Masculine, Feminine, Collapse, And The Next Culture
By Carolyn Baker
11 June, 2012
During the past three years since the publication of my two books focused on the collapse of industrial civilization, Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path Of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse and Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition, I have been asked countless times how I predict that people of color, women, children, the elderly, and the LGBT community, the most vulnerable members of a society in chaos, will be treated as industrial civilization continues to unravel. Many point to James Howard Kunstler’s futuristic novels as one likely scenario. Kunstler essentially believes that during and after the demise of civilization, minorities will be blatantly scapegoated as a principal cause of the demise, and that as the criminal and legal systems crumble, virtually nothing will deter crazed and criminal elements from foisting all manner of violence on the most defenseless. In fact, Kunstler argues that the gains experienced by ethnic minorities, women, and gays in the past forty years will essentially be erased as berserk, belligerent males succeed in ruling the day.
In Navigating The Coming Chaos, I wrote very candidly about how I imagine women will be treated as existing societal structures deteriorate. Frankly, I agree with Kunstler that women and minorities will be targeted, and that members of targeted groups who believe otherwise are pathetically naïve. While I have never launched a crusade to arm women, whenever I am asked about how I believe they will be treated in collapse, I implore them to learn self-defense techniques and if they are open to it, complete at least one training in the use of firearms—and to stay current with practicing how to use the weapons with which they have trained.
However, to insist that throughout collapse, all gains made by the aforementioned targeted groups will be permanently obliterated, defies history. Beginning with the plight of ancient Hebraic peoples, slavery was never forgotten, and they carried with them the legacy of liberation from antiquity into the modern world. Likewise, Africans brought to theAmericasin the fifteenth century and thereafter, continued to cherish the prospect of freedom and allowed it to profoundly inform the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Similarly, the native peoples of theAmericaswho endured generations of genocide and exploitation have reclaimed and continue to embrace their heritage and significant portions of their traditions in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The women’s movement of the 1970s was engendered by a variety of factors, not the least of which was the history of women and the awareness of their oppression throughout most of recorded human history. So while the powerful can exploit the vulnerable for centuries or millennia, the memory and legacy of freedom and dignity cannot be irreversibly erased.
How Serious Might The Oppression Be?
Lest anyone infer that I am underestimating the proliferation of evil in a collapsing world, please hear me clearly. I am committed to the work I’m doing in the world in terms of preparing people emotionally and spiritually for the collapse of industrial civilization precisely because of how treacherous I believe the process will be in certain parts of the world. I do not view the demise as a uniform, systematic occurrence. By definition, the collapse of an empire or society dictates that it will manifest diversely in diverse venues. I choose to use the word “lumpy” to describe this phenomenon. Circumstances will vary from one community and region to another. Sustainability and self-sufficiency may well be pivotal factors in the well being of individuals and communities as things fall apart, but nothing is certain as to how any person or group will fare in the wake of dwindling energy supplies, resource wars, tipping point climate change, and worldwide economic meltdown.
As I write these words, we are hearing verifiable stories of people cannibalizing other people in real time and dismembering their own bodies and the bodies of others. Last week, one man cut open his bowels and threw pieces of his intestines at police. Supposedly, these acts were done by mentally ill individuals or people under the influence of narcotics. Yet, let’s notice that we are in the early stages of a society unraveling. If these kinds of bizarre acts are being committed at this stage of collapse, we can only imagine—or not, what kinds of behavior we might witness as what we call a civilization continues to deteriorate.
As police departments go away, along with the entire criminal justice system, I anticipate unprecedented escalations of violence. And I would add, not only against women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBT community, but against white, heterosexual males as well. Yes, white males may be the major perpetrators of violence in collapse, but that does not guarantee the safety of any other white male in a treacherous, every-man-for-himself world.
The title of my last book contains “the coming chaos,” yet we are already immersed in chaos, but I anticipate much more and much worse chaos than we are already witnessing. How bad? You may want to rent a copy of two DVD’s: “The Road” or “The Book Of Eli.” Purely speculative, but I’m just saying….
The Deeper Meaning Of Gender
For decades I have been profoundly influenced by the work of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Malidoma Somè, Michael Meade, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Marion Woodman. Before labeling these people “new age,” first of all, please read what they have actually written. If you don’t understand it, do not write it off by calling it “new age.” Know also that I am adamantly opposed to “new age” notions because I know that they have nothing to do with the people I have just mentioned and because the “new age” perspective is profoundly, willfully blind to the collapse of industrial civilization. Not only is it steeped in denial but in my opinion, violates the wholeness and integrity of the human soul by insisting that humans are nothing more than “perfect, flawless, and divine.” It denies and minimizes the human shadow which regularly gets all of us in trouble, but also has the capacity to get us in the right kind of trouble—the trouble we need in order to navigate the present and coming chaos.
Jung pioneered a new perspective on gender by examining archetypes in the human unconscious. Let me hasten to add that in case you’re thinking that the concept of archetypes is too esoteric, arcane, or antiquated, it is fascinating to note that film maker and director, Ridley Scott, is now speaking freely of the archetypes that pervade his new movie “Prometheus.” Artists and creative individuals are typically, keenly aware of archetypes and employ them freely in their works. Whereas modern thinkers often scoff at the notion of archetypes, ancient mythology was permeated by them, and much of what we call “modern civilization,” while minimizing their importance, has been profoundly influenced by them. For example, we need only view organized religions superficially to notice glaring archetypal influences brought forth from antiquity. The same phenomenon can be observed in other institutions such as finance, education, communications, and health care, to name only a few examples.
Two archetypes that dominate mythology are masculine and feminine. Let’s remember that archetypes are universal themes in the psyche and in art, music, literature, poetry, and drama. Since they are themes, they are different from actual men and women, but both genders are incessantly influenced by them.
The following graphic may be useful:
In this graphic we see the classic characteristics of the masculine and feminine archetypes. The arrows between them suggest an interaction of archetypes from time to time in which the masculine appreciates so-called feminine qualities such as beauty, or the feminine employs so-called masculine qualities such as reasoning.
Also inherent and extremely significant in Jung’s theory of masculine and feminine archetypes is what he called the “inferior function” of each. The inferior function in the masculine is the anima, or the feminine principle, and the inferior function in the feminine is the animus, or the masculine principle. Thus the male psyche carries within it the anima, in other words, many feminine qualities, and the female psyche carries within it the animus, or many masculine qualities. In Eastern traditions, the terms, feminine and masculine are referred to as yin and yang, and spiritual traditions of the East seek to balance both within the individual.
Furthermore, it is important to understand that both masculine and feminine archetypes have a shadow. That is to say, both archetypes are essentially neutral, neither benevolent or malevolent, but within the shadow may reside qualities that could be characterized as both of these. For example, the masculine holds the capacity for being discerning, discriminating, and making distinctions, but the shadow masculine can express these qualities in a hostile or rejecting manner which marginalizes, excludes, persecutes, or even exterminates the other. Similarly, the feminine is a unifying, accepting, relational energy, but without the masculine quality of discernment, the feminine can inappropriately include and accept that which is harmful to her and thereby endanger herself and those she loves.
Finally, at the bottom of the above graphic, we see the individual man and woman whose complicated psyches are comprised of archetypes, anima, animus, and shadow, and in whose bodies flow hormonal rivers common to both genders.
So how does one prevent living from the masculine for feminine shadow? Quite frankly by exploring it and knowing what is there. Understanding the masculine or shadow feminine in oneself is crucial not only for enhancing one’s own wholeness, but for championing justice between genders and all diverse groups in the community. If the shadow is not recognized and dealt with, it will dominate an individual or community, resulting in untold suffering. Tragically, the shadow in a society may go unrecognized for centuries or longer before being confronted.
In the 1960s women began confronting the shadow masculine in men and in the world which had dominated most societies for millennia. This led to a full-fledged feminist movement which advanced the status of women to levels unprecedented in the modern world. As is typical of social movements, the participants confronted the shadow of the other, but had much more difficulty confronting their own. My very first book, published in 1996, Reclaiming The Dark Feminine: The Price Of Desire addresses the failure of feminism in general and women in particular to explore the both the shadow feminine and shadow masculine within themselves and the consequences of that omission.
In the early and mid-nineties, a significant number of men around the world began exploring the anima by way of organizing men’s groups which led to a brief but impact-ful men’s movement. Some of these groups still exist and meet regularly, as do women’s groups which by and large have moved beyond or broadened the issues with which women were pre-occupied in the early days of the feminist movement.
I suspect that in the throes of societies in chaos, involvement with men’s and women’s groups will be dramatically minimized by pre-occupation with survival, but regardless of how tumultuous the upheaval may be, the profound soul-making work that has occurred in these groups will not be extinguished. In fact, men and women may discover that groups focusing on the issues of their own gender are more relevant than ever because gender issues will become intensely germane as panic, rage, and scapegoating ensue. It is probably safe to assume that significant numbers of people of both genders will become barbaric in their behavior, and it is anyone’s guess as to how long that scenario will extend into the future.
At some point, however, those who would forge the next culture—one in which justice, human dignity, and compassion prevail—one that is not merely another version of the industrial civilization paradigm; those individuals, in order to create such a society, will need to possess some memory of the struggles between genders in the twentieth century and resurrect a common awareness of the masculine and feminine archetypes. They will need to look into the past beyond decades or centuries of heinous human cruelty and what is certain to be ghastly exploitation of women in order to structure a new culture in which archetype, shadow, and gender are recognized—and reconciled.
Originally, patriarchy simply meant “rule by the fathers,” but in modern times, it has become synonymous with a system of power imposed by adult men. In ancient Africa,Egypt, andMesopotamia, religion was structured around myriad female deities, and many of those societies were matriarchal, meaning that for the most part, women held power and property rights.
The so-called “pagan” religions of the pre-Christian era were earth-based and female-honoring sects in which either women ruled, or power was shared equitably by women and men. Gnosticism, an early Christian sect, had its roots in the mysteries of Ancient Egypt and Greece and gradually began incorporating the Jesus myth of the Mediterranean region in which it was embedded. A brilliant trilogy by researchers Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries; Jesus And The Lost Goddess; and The Laughing Jesus researches the history of Gnosticism and its role in the early Christian church and the ultimate rejection of the sect by the church fathers. Elaine Pagels in her book The Gnostic Gospels, further illumines the drama between Gnosticism and the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Significant among the plethora of objections to Gnosticism by early church theologians was its insistence on the equal status of men and women.
Clerics such as Irenaeus, Eusebius, and especially Augustine, vehemently opposed Gnosticism. Among their specific objections: Gnosticism’s polytheistic roots; its earth-based, mythological orientation; its commitment to the equal status of women; its resistance to original sin; and its reluctance to proclaim Jesus as God in human form. Struggles between the church hierarchy and a variety of Christian sects continued throughout antiquity, but essentially by the end of the Second Council of Nicea in 787, orthodoxy had triumphed, and peripheral Christian sects had fallen away.
The writings of church fathers such as those mentioned above belie an irrational dread of the feminine archetype in general and women in particular. Augustine wrote: “What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman…I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.” And an even more stunning statement: “Women should not be enlightened or educated in any way. They should, in fact, be segregated as they are the cause of hideous and involuntary erections in men.”
Describing herself as an eco-feminist, Ruether wrote the book Gaia And God (1994) in which she “presents a sweeping ecofeminist theology that illuminates a path toward ‘earth-healing’–a whole relationship between men and women, communities and nations.” Ruether and other scholars exploring the aversion of early church fathers to the feminine archetype and earth-based spirituality, notes an unconscious or perhaps semi-conscious association of nature with the feminine in the minds of many male clergy of antiquity. The notion of Mother Earth is deeply embedded in the human psyche, and early church theologians appear to be no exception to it.
In his groundbreaking 1993 article entitled, “The Split Between Spirit And Nature In European Consciousness,” Ralph Metzner traces the church’s divergence over the centuries from a concern with earth stewardship to complete mastery of nature, constituting a split in the Western psyche between nature and spirituality in which, “…we feel we have to overcome our ‘lower’ animal instincts and passions, to conquer the body, in order to be spiritual and attain to ‘heaven’, or ‘enlightenment’. In the modern psychological, Freudian version, the conflict is between the human ego consciousness, which has to struggle against the unconscious body-based, animal id, in order to attain consciousness and truly human culture.”
The Incorrigible Non-Shirking Nuns
Deeply influenced by the social justice paradigm of the Catholic activist, Dorothy Day, in the 1930s and the 1960s activist priests, Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, as well as the writings of Rosemary Ruether, many Catholic nuns in the United States in the past fifty years have become increasingly liberal, both theologically and politically. While they have not openly supported abortion or contraception, they have struggled tirelessly to promote women’s education and equality while working assiduously for human rights, civil rights, and the alleviation of poverty, to name only a few of their social justice causes.
In April of this year, the Vaticanlaunched a new campaign to reign in “unruly” nuns in the United States. A Reuters/Huffington Post article reported that according to the Vatican, “…the nuns promoted political views at odds with those expressed by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, ‘who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.’ TheVatican chastised the nuns for airing discussions about the ordination of women, the church patriarchy and ministry to gay people.” Not coincidentally, this crackdown neatly parallels an escalating “war on women” by the Republican Party in the US in which funding for contraception and abortion has been savagely cut, as well as programs that alleviate poverty and hunger.
Some observers speculate that the Vaticanwas particularly inflamed by Sister Margaret Farley’s recent book Just Love: A Framework For Christian Ethics. TheVatican, stated that the book “contradicted church teaching on issues like masturbation, homosexuality and marriage and that its author had a ‘defective understanding’ of Catholic theology.”
In an interview with Paul Raushenbush, Sister Joan Chittister, Ph.D., described the Vatican’s most recent campaign to reign in the nuns: “Well it is a hostile take over, there’s no doubt about that. They’re ‘cleaning up the church’ — everything but themselves.”
“Everything but themselves,” of course, refers to the epidemic of sexual abuse among male priests worldwide.
Anyone familiar with the culture of these radical women religious knows that they are keenly aware of the plight of our planet, and many are consciously aware of and talking about the collapse of industrial civilization. More importantly, they are committed to living sustainably and self-sufficiently in community. In fact, it is my honor and privilege to address a conference of Sisters Of The Earth at St. Mary Of The Woods, Indiana in July in which we will engage in deep conversations about the state of the planet and our responses to it.
As noted by Dmitry Orlov at the recent Age of Limits Conference, throughout history, religious and monastic communities have frequently developed interpersonal and logistical skills that superbly prepare them for navigating the collapse of societies around them, and I believe that collapse-aware, activist nuns throughout the world are no exception to this pattern.
Collapse, Gender, Archetypes: The New Paradigm
Societies in collapse typically become more reactionary, rigid, and ideological as they haltingly attempt to ward off total unraveling. In theUnited Stateswhere the wheels are coming off more blatantly with every passing day, it is not surprising that politics are in gridlock at the same time that the ruling elite in Congress are moving dramatically to the right. Simultaneously, the current administration moves the nation toward a total surveillance state, surpassing the former administration in scrutinizing its citizenry.
While the Obama Administration affirms same-gender marriage, the war on women persists and will most certainly worsen in the coming years, regardless of which political party is in power. We can expect to see intensified scapegoating of immigrants, Muslims, and women as collapse exacerbates. As cities implode economically, police, fire, and courts will eventually vanish. As happened with the collapse of theSoviet Union, people will band together to protect themselves and each other or they will not survive. How far down the scale of barbarity humans descend is anyone’s guess.
But none of this is news. What fascinates me is not so much humanity’s engulfment in darkness, but what kind of culture we will construct from the rubble of this one. For me, one thing is certain: If the authentic principles of the feminine and masculine archetypes do not inform our relationships with each other and with the earth community in the development of the next culture, we will have succeeded only in creating Civilization 2.0. I cannot and will not attempt to predict when humanity might reclaim its wholeness, fully confront its masculine and feminine shadow, and live consciously the more noble attributes of both archetypes, nor can I speculate how much suffering may be required for this to occur. I am certain, however, that the memory of gender equity from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and retroactively to ancient times will not be entirely expunged. Archetypes may be ignored, but they are innate and instinctual and therefore cannot be eradicated.
The time to begin focusing on the revitalization of gender justice and wholeness is not after centuries of what is likely to be shadow domination, but here and now by examining and working to heal the shadow masculine and feminine within ourselves and throughout the culture. Like the incorrigible, non-shirking nuns, we must begin wherever we are and confront patriarchy whenever it attempts to “reign us in” and carry out its hostile take overs. In so doing, we facilitate the preservation of memory regarding the advances of oppressed groups in our lifetimes, even as the collapse of industrial civilization develops a life of its own.
This article is an excerpt from Carolyn’s forthcoming book Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times. Visit Carolyn’s website at www.carolynbaker.net and follow her twice-monthly column at www.collapsenet.com
Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., was an adjunct professor of history and psychology for 11 years and a psychotherapist in private practice for 17 years. (She is not, and never has been, a licensed psychologist.) Her latest book Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse, is unique in its offering of emotional and spiritual tools for preparing for living in a post-industrial world. Carolyn’s forthcoming book is Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition. Her other books include: Coming Out From Christian Fundamentalism: Affirming Sensuality, Social Justice, and The Sacred (2007) , U.S. History Uncensored: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You (2006) and The Journey of Forgiveness, (2000) All may be purchased at this site. She is available for speaking engagements and author events and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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