Notes on Emma Jung’s Animus and Anima

Animus and Anima are present in all modes of consciousness. The masculine and feminine both manifest themselves consciously in qualia (feeling a baby kick in the womb) in the subconscious and unconscious (releasing progesterone during pregnancy to  stop ovulation, producing semen, the focus arising from testosterone) and in the collective unconscious (masculine and feminine roles structure collective experience, language, literature, etc.)

Animus has distinctive notes that must be expressed in the mode of Anima where Anima predominates. For Jung, the distinctive notes of Animus are Power, meaning, and self-consciousness. Power is the predominant mode of animus in primitive experience. Here the paradigms are the hero (Achilles, Beowulf), the cowboy, the athlete. The paradigm manifests competition, drive, determination, authority, superiority. This level of Animus has many expressions in Anima: the figure skater, female gymnast, powerful queen, grizzly-mother, activist, office manager. Where meaning and self-consciousness are measured by relationship to God or in religious terms, there are also clear modes of equality between Animus and Anima: Animus makes theologies and disputes over abstract concepts; Anima has personal, mystical insight within the religious-wisdom tradition.

The problem arises when self-consciousness is defined through the inherently abstract, impersonal, and fundamentally subjugative mode of technological accomplishment. Anima has yet to find a way to express itself in this mode, and so finds itself fundamentally alienated. This is the problem of Anima in the contemporary world, and it is not clear whether valuing technology in this way can be just. But this does not bode well for technology, since Anima simply will not tolerate this sort of exclusion from the highest mode of consciousness for long.

3 Comments

  1. January 26, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    “The problem arises when self-consciousness is defined through the inherently abstract, impersonal, and fundamentally subjugative mode of technological accomplishment. Anima has yet to find a way to express itself in this mode, and so finds itself fundamentally alienated.”

    Which sort of technological accomplishment do you have in mind here?

    I guess when I think of technological trends in the last 10-20 years, a significant number have been toward an increase in social functions (Facebook & other social media, texting, Skype), intuitive interface (iPad, Nintendo Wii), and personal customization (iPhone, Android). Rather than abstract and impersonal, they are becoming normal elements of everyday social interaction and personal expression.

    • January 26, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      The use of technology (used broadly to include biotech, machines, etc.) and science can always be personal and integrative, but its the making of the stuff that is seen as the height of self-consciousness and human achievement. We’ve exalted the mastery and dominance over nature in thought and praxis as the ideal, and Jung’s claim is that we have yet to find a way in which Anima can express this. This has led some to deny the value of Anima and say either that liberation requires assimilating all to the masculine or that masculine and feminine mere constructions imposed on a sexless substrate. But what could be more male than to see “person” as an objectively sexless substrate? This is exactly the sort of depersonalized abstraction that is alienating Anima in the first place. Both ideas involve the grossest sexual injustice.

      Note that, while on the first level of approximation this will lead to an obvious tension between the sexes and a subjugation of women, Animus and Anima are definitive characteristics in all persons. To put it concretely if crudely, men have estrogen and women have testosterone. While the problems set down above is primary a problem with alienating women, the problem will manifest itself in another way by alienating the proper expression of the Anima in male life too.

      • January 26, 2014 at 6:04 pm

        Okay. That helps. Perhaps the problem is that modern technology arises from a largely Animus-dominated scientific progression, focusing on impersonal laws and mechanisms in the first place. I’m not sure what the Anima parallel might be, but I guess it is easier for me to imagine something arising in the future altogether different than the technology in question than to see some significant way in which Anima could modify or fit into what we have now. The way you put it, it seems like a square peg/round hole problem, akin perhaps (acknowledging that both men and women have Animus and Anima) to the protests of some modern feminists today that the liberation women achieved in the past was that women could do everything a man does like a man, but that she still is not honored to do specifically feminine things as a woman, e.g. having special breaks at work after childbirth to beastfeed her child or pump milk. I’m not sure if that is the most helpful example, but it’s the best I can do.


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