“From the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; hence the unconscious is…the very source of the creative impulse.”~Carl. G. Jung
“Without water, there is no life; so water is not an image or simile, but a symbol of life.” ~Tom Chetwynd, Dictionary of Symbols (p.422)
Water is not only a symbol of life. It is the very precondition of life. Without water, there can be no life. Is it any wonder that most cultures have associated water with the feminine and the dark depths of the unconscious? After all, it has always been the female of our species who gives birth to new life.
What does water have to do with the processes of your psyche? Chetwynd explains:
“The feminine unconscious moistens the dry, hard, conscious realm of the male Ego, and brings life to it. Vice versa, the too moist, the too emotional and unconscious, may need to be dried out in a fiery male domain (hellfire).
It’s crucial to understand that when Chetwynd uses the terms “feminine” and “male” as adjectives, he’s using them the same way Jungians do: as metaphors for the basic energies of the psyche of every man and woman. In Jungian terms, “masculine” and “feminine” are the primary pair of complementary opposites under which every other pair of opposites can be subsumed.
Thus, the moon is “feminine” and the sun is “masculine.” The unconscious is “dark” and “feminine” and the conscious Ego is “light” and “masculine.” Soul is “feminine” anima; Spirit is “masculine” animus.
Jungians are not the only ones who think like this. Throughout history we’ve always used words this way, not for the purpose of assigning different roles and characteristics to men and women, but in recognition of the fact that we all perceive life in terms of pairs of interconnected opposites.
Many languages assign feminine and masculine endings to words depending on their associations. For example, agricola, the Latin word for farmer, ends with “a,” a feminine suffix. This did not mean that only women could be farmers, but that the fertile earth and its life-sustaining vegetation was associated with femininity. Likewise, the word for wolf, lupus, ends with “us,” denoting masculinity. Obviously not all wolves are males; however, Latin speakers associated wolves with the animal ferocity of aggressive male warriors.
You’ve probably already realized that the same way of thinking designated the Latin word for Soul as anima, and the word for Spirit, animus.
“There is an alchemical saying: Man is the heaven of woman and woman is the earth of man. The woman’s task is to bring things down to earth.” ~Marie Louise von Franz, Psychological Perspectives by E. Rossi
That might have seemed appropriate to the alchemists, however, many Jungians today would not say it is a woman’s task, but the “feminine” task to bring things down to earth. Consider: What is the Latin for heavenly? Caelestibus. Masculine. And how about earth? Moon? Water? Terra, luna, aqua: feminine associations all.
Jung believed your purpose in life is to attain conscious union with the Self: your physical, earthy, sacred source, the life-sustaining fountain at your core composed of your animating (anima + mating?) anima and animus.
The Latin word for conscious union is neuter: coniunctio. And is there a Latin word for consciousness itself: “knowledge of self” or self-awareness? It appears there is. According to Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary, Cícero and Livy used the word conscientia to mean “self-consciousness.” Feminine.
Thinking in this symbolic way leads to a startling conclusion which logos thinking fails to grasp; which, in fact, our “male ego” seems to be fighting with all its might not to grasp lest it be forced to give up its presumption of primacy. Were it not for our feminine sides, we would have no animating, rejuvenating fountain, no Self, no ego, no psychological life. No consciousness.
We would not be sentient creatures. We would not feel, love, care, be aware of our bodies, perceive with our senses, think, imagine, will, or create. We could not surpass our ignorance, grow, change, become conscious of the miracle of life.
Every day, political leaders and common criminals alike demonstrate disrespect for the feminine elements of life by violating women and restricting their rights. Reinforcing hierarchies of male supremacy. Amassing wealth while permitting life-sustaining water and earth to be exploited and polluted. While this disrespect may serve the aims of the minimally-conscious “male ego,” it does not and cannot serve life.