66 / 100
Carl Jung on the Animus

Carl Jung “AION” CW 9ii

Lecture 7

Questions and Discussion

Mrs. Zinno’s question: “If the technique of introversion which you described be used before the pairs of opposites have been stretched to the uttermost in conflict, will the collective unconscious be constellated instead of the releasing symbol?”

Dr. Jung: It must not by any means be supposed that the technique described is suitable for general use or imitation.

That would indeed be disastrous.

It is something applicable to a particular case under particular circumstances, and is only applicable when the unconscious is animated, and when the unconscious content is necessary for further progress.

There are very many cases in which the conscious material is in need of being digested, and in those cases it would be quite futile to call up the unconscious content.

I can call to mind now a case where the analyst released the unconscious under wrong conditions, and with the most unfortunate results.

In my own case the release of the unconscious was demanded.

The conscious had become practically a tabula rasa, and the contents underneath had to be freed.

Dr. Mann: In speaking of the animus, one always does so in a derogatory way. I should like to hear a discus- sion of its positive value, but no doubt you will speak further about the animus later on.

Dr. Jung: Yes, on the whole I would rather defer this, but as a partial answer here I can say that the animus, being discovered as he usually is under the most unpleasant circumstances, suffers from the fact.

Most psychological things are discovered that way because as long as things are running smoothly, no one thinks of trying to understand them.

It is only when problems arise that we are forced into a conscious attitude toward our psychical processes.

By being discovered chiefly under disagreeable circumstances, the animus comes into ill repute, though of course it has a tremendously important positive function as presenting the relationship to the unconscious.

Similarly, “persona” has come into a bad name.

No one can imagine getting along without a persona—that is, a relationship to the outside world—but when one identifies with the persona, its valuable side disappears in its abuse.

So when one is all animus, one loses sight of the service the animus performs when it is held within its proper functioning limits.

Mrs. Zinno: In my question I had especially in mind the phenomenon one can see going on today in modern art—that is, the artist pumps his unconscious for the sake of the images he can find there and not for a psychological need, and so he brings out a lot of embryonic stuff instead of the releasing symbol.

Dr. Jung: This brings us into the problem of the significance of modern art.

I’m not at all sure that all those present would agree modern art brought out embryonic material from the un- conscious.

What would you say to that, Mr. Aldrich?

Mr. Aldrich: I think modern art is too big a term for satisfactory discussion. Dr. Jung: Limit it then to painting.
Mr. Aldrich: Some modern art has for me a really magic spell.

For example, not long ago I saw in Lugano a painting of a bull and a man struggling with it.

The background was flat blue, with six points of light set in it—six stars or planets, so that the man and the bull seemed to suggest that they were the seventh.

The bull was not like any bull that exists on the earth today; he was antique; he was not just a bull, he was The Bull.

So too with the human figure: there was no effort at portraiture or photographic rendering of a man—he was more than any one man, he was Man.

There was a sense of tremendous power and space.

The Bull swept past the stars dragging with him Man who strove to dominate him.

The artist—I questioned him—had never even heard of Mithras and the bull: the picture was pure fantasy that had come up from the unconscious.

Another example is a painting that was in the Kunsthaus here, a great black horse rearing up, wild with demo- niac energy.

On his back sat a heroic figure of a man armed with a spear, nude except for a helmet, who seemed to look intently ahead into the far distance.

He was undisturbed by the ferocity of his horse.

This horse, like The Bull, was no particular animal—rather, he was The Horse. Both these pictures stirred me greatly.
Dr. Jung: Why did they stir you?

If you could answer that it would explain the appeal of modern art.

Mr. Aldrich: I think they were libido symbols, and that the struggle with the bull, for instance, pictured the conflict in man’s soul.

Dr. Jung: Was there any difference between those pictures and one painted 150 or 200 years ago? Mr. Aldrich: Yes, a very great difference.
I could see a picture of a peasant’s horse painted in the old way, and while I would know it to be an excellent painting, it would not stir me.

Dr. Jung: That is just it.

The criterion of art is that it grips you.

Constable no longer does this to us, but undoubtedly he did stir the people of his time. Most probably the art produced now would be anathema to our ancestors.
It would have no value for them.

One has to assume, I think, that the artist adapts to the change of attitude.

Now I should be most interested to hear the views of the classon this theme of art.

One can take art as a form of dream.

Just as the dream seeks to maintain a psychological balance by filling out the daytime conscious attitude by the unconscious elements, so art balances the general public tendency of a given time.

What do you think about art from that viewpoint?

Mrs. Zinno: Is not the characteristic thing of modern art that it is subjective?

Dr. Jung: But if you say that, you must be very careful to define what you mean by subjective.

Very often it is assumed that an experience is subjective because it takes place within the mind of a subject, but it is not then necessarily in opposition to objective, because the images of the collective unconscious, from their collective character, are just as truly objects as things outside the psyche.

Now, I think modern art tends to be subjective in the sense that the artist is concerned with his individual con- nection with the object, rather than with the object per se.

It is perfectly true that modern art also tends toward an increased interest in the inner object, but that does not in itself, as I have just said, constitute subjectivity.

In modern art one feels decidedly the predomination of the internal processes.

To take the examples Mr. Aldrich gave, we could say that these artists were more interested in the image of the horse or bull than in any actual animals, and still more interested in their relation to those images.

But what then is the aim of art?

An artist would instantly resent that question and would say that art is just art when it has no aim. Miss Baynes: Is it not the aim of art to counteract the effects of machinery on modern life?
Mr. Bacon: Does it not do something for the artist?

Dr. Jung: Undoubtedly both of these points of view are true, but then there must be something over and above that.

Dr. de Angulo: I think modern art is a misplaced effort to balance the extreme to which scientific thought has forced modern man.

I say misplaced because the artist is almost driven into a morbid extreme, and “puts it up” to his public to make the connection between his product and the conscious viewpoint.

Dr. Jung: Many would certainly contest the point that modern art is morbid.

Mr. Aldrich: It seems to me that a characteristic thing of modern art is that it no longer concerns itself with being merely beautiful.

It has passed through and beyond mere conventional beauty, and in this it reflects our changed views of life.

Before the war we lived in a beautiful world—or perhaps I would better say in a world that was merely sweet and pretty, a world of sticky sentimentality
in which nothing brutal nor ugly was given place.

Modern art certainly cares nothing for prettiness; in fact, it would rather have the ugly than the pretty; and sometimes, I think, it seeks a new realization
of beauty beyond the pale of what was formerly considered possible—in ugliness itself, even.

(There followed here some discussion in the class as to whether modern art had really freed us from sentimentalism, or merely shifted the kind of sentimentalism a little.)

Dr. Jung: There is no doubt that sentimentalism catches the public and blinds it to its own sensuality and brutality.

Thus in the time of Louis XVI, one had all those beautiful shepherdesses and idylls of one sort or another in France, and then followed the Revolution.

Or again, we can see the raw hell of war coming after the purity and exaggerated delicacy of feeling of the Victorian age, when a lady and a gentleman neither spoke nor thought anything evil.

All through history one can see periods of pronounced brutality directly predicted by the sentimentality of the art preceding them.

And the same thing, of course, goes on in the case of the individual artist—that is, he uses sentimentality to cloak brutality.

These two seem to be opposites between which an enantiodromia works. Mrs. Zinno: Is not the best expression of modern art to be found in sculpture?
Dr. Jung: No, because sculpture demands form, and form [demands] an idea, while painting can dispense with form.

The cubistic sculpture seems to say all of nothing.

But in painting one can find the thread of development.

For example, I once followed very carefully the course of Picasso’s painting.

All of a sudden he was struck by the triangular shadow thrown by the nose on the cheek. Later on the cheek itself became a four-sided shadow, and so it went.

These triangles and squares became nuclei with independent values of their own, and the human figure gradually disappeared, or became dissolved in space.

There was once exhibited in New York a painting called the Nude Descending the Stairs.

This might be said to present a double dissolution of the object, that is in time and space, for not only have the figure and the stairs gone over into the triangles and squares, but the figure is up and down the stairs at the same time, and it is only by moving the picture that one can get the figure to come out as it would in an ordinary painting where the artist preserved the integrity of the figure in space and time.

The essence of this process is the depreciation of the object.

It is a somewhat similar performance such as that we go through when we cast aside the reality of a living man and reduce him to his infantile misdeeds.

The artist takes the object away from our eyes, and substitutes a partial derivative.

It is no longer a nose but its shadow we are shown.

Or, to put it another way, he shifts the emphasis from the essential to the unessential.

It is a little bit as though you explained a thing by a bon mot, a fugitive exhalation of the thing.

This process inevitably drives the interest away from the object to the subject, and instead of the real object, the internal object becomes the carrier of the values.

It is Plato’s conception of the eidolon coming again to the fore.

Thus, when the artist paints such a bull as that described by Mr. Aldrich, it is the bull he has painted, it is yours or mine—God’s bull, you might say.

The Bull-Tamer is a collective idea of tremendous power gathered into an image.

It speaks of discipline—only a man of heroic attributes overcomes the bull.

So modern art leads us away from the too great scattering of the libido on the external object, back to the creative source within us, back to the inner values.

In other words, it leads us by the same path analysis tries to lead us, only it is not a conscious leadership on the part of the artist.

We have analysis for exactly the purpose of getting us back to those inner values so little understood by the modern man.

Analysis would have been unthinkable in the Middle Ages, because those men were freely expressing those values from which we have cut ourselves off today.

Catholics today have no need of analysis because the unconscious in them is not constellated—it is kept perpetually drained through their ritual.

The unconscious of a Catholic is empty.

I once made a collection of portraits carrying back through the Middle Ages, in order to trace the change in psychological attitude between the medieval man and ourselves.

Down to the middle of the sixteenth century or thereabouts, these portraits are my relatives.

I understand these men and women in the same sense that I understand my contemporaries.

But in the middle of the sixteenth century a change begins and the Gothic man, the pre-Reformation man, comes on the scene, and he is a stranger to us.

There is a very peculiar look about him, his eyes are stone-like and inexpressive; none of the vivacity to be seen in our eyes is in them.

Sometimes one sees this face reproduced in modern times among peasants and people of the ignorant classes who have not awakened to modern life.

Thus the cook of my mother-in-law has a perfect Gothic face, the arched eyebrows and pointed smile of the Madonna.

If you notice Luther’s face you can find that he is not quite modern, but belonged to the time before the Reformation also.

He has still in a way the Gothic look and the Gothic mouth.

There is combined in this smile the paranoid’s idea of persecution, of martyrdom, and the sardonic smile of catatonia.

It is also the smile of Mona Lisa.

is connected, too, with the antique smile as one sees it on the Aegina marbles, those men who are enduring death with a smile.

The Gothic smile is almost like the beginning of a kiss—full of tenderness, like a mother.

Or it is the smile of a man who meets on the street the woman with whom he has a secret liaison.

There is understanding in the smile—“We know,” it seems to say.

I think these peculiarities of the Gothic attitude are to be explained by the fact that at one time there was one language, one belief, from north to south.

The smile bespoke the complete conviction that excluded all doubt, therefore the kinship with the paranoid.

All this disappeared with the advent of the modern viewpoint.

The world broke into diversified faiths, and the inner unit and quietude gave place to the materialistic urge toward conquest of the outer world.

Through science values became exteriorized.

Modern art, then, began first by depreciating these external values, by dissolving the object, and then sought the basic thing, the internal image back of the object—the eidolon.

We can hardly predict today what the artist is going to bring forth, but always a great religion has gone hand in hand with a great art.


At the last lecture I told you of my descent into the cavern. After that came a dream in which I had to kill Siegfried.

Siegfried was not an especially sympathetic figure to me, and I don’t know why my unconscious got engrossed in him.

Wagner’s Siegfried, especially, is exaggeratedly extraverted and at times actually ridiculous.

I never liked him.

Nevertheless my dream showed him to be my hero.

I could not understand the strong emotion I had with the dream.

I can tell it here appropriately because it connects with the theme we have been discussing with respect to art, that is, with the change of values.

This was the dream:

I was in the Alps, not alone, but with another man, a curious shortish man with brown skin.

Both of us carried rifles.

It was just before dawn, when the stars were disappearing from the sky, and we were climbing up the mountain together.

Suddenly I heard Siegfried’s horn sound out from above, and I knew that it was he we were to shoot.

The next minute he appeared high above us, lit up by a shaft of sunlight from the rising sun.

He came plunging down the mountainside in a chariot made of bones.

I thought to myself, “Only Siegfried could do that.”

Presently, around a bend in the trail, he came upon us, and we fired full into his breast.

Then I was filled with horror and disgust at myself for the cowardice of what we had done.

The little man with me went forward, and I knew he was going to drive the knife into Siegfried’s heart, but that was just a little too much for me, and I turned and fled.

I had the idea of getting away as fast as I could to a place where “they” could not find me.

I had the choice of going down into the valley or further up the mountains by a faint trail.

I chose the latter, and as I ran there broke upon me a perfect deluge of rain.

Then I awoke with a sense of great relief.

The hero, as I told you, is the symbol of the greatest value recognized by us.

Christ has been our hero when we accept the principles of his life as our own principles.

Or Herakles or Mithras becomes my hero when I am determined to be as disciplined as they were.

So it appeared as if Siegfried were my hero.

I felt an enormous pity for him, as though I myself had been shot.

I must then have had a hero I did not appreciate, and it was my ideal of force and efficiency I had killed.

I had killed my intellect, helped on to the deed by a personification of the collective unconscious, the little brown man with me.

In other words, I deposed my superior function.

The same thing is going on in art, that is, the killing of one function in order to release another.

The rain that fell is a symbol of the release of tension; that is, the forces of the unconscious are loosed.

When this happens, the feeling of relief is engendered.

The crime is expiated because, as soon as the main function is deposed, there is a chance for other sides of the personality to be born into life. Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Chapter 7, Pages 55 – 62

. . . no man can converse with an animus for five minutes without becoming the victim of his own anima. Anyone who still had enough sense of humour to listen objectively to the ensuing dialogue would be staggered by the vast number of commonplaces, misapplied truisms, clichés from newspapers and novels, shop-soiled platitudes of every description interspersed with vulgar abuse and brain-splitting lack of logic.

It is a dialogue which, irrespective of its participants, is repeated millions and millions of times in all languages of the world and al- ways remains essentially the same. Carl Jung; Memories Dreams and Reflections; Page 392 and Aion, CW 9, ii, Page 15