Skip navigation

Category Archives: On Conflict

The great, to some extent ultimate, task posed here is that of understanding fear in all its forms as an instrument of the Self. Fear of the unknown and of all that is ego-alien turns out to be fear of the unknown aspects of “one-Self” and of “one-Self” as the unknown. In this sense the transformation process of becoming one-Self again and again embraces new unknowns, indeed, ever-new worlds of fear-inspiring unknowns.

In development through the archetypal stages, the individual must overcome fear with each transition from one phase to another, which, of course, always means the new phase of an existence unknown until that time. In this context we cannot take up the various ways in which men and women overcome fear, nor can we address the striking and as yet not well understood fact that the manner in which the ego overcomes fear is symbolically “genital,” i.e., is coordinated with the specific form of the genitals. Thus the male form of overcoming fear is active, intrusive, and pugnaciously heroic just as the typical form of fear appears as “castration” fear. Conversely, women’s fear is the fear of rape, and her way of overcoming fear is not activately heroic but passively heroic, accepting and incorporating it in her surrender to fear.

But always and independently of any of its forms, overcoming fear represents a specific form of integration in which something alien to the ego, some piece of Not-I, is recognized and realized as one’s own. Thus the man experiences the Terrible Feminine in its character of anima and transformation as belonging to his own psyche, just as he experiences the maternal and elementary character as “his own,” and only after assimilating all these aspects of the feminine will a man attain to his own authenticity as a human Self that is male and female simultaneously. Only when the “pure masculinity” of the patriarchy has been overcome through this process of transformation does a man overcome the fear in which his “pure masculinity” screened itself from the otherness that appeared symbolically as feminine. The same holds true for woman and her fear of the Masculine, which she has only concealed by her identification with the animus world demanded by the patriarchy.

In this experience of transformation the human individual becomes conscious of the relentless power of the Self, which recasts all phases of development as well as all ego-conquests of the outer and inner worlds into aspects of Self-realization that manifest from the very beginning as automorphism, as a tendency at work in the psyche. When the personal Self that manifests as a fear-inducing world assaulting the ego from within and from without is integrated, not only the one who fears and the one who overcomes fear but that which arouses fear can be seen as belonging together. Just as the good and evil gods in Bardo Thodol are one and turn out to be only projections of an underlying third thing, here we are led to experience the unity of Self and world. Destiny in its unity of inside and outside that arouses fear from without and from within turns out to belong to humankind and to be the living experience of the personal Self. World events appearing from outside as much as inner, fear-inducing phenomena of the psyche prove to be disguises of the Self. Inner and outer realities that at first appear strange and hence frightening are later experienced and “unmasked” as belonging to one’s very own authentic being, and thereby lose their foreign as well as their fearsome character. In this transformation the ego experiences that it belongs fundamentally to the Self, and that, in the form of the ego-Self axis, this “belongingness” has determined the entire development of personality on a new level. When the ego grasps the degree to which the Self directs fear and uses it as a “tool for transformation,” it also experiences itself embraced by the Self’s demand for transformation. In this way, however, the ego unmasks its own annihilation through fear and recognizes it as a process of negation brought about by something unfamiliar that proves itself to be one’s most essential nature, and one gains a paradoxical security in the Self that creatively forces the ego into continual transformation. As the ego becomes the transparent exponent of the Self, this agent of transformation, the Self, becomes one’s most treasured essence that remains fearlessly creative throughout all transformations. Only in this way does fearlessness arise for the ego that no longer clings to itself but rather in transformation surrenders and devotes itself to the Self as to its “own.” Thus the ego-Self axis becomes humankind’s guarantee of a creative existence, i.e., of an existence of transformation. Despite this ego-Self unity, however, the opposition persists in which the ego, as a smaller part, is subjected to a Self that is existentially superior to and more than a match for the ego. This means that the ego must necessarily continue to experience fear. Fear disappears only when the ego has come to that stage of the conquest of fear in which the human being’s sense of security lies in existing not only as an ego but, in a mysterious and numinous way, also as a Self that guides the personality through all ego-phases and turns all of the ego’s fear-constellations into stages of transformation in which existence reveals itself as an unending metamorphosis of aspects of the creative.

– Neumann (The Fear of the Feminine, p.278-281)


In contrast to the collective, patriarchal marriage that, ultimately, is contracted by clans and families, the problem of individual relationship–that is, of encounter–becomes evident where relationship becomes a question of individual love rather than of being propelled by external collective forces such as groups or of inner collective energies such as drives. The individual relationship that takes its place as love-marriage beside the traditional patriarchal marriage can, however, still exist within the collective norm of patriarchal marriage.

This situation has changed only in modern times when the entire relationship between the Masculine and Feminine, men and women, has become problematic. This change finds expression not only in the relationship between husband and wife but also within the psyche itself, since the man’s relationship to his own unconscious feminine side, the anima, and the woman’s to her unconscious masculine, the animus, begin to enter consciousness.

Here the psychology of the patriarchate ends, and the psychology of encounter, of surrender and devotion to the Self, of individuation, and the discovery of the feminine Self begins. These are the two last and highest phases of the psychological development of the feminine. To describe them exceed the limits of our sketch for the problems of this phase embrace nearly all the problems of the modern woman insofar as she is really “modern,” ie., not just living in our times by accident. Both phases presuppose an inner victory over the symbiosis of the patriarchate. It is equally possible in the process for woman’s development to be played out within a marriage that began patriarchally and symbiotically or for the process to lead to the break up of marriage and into a new relationship. But every transition from one phase to the next can come to pass only through psychic conflict, and the entire personality must be engaged.

A crisis of this sort, even if it is to take place within a marriage, must involve both partners because, for woman, a change in relationship between man and woman also always presupposes a corresponding transformation of her male partner. An extremely common cause of marital conflicts and divorces lies in the fact that the development toward a new phase of relationship, vitally necessary for one partner, is tragically doomed to failure owing to the other partner’s lack of understanding or inability to participate in the development.

In contrast to the collective polarization of patriarchal symbiosis, a genuine “encounter” brings about a relationship in which men and women are related to each other as conscious and unconscious structures, ie., as whole persons. In The Psychology of the Transference Jung discussed this form of relationship as an archetypal quaternio, ie., as a fourfold relationship in which consciousness and the unconscious of both partners are in contact. This comprehends the whole nature of each person, hence in the case of the man not only his patriarchal masculine consciousness but equally his feminine anima side. But now this is not unconsciously projected so that the man appears both to himself and to his female counterpart as purely masculine; rather, man and woman must consciously relate equally to the man’s feminine and masculine sides. In human terms this produces a plenitude of complications and problems, since the man’s feminine anima side is emotional and he is initially unaware of it, so that only circuitously and through suffering does he come to experience essential parts of his own nature, facets that he first experienced in his partner as something foreign and Feminine. However, these problems demand the greatest efforts not only from the man himself but equally from the woman, who, for her part must witness the collapse of her image of ideal masculinity as she becomes conscious of the man’s feminine side.

With similar complications the same holds true for the woman’s animus-psychology and her growing awareness of it. This process, too, places the greatest demands on both partners’ mutual understanding and tolerance. Consequently in this phase of encounter the complicated multiplicity of psychic relationships between man and woman is in fact incalculable.

Filling the demands of this situation, however, not only guarantees a vital relationship and a tension of polar opposites but at the same time lets the unique and individual essence of both partners enter into the relationship. Since a person’s unconscious and his or her wholeness both are caught up in the process of transformation of the personality, the conventionally collective semblance of personality must be surrendered and the distinctive and singular uniqueness of the human being start to work its effects undisturbed by the persona. Only then, however, do two persons attain to a true encounter. Where the deepest levels of the personality are included in the living Auseinandersetzung [Engagement/Conflict], the merely individual qualities of the one’s personality form the starting point for experiencing the transpersonal in oneself and in one’s counterpart. This form of encounter is the highest possible form of a real relationship between man and woman.

– Erich Neumann (The Fear of the Feminine, Stages of Woman’s Development, p.50-53)

The marital tragedy of the individual is the arena to which the problem of the changed relationship between man and woman is brought for settlement by the collective–a problem which has a collective meaning and relevance transcending the marital conflicts of the individual. And similarly, the moral problem which drives the individual into neurotic sickness is at the same time an arena and an expression of the fact that the collective is not grappling with the problem of evil which is actually clamoring for its attention.

So long as certain specific values retain their living efficacy and power in the collective, the individual (unless he is an exceptional person) will have no problems in relation to matters of value. He will not fall sick because of problems arising out of these values, since institutional procedures exist for dealing with questions of value in a valid way. So long as and so far as the sacrament of marriage exists there will be no neuroses caused by the marriage problem, but only adultery and sin, punishment and pardon. The orientation remains valid even if the individual behaves invalidly.

But when the collective no longer possesses values, that is to say, when a crisis in values has occurred, the individual lacks a collective orientation. He falls sick because of a problem for which there is no longer a collective answer and a collective procedure for reaching a settlement. He then becomes involved in a conflict from which no institution is any longer in a position to set him free, but for which he must suffer and experience an individual solution in the living process of his personal destiny.

– Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p. 31-32)

Conflict develops when one feels himself to be in the right and runs into opposition. If one is not convinced of being in the right, opposition leads to craftiness or highhanded encroachment but not to open conflict. If a man is entangled in a conflict, his only salvation lies in being so clear-headed and inwardly strong that he is always ready to come to terms by meeting the opponent halfway. To carry on the conflict to the bitter end has evil effects even when one is the right, because the enmity is then perpetuated.

It is important to see the great man, that is, an impartial man whose authority is great enough to terminate the conflict amicably or assure a just decision. In times of strife, crossing the great water is to be avoided, that is, dangerous enterprises are not to be begun, because in order to be successful they require concerted unity of focus. Conflict within weakens the power to conquer danger without.

– I Ching (hexagram 6. Sung/Conflict)

“There is something cruel in the inclinations of my spirit”…in my desire to demand more of my self, as a seeker after knowledge, of a taste that “…insists on profundity, multiplicity and thoroughness…” And I definitely do will my self in that direction, quite easily in fact, and this inclination also extends to my friends as I tend to care less about their words and ideas, especially the ones who have been ‘educated’ and enjoy the title. But more because the standard I place upon myself that also loosely extends to others, in that I close myself off from certain thoughts or ideas that taste too much, to me, of the majority and therefore “…to mere appearance, to simplification, to masks, to cloaks, in short, to the surface –for every surface is a cloak…”.

And in this sense I am saying that, while I am still not that good myself and obviously also like the safety of playing on the surface and cloaking my deeper self, but our understanding or consciousness is still much too superficial, too instinctual and in actuality too unconscious to be considered real, applied knowledge. There is still an overabundance of darkness in our words and beliefs.  That even if we present our words well, even if it is what we were told in school to believe or the rest of society agrees, that we would still have to question ourselves and what absolute authority agreeing with everyone else has. For look at the French Revolution and tell me that agreeing with everyone else was a good idea when things went insane. And what absolute right is given to those who have been educated and the pride they have in ‘their’ education? For are not all of Science, Philosophy, Math, and Psychology merely theories…And wouldn’t the addition of more theories or perspectives increase our understanding of life and living? Don’t we have to be able to freely play with the prejudices of our education and up-bringing to step into the shoes of another perspective to try on its experience of the music of life; that is to say, to try on its prejudices? For it takes more than just a little nibble of this or that to actually feel the full presence of a different way of experiencing what it means to be alive. But that is, of course, if we were to be thoroughly profound free spirited seekers after knowledge for then we would have no choice but to live life differently, to purposefully seek out differing, seemingly contrary perspectives.

But right here, again, the cruelty of my intellectual conscience rears its beautiful sinister head and pushes me to go further than this mere surface and cloak I presented you and myself.

For I have to ask myself what the value of being a ‘seeker after knowledge’ is in the first place…and then I’d have to examine myself for the characteristics that I had been labeled with to see how much truth is in them, not however, if there is truth but ‘how much’. For we are obviously not going to be able to stay stuck in black and white if we are going to get to any real answers. So we must admit of the multiple colours of perspective; the manifold ways in which we can relate to and experience life.

If, in the honest thorough examination of myself and also by extension the examination of the society in which I live, as we dare not think we are so different to not have similar characteristics, we were to find that there is enough truth to warrant a change. To warrant the level of cruelty that this thinker has honestly presented to us…Then this initial and surface estimation of the cruelty expressed now becomes false and changes. Or rather we change in relation to it and this is due to the new relationship between ourselves and the environment in which we find ourselves because a reforming of our sight, our perspective on how things are seen and compared takes place. In other words our systems of valuation change because we became aware of the effect on life the ordering of our values created after too long a time. And this cruelty then becomes a necessity; it becomes the perspective that brings about a clear foundation of understanding that causes the fear of change or lack of love for life to disappear. But this will be a slow growth and evolution and therefore perseverance and patience will be the virtues of choice. For nothing lasting will be achieved by force and in the end our undying love for life, for humanity will win out. Through our consistency in doing right; that is in being of service…in being there for you.

Now, however, comes the time to give some life examples of this cruelty in action and perhaps also a spark of how to harmonize with it.

An example of the cruelty of my intellectual conscience is when I stated, among friends, that I do not consider anyone to have any authoritative knowledge on anything if they do not have, at least, 6 perspectives on the topic or issue under discussion. For me that is well-rounded thought or thinking. However I, myself, do not have the ability at the moment to display well 6 differing perspectives on one topic, but I would still like to be listened to or have my words or ideas considered. Just as anyone else would like to feel like they have a place or purpose.

And these “six” perspectives are something of an ideal of mine, but it is realistically attainable in the right environment. Among a group of diverse thinkers that have come together under an agreement to disagree but to never hold onto any disagreement too long, this is possible. And while these diverse thinkers are touting ‘their’ truths to each other they are also not merely observers, but active players in each individuals discourse, and in this mutual yet confrontationally humorous collaboration they begin to see the distinction between the Universal and the Personal. That is they see what is similar in all of their views, the universal, and then proceed to see the personal, the unique colours or flavours that indirectly or directly guide the play and flow of their truths to their final conclusions. And through this they come to see how each side cloaks the other…how each side plays with its self and the other until there is nothing but the playing of the game; the continual cloaking and revealing of what is, of what we are being…The eternal dance of consciousness with its own unconsciousness.

But let us once again become practical and down to earth for I have another example for you…

I found myself in a conversation that brought me to a question: “How long do cats live?” Is what I had come to ask, but the important thing was what happened next. I had momentarily become more aware of what I had just done right before I asked that question. And what I did was to change my choice of word. My original choice of words were: “How long do cats last?” But why did I do that? Why did I change my position? In what relationship did I find myself that altered my choice of words, my diction? Well, a woman was what made me double-take and alter my position; for it was her cat and she cared ever so much for her son, as she always tells me…So not only is this an example of a relationship between a man and a woman and therefore an action that shows ‘consideration’ but it is also connected to the value of the words Live and Last. For obviously I valued Live over Last because of the relation I was in with this woman and her cat. So what then is the value of the one word over the other? Well quite simply it is the connotation or rather the dryness or wetness. Live or living is a much more of a wet word than Last is. ‘He was a living…breathing, warm and fluffy cat’ or ‘Well that cat sure didn’t last long’ as if the cat is a mere thing to have and then discard when we can’t get anything we want from it. And in this sense the word ‘last’ would have offended her ears.

Even if Philosophy should be done dryly and without illusion, when it comes to small instances like this one, it is much better to simply be polite. And a man should know when to adapt to who he happens to be in relation with from moment to moment and should therefore not be dry or honest to the point of cruelty. For, you see, my Intellectual Conscience pointed out so obviously to me that the only way to get to solutions and come to terms with life, for me, was to increase my dryness almost to the point of cruelty for to do Philosophy properly one has to learn “…to see clearly into what is.”

So where are your truths? Where is your way out into the light of day? Why keep floundering in the doorway of your solution when the answer beckons you onward…when life is asking for you to join in and not merely float on? I can only wait so long outside your doorway. I can not hold out my hand forever. Close your eyes and step through, I am here. I will catch you if you stumble; I will bandage your scrapped knee and kiss it better. But I can not face your fears for you; I can not walk through the doorway that leads to your life with you. You must make your own leap. I will be there waiting to greet you in the free openness of the mid-day sun, but only as long as the light lasts…only until sunset. So come out and play, come out and play…it is so beautiful in the warmth of the day.


Post script.

I shall give the sources of my quotes and the over-all comprehension of the ideas expressed here upon request.