting influences of the media, marketing, and popular social causes as these boys struggle to form male identities. Often boys are left with a deep sense of anger resulting from society’s failure to meet their developmental needs. Boys trying to grow up have little understanding of their anger and how to deal with it. Sometimes they express it antisocially, but most often it is internalized and then projected onto women from a deep unconscious wound in their personality. We are so lost in our development that we not only need to learn about the masculine and the feminine, we need to relearn what masculinity really is.

The quest is now to discover how to renew manhood. From this renewal we can determine again how to define ourselves as men, how to become the individuals we already are in potential, and how to absorb and integrate the shocks we have endured—such as the changes in women.

Bud Harris is a diplomate of the C.G. Jung Institute in Z├╝rich, Switzerland. He and his wife, Massimilla Harris, are practicing Jungian analyst in Asheville, NC. Dr. Harris is the author of several publications including Resurrecting the Unicorn: Masculinity in the 21st Century and The Art of Love: The Craft of Relationship.

(1) Keith Thompson, “What Men Really Want: A New Age Interview with Robert Bly,” in New Age Magazine, May 1982, p. 51.
(2) Plato, The Symposium, translated by W. Hamilton (New York: Penguin, 1917).
(3) Sheldon Kopp, Here I Am, Wasn’t I (New York: Bantam, 1986). See the discussion on creation on pages 30-36 of Resurrecting the Unicorn.
(4) C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 9i, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Bollingen Series, Vol XX, ¶. 512.
(5) Keith Thompson, “What Men Really Want,” p. 51.
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