Gaia, by Anselm Feuerbach (1875)
“Devaluation of the Earth, hostility towards the Earth, fear of the Earth: these are all from the psychological point of view the expression of a weak patriarchal consciousness that knows no other way to help itself than to withdraw violently from the fascinating and overwhelming domain of the Earthly. For we know that the archetypal projection of the Masculine experiences, not without justice, the Earth as the unconscious-making, instinct-entangling, and therefore dangerous Feminine. At the same time the projection of the masculine anima is mingled with the living image of the Earth archetype in the unconscious of man; and the more one-sidedly masculine man’s conscious mind is the more primitive, unreliable, and therefore dangerous his anima will be. However, the Earth archetype, in compensation to the divinity of the archetype of Heaven and the Father, that determined the consciousness of medieval man, is fused together with the archaic image of the Mother Goddess.
Yet in its struggle against this Mother Goddess, the conscious mind, in its historical development, has had great difficulty in asserting itself so as to reach its – patriarchal – independence. The insecurity of this conscious mind-and we have profound experience of how insecure the position of the conscious mind still is in modern man-is always bound up with fear of the unconscious, and no well-meaning theory “against fear” will be able to rid the world of this deeply rooted anxiety, which at different times has been projected on different objects. Whether this anxiety expresses itself in a religious form as the medieval fear of demons or witches, or politically as the modern fear of war with the State beyond the Iron Curtain, in every case we are dealing with a projection, though at the same time the anxiety is justified. In reality, our small ego-consciousness is justifiably afraid of the superior power of the collective forces, both without and within.
In the history of the development of the conscious mind, for reasons which we cannot pursue here, the archetype of the Masculine Heaven is connected positively with the conscious mind, and the collective powers that threaten and devour the conscious mind both from without and within, are regarded as Feminine. A negative evaluation of the Earth archetype is therefore necessary and inevitable for a masculine, patriarchal conscious mind that is still weak. But this validity only applies in relation to a specific type of conscious mind; it alters as the integration of the human personality advances, and the conscious mind is strengthened and extended.
A one-sided conscious mind, such as prevailed in the medieval patriarchal order, is certainly radical, even fanatical, but in a psychological sense it is by no means strong. As a result of the one-sidedness of the conscious mind, the human personality becomes involved in an equally one-sided opposition to its own unconscious, so that actually a split occurs. Even if, for example, the Masculine principle identifies itself with the world of Heaven, and projects the evil world of Earth outwards on the alien Feminine principle, both worlds are still parts of the personality, and the repressing masculine spiritual world of Heaven and of the values of the conscious mind is continually undermined and threatened by the repressed but constantly attacking opposite side.
That is why the religious fanaticism of the representatives of the patriarchal World of Heaven reached its climax in the Inquisition and the witch trials, at the very moment when the influence of the archetype of Heaven, which had ruled the Middle Ages and the previous period, began to wane, and the opposite image of the Feminine Earth archetype began to emerge.”
― Erich Neumann, The Fear of the Feminine: And Other Essays on Feminine Psychology