Masculine and Feminine in the Psyche

The model of the archetypal masculine and feminine described here is that of Gareth Hill, who draws from the groundbreaking and powerful work of Carl Jung on the juxtaposition of opposites in the psyche.

Hill views masculine and feminine as essential and integral to the psyches of both genders. The flexibility of Hill’s model is a refreshing and necessary revisioning of Carl Jung’s theories, which slipped into overly stereotyped and gender-rigidified notions. Hill’s model of masculine and feminine provides a framework within which to understand these aspects of the Sun and Moon Salutations.  The Moon Salutation is one expression of the larger project of bringing feminine values and principles back into the collective sphere.

In his book Masculine and Feminine: The Natural Flow of Opposites in the Psyche (1992), Hill describes the interplay of dynamic and static aspects of of the psyche.  He divides psychic energy into four quadrants or principles: the static feminine, the dynamic feminine, the dynamic masculine, and the static masculine.  This model thereby ascribes to both masculine and feminine attributes relating to steadiness or constancy as well as attributes relating to change or newness.  These elements of the psyche are in constant interplay and balance in the healthy adult.  They also describe developmental stages, which are experienced beginning in infancy.

The static feminine is the principle of containing, grounding, and nurturing—the experience of being held and cared for. It is represented by the cycles of nature with their repetitive predictability: the seasons of the year, the cycles of the moon, or a woman’s cycle. Most elementally the static feminine is expressed by the containing womb.  Its shape is a circle.  In its negative aspect it may become smothering and entrapping, but in its positive aspect it is unconditional love and acceptance.

Developmentally, the static feminine is the first stage experienced as an infant.  In the protective embrace of the parenting matrix, we learn to trust our environment and to access our instincts.  As the individual matures the ground of bodily security is integrated, providing the foundation from which he or she will later move out independently into the world.  Adults who are well established in the static feminine are able to trust themselves and thus relate authentically to others.  They feel at ease with the world and experience themselves as whole.

The dynamic masculine is the counterbalance to the static feminine.  It is the principle of actively and consciously engaging with the world.  It is the ability to think and act independently and thus create an autonomous identity.  It is the zest for new knowledge, the acquisition of new skills, the impetus for new projects. Most elementally, the dynamic masculine is the sperm penetrating the egg.  Its shape is the arrow.  Unchecked and out of balance, the active masculine can lead to excessive activity which is destructive to individual, communal, and ecological well-being.  When it is in balance however, the dynamic masculine is the healthy manifestation of enterprise and vigor.

The dynamic masculine is the second stage of psychological development.  Here the child begins to break away from the symbiosis of the parenting matrix to explore what she or he may become apart from the family.  Adults who are well established in the dynamic male show initiative and enthusiasm, and are able to move purposefully toward their goals.

In Hill’s model, the energy of the psyche flows naturally from static feminine to dynamic masculine, and from there to static masculine.  The static masculine is the principle of rational order.  It is logos, the word, conscious thought.  It is the development of those aspects of community that allow for harmonious living: fair-minded rules and ethics, family structure and support, and the disciplined completion of projects. In its negative aspect, the static masculine becomes overly-rigidified rules and the mind-set which clings to them, even when devoid of meaning and thus lifeless.  In its positive aspect, the static masculine is a mindful way of organizing one’s approach to life, a sense of principled living.

Developmentally, the static masculine is the third stage of life, wherein the energy of the adolescent is tempered by constructive and necessary constraints. The demands of career, family, and balanced personal growth require a harnessing of the drive for independence into productive channels and a regularized life.  An individual who is well established in the static masculine will be able to accept these limitations, to plan and think reasonably and thereby contribute to the common good.

The static masculine is counterbalanced by the dynamic feminine.  The dynamic feminine is the muse, the connection to imagination and to the unconscious.  It is eros, feelings and emotions, an openness to connection with others.  The experience of the dynamic feminine is often fresh and surprising:  the unexpected shooting of Cupid’s bow in the igniting of erotic love or a startling insight gained from a dream.  In its negative aspect the emotionality of the dynamic feminine may become overwhelming or self-indulgent, resulting in chaotic stagnation or depression.  In its positive aspect, the dynamic feminine is a fountain of life-giving joy and creativity, intuition and improvisation.

Developmentally, the dynamic feminine may be considered the fourth stage of life.  After becoming established in family and career, the individual will need to examine the meaning of her or his life.  Is it authentic?  Is it connected to one’s deepest desires?  Does it contribute to relatedness to self and others?  Jung was especially attentive to this stage of life in his work with his clients.  Here one explores the choices one has made in the light (or darkness) of the unconscious;  one consults the soul and asks it to come to the fore, giving meaning and joy to the structures which have been created, or rendering them asunder if needed.  An adult who is well established in the dynamic feminine will be spontaneous and playful, open to new possibilities and flexible enough to change directions when needed.

While the four principles described here may be understood on a macro level as distinct stages of psychological development, they may also be understood on a micro level as interacting forces in shorter events.  For example, in creating the Moon Salutation, the women moved from their own organic, felt sense that at times their bodies needed a different way of doing yoga (static feminine) to the desire to explore and create a new form (dynamic masculine).  The form became standardized (static masculine) and as they and others practiced it, it would lead them each time to new discoveries and insight, to a deeper and more real connection to the soul (dynamic feminine).  These discoveries would become integrated and would lead to an enriched and broader sense of wholeness (static feminine).  If any one of these aspects had been missing—the organic body sense, the initiative to create a new form, the ability to organize, to standardize, and to teach others, or the connection to life-giving meaning—the Moon Salutation might never have been birthed, transmitted to others, or been so enthusiastically received.  Similarly, all four aspects of experience are present in any successful endeavor or significant learning.

 

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