At this writing, it appears the Supreme Court may wriggle out of definitively acting to legalize gay marriage at the federal level. Even still, it is astonishing to gay men and women of my generation to see any of this happening at all.

It reminds me of Stephen J. Gould's insistence that evolution is not as gradual a process as Darwin argued, that it occurs by sudden leaps. Believe me, the idea that gay marriage would be legal anywhere was unthinkable in the '70s and '80s.

Watching what's happening reminds me of how disappointed I was in my studies to see how the subject of sexual identity never came up, at least not pertaining to gay people. This is something I observed generally for years in the Jungian community and became the subject of my doctoral dissertation.

I have been reading the excellent ebook "Occupy Psyche," and so far I have not read anything either about gay people or women (who have also seemed quite marginalized from leadership roles in the Jungian community). Both groups have been especially affected by Wall Street -- gay people in surprising ways in the last few years.

As I've written with great (and,  yeah, tiring) repetition, James Hillman would not take up the subject of sexual identity and I think that rendered archetypal psychology out of touch with some of the most important discourses of our time. I know that Andrew Samuels has taken up the subject.

I've also seen the subject taken up in doctoral dissertations filed on the Pacifica site. That gives me hope. I do hope, too, that the Jungian academy begins teaching explicitly about sexual identity. One point of my dissertation was that the insistence on abstracting all myths without consideration of historical context robs them of the way they signified real-life values of those times, especially toward women and sex between men.

There are important exceptions to disregarding the subject -- like Christine Downing and Robert Hopcke -- but it still seems like a topic of quite secondary importance in the Jungian academy, even though our entire culture remains mainly organized around gender (and sexual behavior).

Today's Supreme Court hearing, no matter the outcome, demonstrates how much that is changing in the dominant culture. Jungians haven't really caught up.

Am I wrong?

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Thanks so much for this post, Cliff. I totally agree with you on all points and wonder how we might use the Alliance to collaborate or springboard a discussion and perhaps even resulting publications on the topic.

I just heard Susan Rowland speak at a conference and she mentioned in passing her book "Jung: A Feminist Revision" (which I got for a class at Pacifica but have not read from cover to cover) which takes a look at what Jung wrote about women. The irony is that she was asked to write it for a British publisher planning a series on the issues and they ended up canceling the series (though still published her book as a standalone).

There is some post-Jungian work from Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler, among others...but there certainly is a need for more mainstream accessible material on both gender and sex issues. We have come a long way in the past couple of years but it's still rather hard to believe we're still in a position as a culture where those in the "leadership" position (like the Supreme Court) are still too entrenched in the old ways to step up and do the right thing.

I thank you for the post as well and am eager to hear more about this.  I work extensively with the LGBT community and am curious as well as to how Jungian studies can be created around the issue of Gender Dysphoria.

Cliff, thanks for the post and bringing up these subjects.  I'm going to be a bit all over the place here, but wanted to share some thoughts in a response to your post.  Though not someone who has ever had a strong desire to get married, sexual identity and sexuality has always been one of those mysteries for me, and as a gay man I often found and find  myself reflecting on "why gay?"  Not in a victimized way, but more in a mystical, mysterious way, and that kind of question in, in part, what has led me to the Jungian and Archetypal worlds of depth psychology. 

Personally, I will speak here as a gay man about the gay community, since that's primarily my experience.  And as far as gay people in leadership roles in the community, I think in general it's a very complicated topic, but the very least cause of which could easily be the gay community is a minority in US/Western culture, and depth psychology/Jungian psychology is a minority in the world of psychology.  Lack of leadership might, to a great extent, be simply a matter of numbers?  I'm not really a math guy, but it seems appropriate.  And yet, from a deeper perspective, I often remember we lost much of an important generation to the AIDS crisis, and the effect of that loss I think has had a tremendous impact on how the community has developed over the decades since.  The wisdom that may or may not have come forth as that generation matured simply never came to be.  And one can only wonder what the community would be like had things progressed differently. 

As far as addressing the sexual identity topic (can I ask what your thesis was about?), especially when working with Archetypal psychology (my own area of focus), Archetypes themselves are not bound by gender.  All men and women have an Aphrodite within them; all men and women have a Zeus in them; etc.  Speaking in other Archetypal language, a man can be a Queen or a Princess just as easily as a woman can be a Prince or a Knight or a King (see the movie "Whale Rider" for an example of a woman as a King).  The Archetypal is neutral when it comes to merging the Archetypal with the human.  That gets terribly tricky when it comes to speaking about sexuality.  The Archetypal precedes gender, and if we're bound to talking about gender roles, there's a tremendous amount of psychology that precedes that.  I'd love to have a discussion here, since it's so complex. But I think this is where the entire LGBT, et al communities may have a lot to offer when it comes to Jungian thought.  I don't entirely relate to the Anima and Animus concepts the way Jung talks about them, and have a hunch we experience these in a different way.  So far the way I've come to work with the Anima concept is to see it simply as what animates us.  Anima = animation.  What animates us and brings us to life?  And in that regard, it's a concept that is relevant to every single person, regardless of gender.  I'm currently reading Hillman's "anima" book, though, to learn how he approaches it. 

And on a last note to this post, Hillman, though not speaking directly on sexuality (and for the prolific amount of material he did put out, I honestly cannot fault him at all for not going into this topic - it may simply not have been his thing), he did put an enormous emphasis on the imagination, fantasy, and the realm of the ancestors and invisibles.  I wonder these days, in the context of those in the community who died during the AIDS crisis, seeing that they are part of the ancestral realm and the invisibles; if they were speaking to us what do we imagine them saying today?  How would we work with this kind of imagination, when it's so well orchestrated for recovering the loss of the ancestral and invisible world?  I have been contemplating this a lot lately...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. The following is directed at Shane. I don't have time to respond to every point, but here's a hasty reply:

I was part of that generation around during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. I lost my former partner and countless friends in Houston, San Francisco, and Atlanta. It's true that if more gay men had survived, we would probably be a better informed community. But I'm not so sure. It's not just the absence of the dead that dumbs u down. Those who survived were so traumatized that most don't want to talk about what they went through. Any death, whether human or a pet, triggers that trauma in me. I wrote an article about this a couple of years ago that you might want to read:

We always have to keep in mind that the homosexual and heterosexual categories were not established until the 19th century and did not come into popular usage until we were well into the '30s. Until then, people who have sex with their own gender were not "required" to adopt an identity. Through the rejection of the church, state, and psychology, we were effectively forced to assume an identity, a hidden one if we wanted to survive. So, while desire may be largely genetic, identity has been socially constructed (by necessity) in my opinion.

Gay identity is not going to be abandoned because we can serve in the military and get married. Like black people, we may get civil rights but that doesn't in itself end homophobia any more than it ended racism. As a mariginalized minority, we will continue to have a unique sub-culture with unique needs.

The point of therapy, Jungian or CBT, is to help people deal with what is. We don't pay adequate attention to the effect of the cultural shadow on individuals. Hillman certainly advocated that we do that, yet feminism and queer theory were taboo subjects for him. I don't see how you can maintain that archetypes precede gender and sexual orientation and dismiss their discussion angrily, as Hilman often did, while feeling perfectly okay in looking at the male archetypal pattern of, say politics and war. How do you run out into the woods with Robert Bly and talk about masculine archetypes with virtually sexist perspective? (Andrew Samuels famously protested this at a seminar at Pacifica.)

It is simply impossible to say that archetypal forces aren't uniquely at play in gender relations. One way many Jungians avoid their discussion, as I said, is by abstracting all myth so that they are stripped of their historical context. (Hillman, by the way, differed from Jung in insisting that the anima and animus were contrasexual. He also wrote a great essay on porn: "Pink Madness." )

I don't disagree that Hillman simply didn't want to discuss gender relations and sexual orientation. I was actually invited by HarperCollins to submit a proposal for a biography of Hillman. I talked to him about it and told him I wanted to get his take on these subjects because they are so central to the discourses of our time. He was enthusiastic until I mentioned this and he got angry.

In all honesty, as I write in my dissertation, I think this was all about his own mother complex. I had access to some of his letters that are certainly not on file in the Pacifica library, that reinforce that opinion. And I'm totally aware my own father complex was at play in my critique.

I'm curious how you explain the fact that if you go to any gathering of Jungians, the participants are overwhelmingly female, while men are usually in charge. (That's my experience, anyway.) It seems to me that if Jungians took up the subject of gender in our culture, things might change. As I wrote in an essay long ago, I think it's imperative current Jungians take that up. My essay is probably more coherent than this:

Thanks for the reply, Cliff, and for sharing your articles.  I agree, we can never know how the community would have developed differently over the decades had we not lost so many in the AIDS crisis.  But then, the crisis is an inherent part of the image of the community—within its daimon.  Have you ever contemplated the daimon, the genius, of the gay community?  I’ve started wondering about that topic lately, especially as I am now around a number of gay men of the younger generations and learning how they see the world and the community, and I look for the image as a whole. 


But how to approach the categorizations and gender?  Archetypal and Jungian psychology (esp. Alchemical Psychology) seems, at heart, more concerned with the masculine and the feminine than the literal male and literal female, doesn’t it?  That’s not to say women and men have don’t have different issues to work through (but then, everyone does).  But with the Archetypal masculine and feminine, it offers a context to see how we live, which can apply to anyone regardless of any choice of gender classification or gender attraction.  That’s where we can identify and name all the different identities we wish for people, but if we look at the state of, say, masculinity, it tells us a lot more about cultural issues than looking at “men,” per se.  Especially since individual men vary tremendously in their behaviors and habits, and we’ll always find exceptions to any study or example.  But masculinity in and of itself (and ‘healthy’ masculinity) is rather impotent in this country.  Just look at the continuing addiction to Viagara, for example.  And women may be oppressed, yes (as well as sexual-identity minorities), but at the end of the day in many ways the feminine is what does a lot of the oppressing.  This  is a very different topic than gender, and as far as I'm concerned, more important because it influences everyone regardless of gender, and since it’s rarely discussed.

As far as men/women roles in the Jungian world, my own local Jungian community has a woman President of the Board, and we’re mostly equal in terms of Board membership.  The community itself is mixed as well, but one of our local analysts, Lyn Cowan, has been openly out and in leadership roles for a good portion of her career.  She’s a frequent presenter and teacher here.  But in general, I’ve seen the dynamic you refer to, and it's similar in other more “new age” communities.  My hunch is it’s the nature of the work, as it requires a different way of looking (what Hillman's called looking with a "dark eye") that doesn’t typically demand empirical evidence to do its thing.  That's a tough sell to so many these days, but I think it's a tougher sell to more traditionally-minded men than women.  It’s a more right-hemisphere (brain)-oriented approach to psychology, and we live in a left-hemisphere-dominated culture.  Most people function with their left brain leading the way, whereas Archetypal perception and image-recognition, metaphor and symbol are all more right-brain oriented functions not demanding language for the perception itself.  I think, when done accurately, this skill Is easier for women to pick up than men at this point, especially since, in the big scheme of things, it’s pretty new.  Science with its rational, causal, empirical ruling over its domains dominates modern Psychology.  There's more to say on this, but I'll leave it at this for now... thoughts?

Hey, Shane, thanks very much for your very thoughtful response. You know, I have never thought about a daimon in community terms, since in my understanding, the daimon represents us in our particularity. But it's an interesting thought.

Then again: I browsed your website and really enjoyed the piece on angels. I sent a link to it to a client who just last night populated his sand tray with two angels (and they are asexual). He is on the verge of some very difficult decisions in his relationship of 35 years and the call to not be afraid is particularly salient in view of the archetypal meaning you cite, as well as the placement of the angels in his tray.

Your essay also made me think about something I've noticed for years: a virtual obsession with the image of the angel among many gay men. I went to an art show by members of the gay community a couple of years ago and nearly every painting included an angelic figure. It was to the degree that I asked the organizers if they had set that theme (they hadn't). At the time, I decided the angel was kind of an announcement --  a call to "coming out." You may have read Moore's observation that in many paintings angels announce to Mary that she is about to give birth to the son of god. Her response is always fear in the paintings. Perhaps the angel in the gay paintings signifies not only coming out, but the attending fear. Rilke: "Every angel is terrible." Or maybe it's a representation of gender transcendence.

I don't disagree at all that the masculine and the feminine are at depth the "issue." I've often told clients that there are many "forms" of masculinity. As I'm sure you're aware, masculinity is an obsession among gay men these days. It is more explicitly so than it was even during the '70s with the hypermasculine costume that, in my experience, nobody took very seriously. (Think Village People.) This obsession doesn't just merely suffuse the gay community. Its shadow, the derision of effeminate men, is stronger than ever too. I've seen many clients absolutely brutalized by this. It's a continuation of their adolescent experience of derision and bullying, but this time by other gay men.

Now, I understand that the transcendence of gender is common in alchemical images. But we have to deal with the shadow of this (such as the ongoing patriarchy evinced in the Jungian community). Our culture remains quite trapped in historical roles associated with biological gender. If you've read queer or feminist discourses, you know that performativity -- the way gender is represented in, say, clothing, -- reinforces, even arguably creates classic genderized identity. Thus drag queens, in the view of some queer theorists, not only satirize female identity but demonstrate the truth of performativity. They subvert gender through play.

I do talk to clients about gender identity. I've worked with a few trans-men, watching them assume the appearance of men over time. They are not biologically men and many end up identifying as gay men as the transformation occurs. They remain keenly aware that the feminine remains a strong part of their identity. And they always talk about the difference in the way they are treated as men. But, just as I think it's a serious misstep to shed myths of their historical context, I think it is important to see gender in its historical and ongoing representation.

You can't see through something without acknowledging that something painful is there. ("The wound is the eye," said Hillman.) You can't drag someone off the street and start talking about archetypal masculinity without citing the individual's adherence to culturally established norms. That is one reason why it's important for the Jungian community to begin a discussion of the way it embodies the shadow. Despite Hillman's disinterest in discussing gender and sexual identity, he did agree during one visit to my class at Pacifica, that the Jungian community casts a very dark shadow.

Speaking of cultural shadow, that's one reason I enrolled in Pacifica's depth program. One of its goals was to take depth psychology out of the consulting room into much broader context.

Sorry for another long post.


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