The Primordial Sacred Union in Psychology, Religion and Mythology

The concept of the primordial sacred union has come to us by way of world religions, especially in elements of Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, as well as in the Platonic traditions of the West.  An assortment of disciplines has also attempted to conceptualize this symbiotic union. The writing of Carl Jung is filled with examples from myth and culture that point to the importance and value of recognizing the qualities of the primordial sacred union within each individual and the world at large. Humanity was meant to be modeled after this divine union, but has somehow fallen away or become severed from its original wholeness, and has digressed into the imperfect world we see all around us. 

In his book, Man and His Symbols, 16 Carl Jung proposed that, in addition to our immediate, personal consciousness, there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature, which is identical in all individuals. He referred to this as the collective unconscious, which does not develop individually but is inherited. The contents of the collective unconscious, Jung argued, manifest themselves in the form of symbolic images, or archetypes, representing the primordial events that shaped human history.  These archetypal images, which include such symbols as the mother and father, the warrior, the seeker, the sage and the child, are common to all people.  Jung's theory of the feminine principle as a universal archetype, a primordial, instinctual pattern of behavior deeply imprinted on the human psyche, has assisted humanity in its ability to both understand and ground the concept of the Goddess as existing within both the individual and collective psyches.  In this sense, archetypal symbolism of the primordial sacred union is an international form of communication because it bypasses the barriers of language, race and culture.  It is perhaps the most effective form in which sacred concepts can be given expression.

Carl Jung's studies of alchemy, Taoism, and the work of new paradigm scientists led him to become one of the first modern male scientists to value the feminine in equal measure to the masculine.  His concept of wholeness, the goal of the process of individuation, included the integration of the masculine and feminine principles.  He recognized the feminine as the source of receptivity and relatedness, and called for its integration into a Western culture that had gone too far in development of the rational, the materialistic, and the masculine. 

Jung proposed that the primordial sacred union, otherwise referred to by him as "androgyny,"17 is a universal archetype inherent in the collective unconscious and similar to the sacred marriage.  Humanity was supposed to be modeled after this divine image of Creator/Creatrix, but somehow mankind fell away from and was severed from the original wholeness. While this sacred union is as old as creation itself, we have come to know about it through traces left in myths and the sacred traditions of many indigenous peoples. Jung proposed that androgyny, which refers to the anima (feminine) and animus (masculine) aspects within a single human being, regardless of sex, may be the oldest archetype inherent in the human psyche.  Both are present within every human psyche, regardless of physical gender.  In other words, there are masculine and feminine qualities in both men and women. 

Jung believed that the anima (feminine) and animus (masculine) had to be in balance before a person could achieve psychological individuation, or psychic wholeness.  Thus, women, at some point in their individuation process, need to integrate within themselves the masculine qualities, such as assertiveness and objectivity, in order to become whole persons.  Conversely, men need to integrate the feminine qualities that reside within their psyches, such as compassion and non-resistance or passivity, in order to become psychically whole.  Jung was not proposing that men become women.  On the contrary, Jung believed that in order to bridge the gap between male and female, we needed to be able to empathize with the opposite sex.  The movement towards becoming androgynous persons implies a radical change in human consciousness and different styles of human behavior than what has been deemed normal.  It demands that we resist traditional sex role stereotypes and the forms of sexual identity that force men and women into exploiting their differences rather than working together in equality and interdependence. 

The concept of androgyny also proposes new ways of thinking about sexual identity.  Rather than viewing sexual identity as only male and female, androgyny proposes that we begin to view sexual identity as existing on a continuum, which includes recognition of the multitude of sexual permutations that exist in the gray area, such as gays, lesbians and bisexuals.  Biologist and feminist Anne Fausto-Sterling wrote a brilliant book titled Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality,18 which challenges the notion that there always has been and can forevermore only be two human sexes; male and female.  With examples drawn from daily life and from history, sociology, biology and anthropology, Fausto-Sterling demonstrates that these dualisms are neither natural nor cultural universals, but arise from our society's insistence on seeing people that way.  If sexual identity indeed exists on a continuum, and male and female are universal energies, then it makes sense that there is an enormous gray area that has been severely denied in our culture.  After reading this book and gaining an understanding of the universal archetype of androgyny, my sense of male versus female was radically changed. I began to understand why some women I know exude more masculine than feminine qualities, and conversely, why some men appear more feminine than masculine. 

In addition to individual, personal experience, the concept of androgyny demands a meeting of the opposites in our external, socio-cultural environment as well.  Jung proposed that once we have learned to recognize and accept the seemingly contradictory aspects within ourselves, it naturally follows that we need to extend this attitude of mutual interdependence to the wider human community.  Change and wholeness happens from the inside out; therefore, we cannot expect to have equality in the external, socio-cultural environment until each individual first works on becoming integrated within his/herself. The power of the individual to change the world is a profound concept if, and only if, one is committed to her/his personal and spiritual growth.  Too often people try to save the world when in fact what they really need to be doing is examining their own false beliefs and internal imbalances.  Jesus said that a person must first remove the log from his own eye before he can see clearly to remove the splinter from his brother’s eye. 

Author and Jungian psychologist June Singer explains in her book, Androgyny: The Opposites Within,19 that all cultures around the world have collectively attempted to conceptualize the beginning of creation, and each one of them has pointed to the primordial sacred union that existed long before creation. Creation mythology has existed wherever people have questioned their origins. It is in the nature of humans to wonder about the unknown and search for answers.  Since the beginning of time we have tried to imagine what it might have been like before anything had come into existence, yet the language tends to vary from culture to culture.   Science too has focused on understanding what happened seconds before the Big Bang.

Despite being separated by geographical barriers, Carl Jung and his protégé's discovered that many cultures have developed creation myths with the same basic elements. June Singer,20 for example, noted that one of the commonalities is the belief that in the beginning there was a dark void. Chaos is the potency that exists in the void. No entities of any kind were in awareness, and then, in some mysterious way, some bright spark emerged out of nothingness. Within that spark were energies that would eventually be distinguishable as opposites, separating then into the masculine and feminine principles. In the old myths, the idea of this divine union stems from the belief that in the beginning there was a primordial unity, “the eternal one” in which all the opposites are contained. In other words, the "One" ultimately transcends gender.  It can be defined as the genderless One which contains the Two; namely, the male and the female. At some point in time the primordial unity is broken open and separated into two opposite energies. Those polarities are expressed in an assortment of ways; for example, light and dark, positive and negative, hot and cold, mind and body, art and science, war and peace, peace and strife.  Through the conflict and harmony of these two energies, the original, elemental creative force was born—The Primordial Sacred. 

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