When an archetype of which we’ve been unaware makes its way into collective consciousness its shadow often emerges first. The more strongly it’s been repressed the more negatively its shadow will express itself. The Androgyne is no exception. If the healthy Androgyne gives equal respect to the masculine and feminine drives which are the psyche’s two basic forms of life-energy, the unhealthy Androgyne disowns one or both.
Imagine a man who obsesses over his masculine side and completely represses his feminine side. In his outer life this shows up in rigid role stereotypes and extreme, sometimes violent, prejudice against women. Patriarchal societies still provide plenty of examples of this kind of one-sidedness.
An apt image of the shadow Androgyne entered collective consciousness in the early 18th century with the introduction of the vampire. In those days vampires were almost always macho males who victimized females, but now they have markedly androgynous characteristics. Why? Because we are becoming more aware of the Androgyne archetype and realizing that if healthy Androgynes honor both drives, shadow Androgynes — vampires — kill both.
Life is generated by the interaction between opposites. Without tension between the north and south poles there would be no electromagnetic field and life would not exist on Earth. Likewise, tension between pairs of psychological opposites creates our psyche’s life-energy. If we cannot tolerate this tension and if we take extreme measures to escape it, the result can be addictions which sap our life-energy. Then we are like the living dead, lethargically sucking the energy out of those who love us with deceit, blame, and irresponsible behavior.
During the day vampires sleep in coffins because sunlight will kill them. People with severely repressed life-energy are the same. Failure to develop one or both drives destroys our creativity and hope of enlightenment. Repression leads to depression. In the dark nights of our souls we function as though dead, unable to experience the sunny warmth of meaningful work or the pleasure of living, loving, being.
And a final example: In the novels of Anne Rice the flesh of vampires becomes harder and colder over time. Interestingly, Dr. Alexander Lowen, founder of bioenergetics, says in The Spirituality of the Body that stiffness and rigidity characterize the bodies of people who lack psychological integration.
Why are we so obsessed with vampires? Because our souls know the Androgyne archetype is re-awakening but our egos are having a very tough time accepting it. Why are we experiencing an epidemic of lethargy, depression, hopelessness and meaninglessness? Because our resistance to our inner opposites is wearing us down. Where’s the societal polarization, religious fanaticism, and political mean-spiritedness coming from? Society’s ignorance of its shadow and unconscious need to project it onto others.
Why can’t we get enough of vampires? Because focusing on their flaws takes the heat off us. Because we hope that if we can understand them, maybe we can understand ourselves.
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.