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On the Moon and Matriarchal Consciousness by Erich Neumann
In the history of the beginnings of consciousness, we can discern successive phases of development during which the ego frees itself from containment in the unconscious, the original uroboric situation, and finally, at the end of the process, having become the
center of modern Western consciousness, confronts the unconscious as a separated system in the psyche.
During this development, leading to a liberation from the ascendancy of the unconscious, the symbolism of consciousness is masculine and that of the unconscious, insofar as it stands in opposition to the emancipation of the ego, is feminine, as we learn from mythology and the symbolism of the collective unconscious.
The phase in which ego-consciousness is still childlike, that is, dependent in its relation to the unconscious, is represented in myth by the archetype of the Great Mother.
The constellation of this psychic situation, as well as of its forms of expression and projection, we have termed “matriarchy,” and, in contradistinction to this, we will speak of the tendency of the ego to free itself from the unconscious and to dominate it, as the “patriarchal accent” in the development of consciousness.
Therefore, matriarchy and patriarchy are psychic stages which are characterized by different developments of the conscious and the unconscious and, especially, by different attitudes of the one toward the other.
Matriarchy not only signifies the dominance of Great Mother archetype but also, in a general way, -a total psychic situation in which the unconscious ( and the feminine) is
dominant and consciousness ( and the masculine) has not yet reached self-reliance and independence. (“Masculine” and “feminine” are here symbolic magnitudes, not to be identified with the “man” or the “woman” as carriers of specific sexual characteristics.)
In this sense, a psychological stage, a religion, a neurosis, and also a stage in the development of consciousness can be called “matriarchal”; and “patriarchal” does not mean the sociological rule of men but the dominance of a masculine consciousness
which succeeds in separating the systems of consciousness and unconsciousness and which is relatively firmly established in a position opposite to, and independent of, the unconscious.
For this reason, modern woman must also go through all those developments which lead to the formation of the patriarchal consciousness which is now typical of, and taken for granted in, the Western conscious situation, being dominant in patriarchal culture.
However, along with this “patriarchal consciousness” exists a “matriarchal consciousness” whose effectiveness is hidden but significant.
“Matriarchal consciousness” belongs to the matriarchal layer of the psyche that shaped civilization in the early period of human history.
It characterizes the spiritual nature of woman apart from the cultural contribution of woman to patriarchal consciousness-but it also plays an important role in the life of man.
Wherever consciousness is not liberated in a patriarchal way from the unconscious, “matriarchal consciousness” dominates: that is, in the early days of humanity and, ontogenetically, in the corresponding phases of childhood-likewise, in the man in whom
occurs an accentuated activity on the part of the anima, the feminine side of his psychology, in psychological crises, as well as in creative processes.
Before seeking to reach a deeper psychological understanding of
matriarchal consciousness, let us indulge in an “etymological intermezzo
on the moon;’ which will tell us something about the structure of the moon archetype.
We will find that the psychological aspect of the archetype may provide an inner, central point of relationship between roots that have hitherto been considered as having no linguistic connection.
Etymology has attempted to separate two roots: on the one hand, the moon-root which, with men (moon) and monsis (month), belongs to the root ma and the Sanskrit root mas and, on the other, the Sanskrit root manas, with menos (Greek), mens (Latin), etc., which represents the spirit par excellence.
From the spirit-root stems a wide ramification of significant spiritual meanings: menos, spirit, heart, soul, courage, ardency; menoinan, to consider, meditate, wish; memona, to have in mind, to intend; mainomai, to think, but also to be lost in thoughts and to rave, with which belong mania, madness, possession, and also manteia, prophecy.
Other branches of the same spirit-stem are menis, menos, anger; menuo, indicate, reveal; meno, remain, linger; manthano, to learn; memini, to remember; and mentiri, to lie.
All these spirit-roots stem from the one original Sanskrit root matith, which means thought, intention. On no grounds whatever, this root has been set in opposition to the moon-root: men, moon; mensis, month; mas, which is connected with ma, to measure.
From it stems not only matra-m, measure, but also mentis, cleverness, wisdom; metiesthai, to meditate, to have in mind, to dream; and, moreover, to our surprise we ascertain that this moon-root, purportedly opposed to the spirit-root, is likewise derived from the Sanskrit root matith, meaning measure, knowing.
Hence, the single archetypal root underlying these meanings is the moon-spirit, which expresses itself in all of the diversified branchings, thus revealing to us its nature and its primal meaning.
What emanates from the moon-spirit is an emotional movement closely related to the activities of the unconscious.
In active eruption it is a fiery spirit-it is courage, anger, possession, and rage; its self-revelation leads to prophecy, cogitation, and lying, but also to poetry.
Along with this fiery productivity, however, goes another, more “measured” attitude which meditates, dreams, waits and wishes, hesitates and lingers, which is related to memory and learning, and whose outcome is moderation, wisdom, and meaning.
In discussing this subject elsewhere I mentioned, as a primary activity of the unconscious, the Einfa1, that is, the hunch or thought that ‘pops’ into the head.
The appearance of spiritual contents which thrust themselves into consciousness with sufficient convincing force to fascinate and control it probably represents the first form of the emergence of the spirit in man.
While, with an expanded consciousness and a stronger ego,- this emerging factor is introjected and thought of as an inner psychic manifestation, in the beginning it appears to approach the psyche from outside as a sacred revelation and a numinous message from
the “powers” or Gods.
The ego, experiencing these contents as arriving from without, even when it calls them intuitions or inspirations, meets the spontaneous spiritual phenomenon with the
attitude characteristic of the ego of matriarchal consciousness.
For it is still as true as ever that the revelations of the moon-spirit are more easily received when night animates the unconscious and brings introversion than in the bright light of day.
Naturally, matriarchal consciousness is not confined to women; it exists also in men insofar as their consciousness is an anima consciousness.
This is particularly true of creative people; yet the consciousness of everyone depends upon the activity of the unconscious for inspiration and hunches, as well as for the functioning of instincts, and the “provision of libido” for consciousness.
All these things are ruled by the moon and therefore require a harmony with the moon, an adjustment to it-that is, a moon-cult.
Of prime significance in the moon-cult is the role of the moon as measurer of time.
But moon-time is not the abstract, quantitative time of scientific, patriarchal consciousness.
It is qualitative time; it changes and, in changing, assumes different qualities.
Moon time has periods and rhythms, it waxes and wanes, is favorable or unfavorable.
As the time that rules the cosmos, it also rules the earth, and all things that live, and the feminine.
The waxing moon is more than a measurer of time.
It is a symbol, like the waning moon, the full moon, and the dark moon, for an inner and outer quality of life and humanity.
We can most clearly represent to ourselves the archetypal character of the moon’s periods by the changing force of their radiations.
For they are centers of the waves of vibration, the streams of power, which, from within and without, pulse through the world and permeate psycho-biological life.
Moon-time conditions human living, too.
New moon and full moon were the earliest sacred times; the dark of the moon, as the victory of the dark night dragon, was the first typical time of darkness and evil.
Moreover, seeding and harvest, growth and ripeness, the success and the failure of every enterprise and action were also dependent on the constellation of cosmic moon-time.
It is, of course, in the feminine that the nature and periodicity of the moon are particularly manifested, and therefore the masculine mind continues to identify the feminine with the moon.
Not only is the feminine physically bound to the moon by the monthly change
(though no longer dependent on the outer moon period), but also the whole of feminine mentality is determined by the moon, and its form of spirituality is impressed upon it by the moon archetype, as the epitome of matriarchal consciousness.
The periodicity of the moon, with its nocturnal background, is the symbol of a spirit that waxes and wanes, conforming to the dark processes of the unconscious.
Moon-consciousness, as matriarchal consciousness might be called, is never divorced from the unconscious, for it is a phase, a spiritual phase, of the unconscious itself.
The ego of matriarchal consciousness possesses no free, independent activity of its own; it waits passively, attuned to the spirit-impulse carried toward it by the unconscious.
A time is favorable or unfavorable according to whether the spiritual activity determined by the unconscious turns toward the ego and reveals itself or turns away, darkens, and disappears.
At this stage of matriarchal consciousness, the ego’s task is to wait and watch for the favorable or unfavorable time, to put itself in harmony with the changing moon, to bring about a consonance, a unison with the rhythm of the moon’s emanations.
In other words, matriarchal consciousness is dependent upon mood, upon harmony with the unconscious.
This moon dependency can be viewed as instability or caprice, yet it provides a backdrop which acts like a sounding board, endowing matriarchal consciousness with a special and positive character.
Its response to the rhythm, the times and tides of waxing and waning, of crescendo and decrescendo, gives it something of the quality of music.
Therefore, music and dance, because of their accented rhythm, play an important role in creating and activating matriarchal consciousness and in establishing a consonance between the ego and femininity and its ruler, the moon-spirit.4
A musical character of an intoxicating, orgiastic nature appertains to the deepest involvements and greatest heights of feminine being.
Here, as in music, an emotion driving toward disintegration and a simultaneous, irrational experience of harmony combine together, according to an inner, invisible law.
The source of seduction and transport ranges from the/ ascinans5 of a singing voice or
The Pied Piper’s flute to the ecstatic music of the Dionysian mysteries, the dissolving power of music in orgiastic ritual, and the effect of music on modern woman. 6
The connection between time, the unconscious, and the moon spirit belongs, even more profoundly than has so far been shown, to the essential nature of matriarchal consciousness; and it is only by an adequate grasp of the spirit-character of the moon-archetype that we can understand the meaning of matriarchal consciousness and of feminine spirit.
The way in which an idea, an inspiration, or an intoxication arising from the unconscious seizes a personality as if by a sudden, violent assault-driving it to ecstasy, insanity, poetry, or prophecy -represents one part of the spirit’s working.
The corresponding trait of matriarchal consciousness is its dependence for every intuition
and inspiration upon what emerges from the unconscious, mysteriously and almost beyond influence, when, where, and how it will. From this point of view, all shamanism, including prophecy, is a passive sufferance; its activity is more that of conceiving
than of a willed act; and the essential contribution of the ego consists in a readiness to accept the emerging unconscious content and to come into harmony with it.
Since, however, this independence of consciousness is characteristic of the autonomous emergence of all unconscious contents, the moon very frequently appears as the symbol of the unconscious in general.
The relation between time and the moon in matriarchal consciousness, the moon’s lordship of time, becomes clear to us only when we pursue the time significance of the moon beyond the cosmic-mythological realm into its effect on the psychology of the
The development of patriarchal consciousness culminates in a relative liberation and independence from the unconscious which leaves the ego in command of a differentiated system of consciousness with a certain amount of disposable libido, libido that can be
applied at will.
We must understand the importance of this patriarchal form of consciousness, even while rejecting the self-deception which makes it interpret itself as an absolutely free system.
Masculine patriarchal consciousness, as shown by the development of the species “man,” is a highly practical and effective organ of adaptation and accomplishment.
Among its advantages are its constant readiness to react and the extraordinary swiftness of its reactions and adaptations for, although instinctual reactions guided by the sense organs are prompt indeed, the speed that the consciousness of modern man has achieved by specialization far outstrips them.
This speeding up of conscious reactions is brought about by the same processes that led to the detachment of patriarchal consciousness from the unconscious. 7
As a final development, we see processes of abstraction, which assist in the free disposal and application of ideas and, in the differentiated thinking type, lead to the manipulation of abstractions, like numbers in mathematics and concepts in logic.
In the psychological sense, such abstractions are in the highest degree without emotional content.
While patriarchal consciousness annihilates time and outstrips nature’s slow processes of transformation and evolution by its purposive use of experiment and calculation, matriarchal consciousness remains caught in the spell of the changing moon.
Like the moon, its illumination and its luminosity are bound to the flow of
time and to periodicity.
It must wait for time to ripen, while with time, like sown seed, comprehension ripens too.
In ritual and cult, waiting and awaiting are identical with encirclement, with circumambulation.
In the wonderful story told by the Brothers Grimm about the nixie in the mill pond, as well as in many other fairytales, the woman must wait until the moon is full again. 8
Till then she must continue circling the lake in silence, or she must spin her spool full.
Only when the time is “fulfilled” does understanding come as an illumination.
Similarly, in woman’s primal mysteries-in boiling, baking, fermenting, and roasting
-the ripening and getting done, the transformation, is always connected with a period of waiting.
The ego of matriarchal consciousness is accustomed to keeping still until the time is favorable, until the process is complete, until the fruit of the moon-tree has ripened into a full moon-that is, until comprehension has been born out of the unconscious.
For the moon is not only lord of growth but also, as moon-tree and life-tree, always itself a growth, “the fruit that begets itself.”
It is in the act of understanding that the peculiar and specific difference between the processes of matriarchal and patriarchal consciousness first becomes apparent.
For matriarchal consciousness, understanding is not an act of the intellect, functioning as an organ for swift registration, development, and organization; rather, it has the meaning of a “conception.”9
Whatever is to be understood must first enter matriarchal consciousness in the full, sexual, symbolic meaning of a fructification.
But this feminine symbolism does not stop here, for that which has entered must come forth.
The phrase “to come forth” marvelously expresses the double aspect of matriarchal consciousness, which experiences the light of consciousness like seed that has sprouted.
But when something enters and then even comes forth again, this something involves the whole psyche, which is now permeated through and through with the full-grown perception that it must realize, must make real, with its full self.
This means that the conceiving and understanding have brought about a personality change.
The new content has seized and stirred the whole being, whereas in patriarchal consciousness it would too often only have been filed in one intellectual pigeon-hole or
Just as a patriarchal consciousness finds it difficult to realize fully and not merely to meet with “superb” understanding, so a matriarchal consciousness finds it difficult to understand without first realizing.
And here, to realize means to “bear,” to bring to birth; it means submitting to a mutual relation and interaction like that of the mother and the embryo in pregnancy.
Matriarchal, qualitative time is always a unique and single occurrence, like a pregnancy, in contrast to the quantitative time of patriarchal consciousness.
To patriarchal ego-consciousness, every section of time is equal; but matriarchal consciousness has learned, from the timing of the moon, to know the individuality of cosmic time, if not yet that of the ego.
The uniqueness and indestructibility of time are constellated for the eye of one schooled to perceive the growth of living things, able to experience and realize the pregnancy of a moment, its readiness for birth.
A fairytale relates that once in a hundred years, on a certain day, at a definite hour, a
treasure rises from the deep and will belong to him who finds it at this right moment of its growth. 10
Only a matriarchal consciousness, adjusted to the processes of the unconscious, can recognize the individual time element; a patriarchal consciousness, to which this is one of innumerable, similar moments, will necessarily miss it. In this respect, the matriarchal consciousness is more concrete and closer to actual life, while the patriarchal is more abstract and further from reality.
Therefore, the language of symbolism would, as a rule, situate matriarchal consciousness not in the head but in the heart.
Here, understanding means also an act of inclusive feeling, and very often this act-as, for instance, in creative work-has to be accompanied by the most intense affect-participation if anything is to shine forth and illuminate.
The abstract thought of patriarchal consciousness is cold in comparison, for the objectivity demanded of it presupposes an aloofness possible only to cold blood and a
Moon-consciousness has been generally associated with the heart by all peoples for whom the head has not yet become the center of a patriarchal consciousness detached from the unconscious.
In Egypt the heart was believed to be the original source of thought and of the creative spirit.
In India, where it was cosmically associated with the moon, the heart was held to be the
seat of the manas-another word belonging to the root men, signifying a psychical organ of the spirit so became the place of manifestation for the highest divinity.
This heart-center of matriarchal consciousness, with its relation to moon-time, is still the valid orienting factor in all processes of growth and transformation.
Its dominance is also typical of the processes of the creative spirit, in the course of which contents are slowly constellated in the unconscious, more or less independent of conscious participation, until they flow up into a consciousness which is neither systematized nor insulated, but open and ready to expand.
That the seat of matriarchal consciousness is in the heart and not the head means-to point out only one implication of the symbolism-that the ego of patriarchal consciousness, our familiar head-ego, often knows nothing of what goes on in the deeper center of consciousness in the heart.
For it is essential to bear in mind that the processes of matriarchal consciousness have their relation to an ego and can therefore not be described as unconscious.
To be sure, this ego is of a different kind than the one familiar to us in patriarchal consciousness, but it nevertheless plays an active part in the process of matriarchal consciousness.
Its presence constitutes the difference between human functioning at the matriarchal stage and a totally unconscious existence.
The common identification of our ego with patriarchal head consciousness and the corresponding unrelatedness to matriarchal consciousness of t~.11. le_acl tQ gμrJ1~0! J~_knowing what is really happening to us. In such cases we find out later that we have been deeply impressed by things, situations, and people, of which our head-ego has taken no cognizance whatever.
Then, the other way round, a seemingly dull lack of reaction may appear in someone
-often a woman-whose head cannot react promptly but whose heart-consciousness has conceived.
The fact that, like lightning, something has ‘struck’ and been realized will become visible later in the fruitfulness of a personality change.
Here the saying of Heraclitus holds true: “Nature loves to hide itself.”11
The moment of conception is veiled and mysterious, often submitted to by the ego of matriarchal consciousness without any awareness on the part of the head-ego.
But a deeper introspection, taking dreams, images, and fantasies into account, will show that in the matriarchal consciousness the moment and the event have been registered and have by no means passed without a consciousness participating.
There is much meaning in the veiling of these moments of conception which are often so vitally important.
Growth needs stillness and invisibility, not loudness and light.
It is no accident that the symbols of patriarchal consciousness are daylight and the sun.
The validity of this law, for biological . as for psychological increase, is confirmed by Nietzsche, that great connoisseur of the creative soul, when he says: “In the state of pregnancy we hide ourselves.”12
It is not under the burning rays of the sun but in the cool, reflected light of the moon, when the darkness of unconsciousness is at the full, that the creative process fulfills itself; t_!ie night, not th.~4fil’, is the time of progeation.
lt~ts darkness and quiet, secrecy, muteness, and hiddenness.
Therefore, the moon is lord of life and growth in opposition to the lethal, devouring sun.
Tlie moist’ might time 1s tfie time of sleep but also of healing and re~gy-; Fot this reason, the moon-Goa Sin 1s a physician, and rt is said in a cuneiform inscription of his healing plant that “after the sun goes down and with a veiled head, it [the plant] must be encircled
with a magic ring of flour, and cut before the sun rises.”13
Here we see, associated with the magic circle and with flour, the mystery symbol of “veiling” which belongs to the moon and the secretness of the night.
The realms of healing and healer, healing plant and recuperative growth, meet in this configuration. 14
It is the regenerating power of the unconscious that in nocturnal darkness or by the light of the moon performs its task, a mysterium in a mysterium, working from out of itself, out of nature, with no aid from the head-ego.
This is why healing pills and herbs are ascribed to the moon and their secrets guarded by
women or, better, by womanliness, which belongs to the moon.
Here the symbolism of vegetative growth is to be interpreted in the wide sense which conceives every symbol to be a synthesis of inner as well as outer reality.
To the nocturnal realm of the healing moon belong the regenerating power of sleep which heals the body and its wounds, the darkness where the recovery takes place, and also those events in the soul which in obscurity, by processes only the heart can know, allow men to ‘outgrow’ their insolvable crises.
It is not, as has been thought, because the moon often looks green in the east that green has been supposed to be the color of the moon; 15 it is because of the moon’s inherent kinship with vegetation, of which it is said: “When Sin’s word descends to the earth, the green comes forth.”16
This green of Osiris, of Chidher, of Shiva’s sprout, and of the green alchemical stone is not only the color of physical development but also of the development of the spirit and the soul.
The moon as ruler of matriarchal consciousness is connected with a specific knowledge and a particular form of comprehension.
This is consciousness that has come to birth, spirit as something born, light as the offspring of night.
Comprehension, as fruit, belongs to the essence of matriarchal consciousness.
As Nietzsche put it: “Everything about woman is a riddle, and everything about woman has one solution. It is called pregnancy.”
Again and again the Tree of Life is a moon-tree and its fruit the delicious fruit of the full moon. The draft, or “pill of immortality,” sublime knowledge, illumination, ecstasy-all these are the radiant fruit of the tree of transforming growth.
Also, in India, the moon is King Soma, the intoxicating juice, of which it is said: “As King Soma, the self of nourishment, ·1 worship him.”17
We have seen that the moon is lord of fertility and of fertility magic.
This magic associated with matriarchal consciousness is always used for the increase or insurance of growth, in contrast to the directed magic of the will, the magic act which, like a hunting spell, for instance, is a tool of active, male, patriarchal consciousness.
Processes of growth are processes of transformation and subject to the self.
Matriarchal consciousness mirrors these processes and in its specific way accompanies and supports them.
On the other hand, form-giving processes, in which the initiative and activity lie with the ego, belong to the domain of the masculine, patriarchal spirit.
To ‘carry’ a knowledge and allow it to ripen mean, at the same time, to accept it; and acceptance, which here includes the idea of, assimilation, is a typically feminine form of activity, not to be confused with passive submission or drifting.
The comparative passivity of matriarchal consciousness is not due to any incapacity for action but rather to an awareness of subjection to a process in which it can ‘do’ nothing but can only ‘let happen.’
In all decisive life situations, the feminine, in a far greater degree than the nothing-but masculine, is subjected to the numinous elements in nature or, still better, has these brought home to it.
Therefore, its relation to nature and to God is more familiar and intimate, and its tie to an anonymous transpersonal allegiance forms earlier and goes deeper than its personal tie to a man.
Although matriarchal consciousness exists in all human beings and plays an important role in men, especially if they are creative, women are still the real representatives of this consciousness, even now when they have a patriarchal consciousness at their disposal
too, and the opposition between the two attitudes has become a source of deep conflict.
For woman has held the attitude of receptivity and acceptance, which is basic to matriarchal consciousness, since the beginning of time.
She takes this attitude for granted.
It is not only during the menstrual period that, to live wisely, she must place her harmony with the moon above the desires and plans of the masculine side of her ego-consciousness.
Pregnancy and birth bring total psycho-biological changes also, demanding and presupposing adaptations and adjustments lasting for years on end.
In regard to the unknown nature of the child, its character, its sex (a matter of decisive importance in many cultures, both matriarchal and patriarchal), its health, its fate-in all these things, woman is delivered over to the mercy and power of God and condemned, as
an ego, to helpless non-activity and non-intervention.
Similarly, at a later stage, she is subjected in an entirely different way by men to the overwhelming force of a love-relation.
For this reason, the male faith in the ego and in consciousness is alien to women; indeed, it seems to them slightly absurd and childish.
From this stems the profound skepticism and the kind of indifference with which they tend to react toward patriarchal consciousness and the masculine mental world, especially when, as frequently happens, they confuse the two worlds of spirit and consciousness.
Masculinity is attached to the ego and to consciousness; it has deliberately broken the relation to nature and to destiny in which matriarchal consciousness is so deeply rooted.
The patriarchal emphasis on the ego, on will and freedom, contradicts the feminine experience of the “potencies and powers” of the unconscious and of fate, of the way that existence depends on the non-ego and the “thou.”
The subdued activity of the ego at the matriarchal stage accords with its preference-as contrasted to that of the head-ego-for the attitude of an observing consciousness.
It is more concerned with awareness and attentiveness than with directed thought or judgment.
Observant, matriarchal consciousness must not be confused with the sensation function of masculine ego-consciousness or with its aloofness, which leads to scientific objectivity.
Matriarchal consciousness is directed by attendant feelings and intuitions that are based on half-conscious processes and assist the emotionally participating ego in its task of orientation.
Matriarchal consciousness reflects unconscious processes, sums them up, and guides itself by them; that is, it behaves more or less passively, without willed ego-intentions.
It functions as a kind of total realization in which the whole psyche participates and in
which the ego has the task of turning the libido toward a particular psychic event and intensifying its effect, rather than using the experience as a basis for abstract conclusions and an expansion of consciousness.
The typical activity of this observing consciousness is contemplation.
In contemplation, the energies are directed toward an emotionally colored content, event, or center, with which the ego establishes a relation and by which it allows itself to
be filled and permeated; from this it never withdraws or abstracts, as in an extremely patriarchal consciousness.
The observant, emotionally determined nature of the moon spirit is designated in the German language by words belonging to the root Sinn, signifying: to muse, to have in mind, to ponder, to consider, and to be contemplative; also contemplation, bent of
mind, as well as senses and sensual; and last, not least, the EigenSinn ( self-will, stubbornness) which the male usually ascribes to the female. Matriarchal consciousness circumambulates and b_roo~; i! !~cks the l)_ll_rposiy~nes§. of dir~cJed thought, QfJogk:aJ conclusion and judgment.
Its characteristic action is a movement around a circle, a contemplation (Betrachtung, once interpreted by Jung as trachtigmachen, making pregnant).
It has not the direct aim of masculine consciousness nor the knife-sharp edge of its
Matriarchal consciousness is more interested in the meaningful than in facts and dates and is oriented teleologically to organic growth rather than to mechanical or logical causation.
Since the process of cognition in such a moon-consciousness is a pregnancy and its product a birth, a process in which the whole personality participates, its ‘knowledge’ cannot be imparted, accounted for, or proved.
It is an inner possession, realized and assimilated by the personality but not easily discussed, for the inner experience behind it is scarcely capable of adequate verbal
expression and can hardly be transmitted to anyone who has not undergone the same experience.
For this reason, a plain and simple masculine consciousness finds the knowledge of matriarchal consciousness unverifiable, willful, and, par excellence, mystic.
This, in fact, is in a positive sense the heart of the matter.
It is the same kind of knowledge which is revealed in the true mysteries and in mysticism; it consists not of imparted truths but of experienced transformations and so
necessarily has validity only for people who have passed through a similar experience.
For them, Goethe’s advice still holds:
Sagt es niemand, nur den Weisen,
Weil die Menge gleich verhohnet.
( Tell it to none, but to the wise For the crowd is quick in scoffing.)
This is to say that the realizations of matriarchal consciousness are conditioned by the personality which has them.
They are not abstract and de-emotionalized, for matriarchal consciousness conserves
the tie with the unconscious realms from which its knowledge springs.
Its insights are therefore often in direct opposition to those of masculine consciousness, which ideally consist of isolated and abstract conscious contents, free of emotionalism and possessing a universal validity unaffected by personal factors.
A fundamental trend of Western development has been to expand the domain of patriarchal consciousness and draw to it everything that could possibly be added.
Yet matriarchal consciousness is by no means an outdated mode of functioning or an area of undeveloped contents which only lethargy has kept from evolving to the patriarchal level.
What the moon-side perceives is in large part, at least to the contemporary psyche, beyond the grasp of scientific understanding.
It relates to those general experiences of life which have always been the subject matter of mysteries and religions and which belong to the domain of wisdom, not to that of science.
The moon-spirit bestows culture too but not in the sense that stargazing and astrology have led to mathematics and astronomy; rather, the celestial prototype of its cultural influence is the “fruit which begets itself;’ the conqueror of death and bestower of rebirth.
As lord of ghosts and the departed, it summons the natural and spiritual powers of the unconscious to arise from the watery depths, when their time is come, and so bestows upon mankind not only growth and sustenance but also prophecy, poetry, wisdom, and immortality.
Matriarchal consciousness experiences the dark and mysterious process of growing comprehension as something in which the self functions as a totality.
The self here dominates as the (male) moon, but above and beyond its moon-aspect it rules as the Great Mother, as the wholeness of the nocturnal.
Because of its relation to growth, matriarchal consciousness presupposes this unbroken
connection with the root-bed of all growing things, with the nocturnal mother-a connection broken on principle and with heroic determination by the masculine ego; yet for matriarchal consciousness, the influence of the Great Mother and that of the masculine moon often seem to come together in the moon symbol.
The relationship, amounting to participation between the matriarchal ego and the moon, like that of the Great Mother herself, goes further than partnership with a moon-lover: it reaches identity.
The likeness of the hermaphroditic nature of the Great Mother is shown not only by the reception of the moon-spirit, the lord and lover from without, as may be supposed at once rightly and wrongly, but also by the carrying within itself of its own masculine side, as a divinity, a son-lover, and at once a father and a child.
The ego of matriarchal consciousness experiences the fructifying power of the moon as the fructifying side of the unconscious, as a portion of the power of the uroboric Great Mother. 18
And through this experience of unbroken union with the wholeness appearing before it in the Great Mother image, it can see its own likeness.
The wholeness of the Great Mother, like its own, encircles what it conceives and recognizes the engenderer as something born of itself, as the son and fruit of its own growth.
So the moon has not only a male manifestation as the center of the spiritual world of matriarchal consciousness; it has also a feminine manifestation as the highest form of the feminine spirit-self, as Sophia, as wisdom.
It is a wisdom relating to the indissoluble and paradoxical unity of life and death, of nature and spirit, to the laws of time and fate, of growth, of death and death’s overcoming.
This figure of feminine wisdom accords with no abstract, unrelated code of law by which dead stars or atoms circulate in empty space; it is a wisdom that is bound and stays bound to the earth, to organic growth, and to ancestral experience.
It is the wisdom of the unconscious, of the instincts, of life, and of relationship.
Hence, matriarchal consciousness is the wisdom of the earth, of peasants and, naturally, of women.
The teachings of China, particularly of the I Ching and of Lao-tzu, are an expression of this matriarchal consciousness, which loves the hidden and the dark and which has time.
It renounces quick results, prompt reactions, and visible effects.
More turned to the night than to the day, it dreams and watches more than it wakes and acts.
It has less love for brightness and clarity than seems desirable to patriarchal consciousness, which, turning its back to the moon-side, only too gladly ignores its own dependence upon the dark aspect of the unconscious. Matriarchal wisdom is paradoxical.
It never separates and juxtaposes opposites with the clear discrimination of patriarchal
consciousness; rather, it relates them to one another by an “as well as” or an “also.”
From this point of view-not to be misinterpreted-matriarchal consciousness is relativistic, for it is less oriented to the absolute unambiguity of truth than to a wisdom which remains imbedded in a cosmo-psychological system of ever-changing forces.
This relativistic attitude often may even appear like enmity toward the ‘absolute,’ if a difference in kind and a tendency toward relationship can be termed enmity.
The dependence of matriarchal consciousness upon its partner the moon-spirit, its consonance with the moon-spirit’s changing phases, contains an element of Eros, a dependence on the thou of the partner as moon-lover, which distinguishes matriarchal from patriarchal consciousness as a consciousness of relationship.
Patriarchal consciousness is free to act and think when; how, and what it wants.
In its detached, abstract way, it is self-sufficient or ego sufficient, supreme within the circle of its conscious contents.
But matriarchal consciousness is not self-sufficient; it is bound to the moon and to the unconscious and, aware of its dependence, adjusts itself accordingly.
For this reason the wisdom of the moon-Sophia lacks that abstract, non-individual, universal, and absolute character which the patriarchal male asserts to be the highest spirituality, revering it as the celestial spirit-sphere of sun and daylight and setting it above the moon-world.
From this point of view, the moon-spirit of matriarchal consciousness is ‘only’ moon-spirit, ‘only’ soul, and the eternal feminine.
But by forfeiting the character of remote divinity, matriarchal consciousness retains the milder and less blinding light of the human spirit.
Woman’s wisdom is non-speculative; it is close to nature and life, bound to fate and to living reality.
Its illusionless view of actuality may shock an idealistic, masculine mentality; yet
it is related to this actuality as nourisher, helper, comforter, and lover and leads it beyond death to ever-renewed transformation and rebirth.
The moon-wisdom of waiting, accepting, ripening admits everything into its totality, transforming it as well as its own being.
It is always concerned with wholeness, with shaping and realizing, with the creative.
One must never forget that the creative is by its inherent nature related to matriarchal consciousness.
It is not the conscious but the unconscious which is creative, and every creative
achievement, like a pregnancy, presupposes an attitude of patience and relatedness such as we have found characteristic of matriarchal consciousness.
However, while all creative cultural achievement-at least in its highest form- represents a synthesis of receptive matriarchal and formative patriarchal consciousness, woman’s predominant dependence upon matriarchal consciousness and its form of wisdom
entails, with all its blessings, some inherent dangers.
It is certainly consonant with the moon-spirit and the process of growth that silence and realization should come before formulation and understanding; but woma_rr_s tendency to realization, one of the creative elements of matriarchal consciousness, often gets entangled in mere naturalness.
In that early phase of its development, the “self-establishment” phase, when the feminine can without danger still remain caught in the Great Mother, matriarchal consciousness is quite unaware of being dominated by the unconscious. 19
But even when the matriarchal ego becomes conscious of its separate existence, it still
adheres to the basic condition of its former existence, which is never to be split.
Even when the feminine, as will be shown, has to progress from the task of self-establishment to that of self-surrender, it still wants to be totally involved.
It is never satisfied with the fulfillment of a partial psychic structure such as a conscious differentiation of the ego; the feminine wishes the whole of itself included.
That, on the spiritual or psychological plane, means realization.
But here woman’s nature often plays a trick.
Instead of realizing, she concretizes and, by a natural projection, transposes the creative process of pregnancy onto the external plane.
That is to say, woman takes the symbols of this phase of matriarchal consciousness
literally; she loves, becomes pregnant, bears, nourishes, cherishes, and so on, and lives her femininity outwardly but not in the inner world.
This tendency may explain the smallness of her spiritual achievements as compared to men, her lack of creative productivity.
It seems to a woman (rightly or wrongly?) that to be the source of life in pregnancy and birth is creative enough.
Matriarchal consciousness is written into a woman’s body, and through her body she lives in outer actuality all which for a man must become a psychological happening, if it is to be realized. 20
In this sense, man, with his developed patriarchal consciousness, is a step ahead, since nature permits him to experience the matriarchal phase of consciousness only as a spiritual advancement and not in concrete form.
As a result, when mankind is forced to come to patriarchal consciousness and to break with the unconscious, matriarchal consciousness-like matriarchy and, along with it, the moon becomes something negative to be surmounted.
Any development, at any stage, that strives toward patriarchal consciousness, toward
the sun, looks on the moon-spirit as the spirit of regression, as the terrible mother, as a witch.
Whether this negative moon is experienced as masculine or feminine, it is in either case a symbol of the devouring unconscious.
Especially as the dark moon, it becomes the blood-sucker, the child-murderer, the eater of human flesh; it symbolizes the danger of inundation by the unconscious, of moodiness, lunacy, and madness.21
The English “to moon,” to be melancholy, to waste time, shows that to be “withdrawn” can , ,:mean to be “drawn to the moon” with its dangerous pull toward the unconscious.
Here, as everywhere, comes the question as to what value a psychic phase has at any special stage of development.
Moon consciousness or matriarchal consciousness is creative and productive at the beginning and end. Moon-light is the first light to illumine the dark world of the unconscious, whence consciousness is born and to which it remains bound; and all things that are childlike, growing, creative, and feminine remain faithful to their relation to the moon-spirit.
But as development goes on, that which was a progression out from the unconscious comes to be a holding fast to the unconsciousness.
At this point, the new and superior sun-world comes into opposition with the world of the moon, as patriarchy does with matriarchy, when they are considered as two psychological
Only in later periods of development, when patriarchy has fulfilled itself or gone to absurd lengths, losing its connection with Mother Earth, does individuation bring about a
Then, patriarchal sun-consciousness reunites with the earlier, more fundamental phase, and matriarchal consciousness, with its central symbol the moon, arises from the deep, imbued with the regenerating power of its primal waters, to celebrate the ancient hieros gamos of moon and sun on a new and higher plane, the plane of the human psyche.
For the masculine as for the feminine, wholeness is attainable only when, in a union of opposites, day and night, upper and lower, patriarchal consciousness and matriarchal come to their own kind of productivity and mutually supplement and fructify one another.
The Jewish Midrash relates that at the beginning of creation the sun and moon were of equal size, but the moon, because it committed a sin, was made smaller, and the sun became the ruling star of the universe.
However, God’s promise to the moon foretells the re-establishment of the original situation:
At that time thou wilt again be large as the sun; And the moon’s light will be like the sun’s light. ~Erich Neumann, Page 230 229
- Cf. the following etymological dictionaries: J. Grimm and W. Grimm,
Deutsches Worterbuch; E. Littre, Dictionnaire de la languefrancaise; E. Boisacq,
Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue grecque ( 1916).
- E. Boisacq, Dictionnaire de la langue grecque.
- See Part I of this article in the Eranos Jahrbuch 18 (here untranslated).
- It is not an accident that the sphere of the muses, that is, of the feminine powers who preside over music, rhythm, dance, soothsaying, and everything artistically creative, is associated through the numbers three and nine with the moon. (Cf. K. Kerenyi, “Die orphische Kosmogonie und der Ursprung der Orphik;’ in Eranos Jahrbuch 17 [Rascher Verlag, 1949]). Similarly, it is the figures of Musaios, of his son Eumolpos, and of Orpheus ( see Bachofen, Mutterrecht, 3d ed., 2: 849, 856 ff.) which become so especially important for the traditions of matriarchal consciousness in the Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries. A further example is that in China the origin of the theater was ascribed to the moon. An emperor who visited the moon, as the legend relates, was so enchanted by the
singing and dancing fairies that on his return to earth he instructed some youths to make a terrestrial copy of their songs and postures and so created the beginning of the Chinese theater (J. Bredon, Das Mondjahr , p. 420).
- See R. Otto, The Idea of the Holy, trans. J. W. Harvey, rev. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), especially translator’s note, p. xv or chap. 6, “The Element of Fascination.”
- Music is not only the specific art of the temporal but also of moon symbolism
as a whole; the concept of qualitative time, of rhythm, of phases, etc., determines its fundamental structure-and by no means only in primitive music.
- E. Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, Bollingen Series 42 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1954; Princeton: Princeton University Press).
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales (New York: Pantheon Books, 1944 ), p. 736.
- Here, and in the following, thinking is taken only as the clearest example of a differentiated function, whose dominance is characteristic of patriarchal consciousness.
See C. G. Jung, Psychological Types, trans. H. G. Baynes (New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1926; revised edition, vol. 6 of The Collected Works [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971]), p. 611; and the author’s Origins and History of Consciousness.
- Characteristically, it is often said that the treasure “blooms.”
- Diels, Fragment 123, Heraklit.
- F. Nietzsche, Gesammelte Werke, vol. 11, p. 305.
- A. Jeremias, Handbuch deraltorientalischen Geisteskultur(Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1929 ), p. 240.
- C. Kerenyi, Asklepios: Archetypal Image of the Physician’s Existence, trans. R. Manheim, Bollingen Series 65.3 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1959); and C. A. Meier, Antike Inkubation und moderne Psychotherapie, Studien aus der C. G. Jung lnstitut (Zurich: Rascher Verlag, 1948 ).
- The symbol of silver which belongs to the moon and, among other things
connected with it, the “silver age” of Hesiod will not be included in this discussion.
- A. Jeremias, Handbuch, p. 248.
- P. Deussen, Sechzig Upanishaden (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1897), p. 53.
- The uroboros, because of its essential duality, includes, among other things, male and female, maternal and paternal. While the female-maternal uroboros rules over the psychological phase of matriarchy, the male uroboros, in which the actively procreative and mobile side of the uroboros is manifested, leads over into patriarchy.
- See Part I of this paper (n. 3, above).
- Not entirely without justification, and certainly not without humor, one woman’s psychoanalytic theory-a kind of answer to the penis-envy imputed to the feminine by man-was that the cultural achievement of man is only a compensation for his incapacity to give birth and so stems, in a way, from his “uterusenvy.”
- R. Briffault, The Mothers (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1927).
- M.J. bin Gorion, Die Sagen der Juden (Frankfurt a. M.: Rutter & Loening, 1913-1927).