Psychologist and Jungian analyst in Barcelona and online.

16 November, 2021

Gender identities, symbols, archetypes and the collective unconscious

Damián Ruiz

“How easy it would all be if gender and biological sex could be directly identified, and once this was done we could define everything under the parameter of heterosexual orientation”.

He has a penis and testicles: he is a man and likes women.
He has a vagina and breasts: he is a woman and likes men.

Before monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) unified sacred concepts in certain symbols – and humanity was guided by defined collective principles, among them the man-woman duality, linking gender and biological sex, and exclusive heterosexual orientation as morally valid – there was a pagan and polytheistic tradition, Greek and Roman, where myths, men, gods and demigods, represented a multidiscipline of psychological archetypes.
These archetypes constituted diverse forms of expression of the human and, in principle, the condition of the “being” was not susceptible to punishment, but the acts that could generate the wrath of the gods, especially Zeus or Jupiter, the supreme god of Olympus.

The collective unconscious of a large part of the world was conquered by monotheistic religions, and paganism remained in an underlying, probably latent, place in the psyche of different cultures, especially Christianity, which was the one that came to replace, in the same original territory, the plethora of gods with a single God.
Around this one God, Jews and Christians, Old Testament for the former, Old and New for the latter, as well as the Koran for Muslims, the valid archetypes were reduced and therefore not only in the collective psyche, but also in the individual psyche, all forms, all feelings, alien to the sacred principles of these religions.
Human nature passed from visible multiplicity to uniqueness, and only two natures could exist, except in the collective and individual shadow (jocularly released in festivities such as Carnival): man and woman, both with the attributes proper to their sex and oriented in desire, exclusively, towards the opposite sex.
Procreation was considered the fundamental factor in the union of the two, and any deviation or departure, in conduct or essence, from these primordial archetypes was severely punished.

This “severity” of norms was intended to foster the awareness and development of that divine nature of “man”. “The superior of earth, the inferior of heaven”, as Tomas de Aquino would say. Symbol and oneness would allow a certain asceticism and evolution of the human soul, acquiring knowledge of the potential emanating from Faith, Hope and Love, as St. Paul would recall in his letter to the Corinthians.
For the vast majority, however, it was no more than a code of conduct.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam were enervated by custom, and by arms, and eventually became powerful in the collective psyche, so that each individual became a “warrior” in the service of his religion.

In the meantime, where did the various representations of humanity live, where did Dionysus and Aphrodite nest, where did Hephaestus and Artemis, did they disappear or did they patiently await their return?
At the moment when the psyches become detached, progressively dilute a cultural or religious “whole”, that which split emerges, the “diabolical” perhaps in that it progressively extinguishes the symbols that were all-powerful at one stage of humanity.

-It is a time of decadence of the Christian tradition. What once, not so long ago, anointed the psyche with vigour, is today smeared with banal sentimentality, with guilt for the “sins” accumulated by a part, perhaps a minority, of the Catholic Church, and especially for its diminishing influence in the Western societies of which it was a constituent.
Christianity has also splintered into a multiplicity of forms and norms, letting in properly pagan elements into some of its new Churches-.

The symbols that were strong and predominant for centuries are becoming obscured and multiplicity is emerging again.

The “gods, demigods and titans” are unveiled and reappear, and humans are again incarnated in a diversity of forms, archetypes and orientations.

Collectively this, for the writer, will become increasingly normal and therefore normative.
Searching for individual pathology in a social reality will come to a point where it will be an arduous task, I would say an enormous one.
We will have to accept the different self-configurations as valid, beyond the suffering that may be caused to the first generations of “different” people by the fact of splitting from a symbolic and earthly collective (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) that, even in its last days, continues to be predominant in the collective unconscious of society.

When we hear a young man, born male (e.g.), say that he feels like a woman, or that he sometimes feels like a woman and sometimes like a man, or that he has decided to undergo a physical transformation and transition, through a surgical intervention to change sex, but that he still likes women, we can attribute it to a personality disorder or a basic psychosis, but perhaps, and probably, it is nothing more than a reality of the new times.

If we focus on the suffering individual, whoever he or she may be, we can perceive that there is something in him or her that transcends him or her, that goes beyond his or her own psyche, and it may be nothing other than the change of paradigm that represents the fall of a civilisation, the weakening of a collective unconscious that allows that which was hidden, also in him or her, to emerge with force.

Not judging and helping, unconditionally, to find a certain peace will be the most complex task, since we will be tempted to urge rectification. But these are different times.

The decline of the symbolic allows the resurgence of the split.

Damián Ruiz
Barcelona, 16 November, 2021

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