James Hillman: The Psyche Tends to Ignore Gender

The following except is from the book InterViews, by James Hillman. – PW


Feminism and femininity is a desperate topic. I steer clear of it. Once you see the whole world in terms of gender you close your mind in a set of blinders, caught in a pair of opposites, and you lose the particular person, like you, in front of me, who happens to be of the female gender. People, you, are far more than female or male. I lose you, the person there, if I reduce you to a supposed feminine essence. Maybe if we used the full vocabulary of psychological traits that were laid out in 1935 by two Harvard psychologists — there were some nineteen thousand traits, that described a personality. Only some of those words are gender words, having to do with external gender characteristics, psychosexual characteristics, sociogender characteristics…

There may be only a few hundred such gendered words out of thousands. Besides that, there are thousands of things about you that have nothing to do with gender. If I put you into your gender, I have made a racist move. It’s like putting you into being Italian or putting you into being a certain age or a certain class. I have lost you in a sociological category. So I don’t want to answer any questions about the feminine, feminism, and so on. I will talk about certain structures of consciousness that have been called feminine and what happens when they are called feminine; we can talk about hysteria or about Dionysus, because Dionysus was considered a Lord or God of women, and the way that works. But I don’t want to speak of “the feminine” in a literal sense. These structures of consciousness that we call feminine are in men and are in women and are in neither. They are structures of consciousness. Archetypal patterns, that appear again and again. This touches only tangentially the social problems of women – not being paid equal wages, for instance. That’s a basic social economic problem. It should and must be dealt with. Or certain laws about property. Or inheritance laws and women…

But let’s not get confused between dealing with those things and defining some kind of consciousness as female or feminine. As my wife says in her paper [The Dogma of Gender], either feminists say there are no gender differences and I can climb a telephone pole and shoot a gun and drive a truck just the same as any man (they’re assuming already that driving a truck or climbing a telephone pole is male; it’s already set up that way), or feminists take the other position and say, the feminine is different. It belongs to the moon, it has to do with instinct and nature and womb and menstruation and breasts and a mode of being that a man doesn’t understand. They identify with a particular archetypal pattern, a lunar constellation, say, and define that as “the feminine.” In both of those situations the individuality of the woman is trapped in being either no feminine or all-feminine; and both the ideas of what’s feminine are stereotypes.

Psyche, you see, tends to ignore that gender question, curiously enough. Just like the psyche tends to ignore a lot of the questions that the ego thinks are important and identifies with. The psyche doesn’t really know in its dream whether you’re rich or poor. It doesn’t know whether you went to grade school or to college. It doesn’t know whether you’re a man or a woman. It doesn’t know – when I say it doesn’t know this, I mean the material it presents in a dream ignores it.

I’m handed a written dream. I can’t tell if that dream is dreamed by a man or a woman necessarily. I can’t tell if that dream is dreamed by someone twenty or sixty or eighty. I don’t know if the dreamer is a city person or a country person, because a city person can have extraordinary dreams about landscapes and rivers. And a country person can be in the middle of a city, because the city is an eternal image and the country is an eternal image, not a sociological or a geographical place only. One can be anywhere in one’s dreams. I can be in a Greek landscape or I can be in a Scandinavian forest and I may never have been either in Greece or Scandinavia. So the psyche tends to ignore the categories that social psychology organizes things into. It’s like married or unmarried, mother or not mother, and so on. In dreams men breast feed, and women have penises. Why not?

You can always take a dream and reduce it to sociological categories; but the dream as phenomenon seems not to care about that. Just like it doesn’t seem to care about life and death that much. You can have death dreams when you are young and right in the middle of life – a whole series of dreams which seem to be quite clear that you are dying of cancer or that you will die on a certain date. I had such dreams. I was supposed to die on a certain date, and it was as real as could be. On the other hand, I’ve worked with people who have died in analysis, and the dreams never made it clear when they would die or even if they would die. Maybe I was too dense to see…. Anyway, the idea that dreams have a sexual origin, of course, would then say dreams have a gender origin, and that men’s dreams must be different from women’s dreams because their sexual organs are different. And their chromosomes are different and so on. A dream — I’m sitting in my home on the edge of my bed, and Marybelle in a light blue dress comes in with a bunch of tulips, and I put my arm around her. End of dream. Whose dream is that? A man’s dream or a woman’s dream? If it’s a woman’s dream, Mary Bell is still the child from childhood bringing into my reception a chance to meet this child again. And the same thing is true for a man’s dream. You can’t immediately say the man has an infantile sexuality. But who hasn’t – thank God! But what would deprive a woman of having an infantile sexuality, too, with Marybelle? No reason – unless you start off with prejudices. So the sexual origin is not only theoretically questionable, but it leads to gender thinking. It gives you two problems at once! And it prevents you from just being with that girl who’s just walked in the room in the dream. Because you’re starting off by categorising it somewhere. The psyche ignores all that.

The Aeneid and the horrors of a blue pill existence

By Jai Singh

Virgil’s epic poem the Aeneid tells the story of Aeneas and his people, the Trojans, as they flee from their destroyed home of Troy (the Trojan War is recounted in Homer’s Iliad) and venture to Italy to build a new home; the descendants of Aeneas himself (Romulus and Remus) are destined to become the founders of Rome. The first half of the poem recounts the Trojans’ journey to Italy, while the second half recounts the war that breaks out between the Trojans and the Italians, a war kicked off thanks to petty divine intervention by Juno, wife of Jupiter and queen of the gods.

The character arc of Aeneas – the protagonist of the poem who is, “famous for his piety,” (page 3) – provides an arguably excellent example of what occurs as a result of living a blue pill life as a man. We should begin by noting the importance of Aeneas’, “piety,” as it is his defining characteristic and one of the four virtues inscribed on the shield of Augustus (the first Roman emperor and the one during whose reign Virgil wrote the poem); the Latin term for this is pietas, which refers not only to religious devotion, but also to loyalty to one’s family and one’s compatriots and thus selflessness.

The enforced adherence to pietas occurs in a manner that is reminiscent of the blue pill existence by demanding numerous sacrifices from Aeneas in the service of a seemingly noble yet distant and nebulous ideal. In Book II of the Aeneid, Aeneas tells the story of the fall of Troy, which resulted in the death of his wife, Creusa. While Aeneas is running through the burning city, trying to find her – he lost track of her while initially escaping – he encounters her ghost, who tells him that her death would not have happened, “without the approval of the gods,” (as a ghost, she has been to the underworld and can thus see the future) also instructing him to wipe, “away the tears you are shedding for Creusa whom you loved,” (page 47) because they will change nothing. Aeneas notes that he was left, “there in tears and longing to reply,” to her and yet was unable to do so.

The loss of Creusa is arguably the first major sacrifice demanded by the gods – specifically, as Creusa notes, it is the, “Great Mother of the Gods,” (page 47) referring to Juno – from Aeneas, and yet it is a sacrifice made without consent (it occurs because destiny has it that Aeneas will marry another woman named Lavinia, with whom he will give birth to the ancestors of Romulus and Remus). Aeneas is simply forced to accept this tragedy, and its justification is that it serves a higher purpose; even though Aeneas is committed to serving said higher purpose, the death of his wife still takes an understandable toll on him.

The second major sacrifice demanded of him is the severing of his relationship with Dido, the queen of Carthage, in Book IV. Aeneas and Dido fall in love after the Trojans land in Carthage – and have sex for the first time thanks to cynical divine intervention from Juno – but Jupiter (king of the gods) sends his messenger Mercury down to order Aeneas to leave Dido and resume his journey to Italy.

Jupiter questions – in an arguably paternalistic fashion, as if he knows what is better for Aeneas than Aeneas himself – whether, “the glory of such a destiny [becoming a venerated figure in Roman legend] does not fire his heart.” (page 76) When Dido eventually catches Aeneas trying to leave Carthage secretly, Aeneas makes this juxtaposition between what he desires and what the gods demand of him explicit when he states that, “It is not by my own will that I search for Italy.” (page 79) West, the translator, points out in the introduction that the, “weakness and misery,” that Aeneas shows upon being confronted by Dido are signs of, “Virgil’s human understanding,” (page xix) and a contribution to the contrast between the humanity of those on the ground and the wilful apathy of those above.

It is arguably the case that blue pill men live a life characterised by an internal conflict between what they consider to be their duty to the blue pill world around them and the women in their lives on one side, and their own personal desires on the other. Such a life involves the subjugation of the latter to the former in the name of being a ‘good man‘ or a ‘male ally‘, ideals of masculinity which we red pill men know are meaningless. The one distinction I would draw between the average blue pill man and Aeneas, however, is that this process involves more consent from the blue pill man than it does from Aeneas; such men must fully submit to the loss of their individuality and make the necessary sacrifices to do so, while Aeneas genuinely has far less control over this process.

We must also analyse the conclusion of the Aeneid to get a picture of the final destination to which blue pill thinking inevitably leads men. In the final lines of Book XII, Aeneas slays Turnus, prince of the Rutulians (one of the Italian tribes that are at war with the Trojans), the justification for which has been debated by many scholars. The killing of Turnus is certainly at odds with pietas (it has nothing to do with devotion to either the gods or anybody), and it goes directly against another one of the aforementioned four virtues – clementia, which means ‘mercy’ (it’s where we get the word ‘clemency’ from). By the time that Aeneas kills him, Turnus is lying on the ground and begging for mercy, after Aeneas’ spear strikes him in, “the middle of the thigh,” (page 290) and cripples him; Turnus also has his strength sapped from his body thanks to divine intervention from Jupiter, ensuring that he had no chance of winning the duel.

Aeneas slays Turnus

Virgil applies the adjective furiis to Aeneas’ emotional state as he is about to kill Turnus, an adjective that is related to the Latin term furor, which can mean ‘frenzy’ or ‘rage’ or ‘madness’. Furor is significant in that it is depicted as being the opposite of pietas, Aeneas’ defining characteristic; furor connotes letting one’s emotions control one’s actions (instead of one’s devotion to the gods or to others) and being excessively (or, as the Romans would argue, immorally) selfish, being at odds with the selflessness associated with pietas. Aeneas adopting the characteristic of furor is like Jesus succumbing to the temptations of Satan, or Michael Kimmel starting to respect men; it’s completely against his nature. So why does he do it?

My argument as to why Aeneas disregards the ethical code outlined on the shield of Augustus is because he sees no value in adhering to it by the end of the poem. Fulfilling his destiny is a task that has involved many sacrifices for him – namely the deaths of Creusa, Dido, his father Anchises (Book III), and the loyal son Pallas of his ally King Evander (Book X), all losses over which Aeneas grieves humanely – and yet Aeneas has not been justly compensated for these sacrifices, as his understandable human troubles have been ignored and only viewed as obstacles by Jupiter to the accomplishment of this goal. The promise of glory does not fully satisfy Aeneas – this is the type of promise, by the way, that contributes to the male disposability that characterises wars – and it is entirely understandable as to why.

The killing of Turnus lacks a clear moral justification because Aeneas does not believe that one is necessary when those who have been forcing him to abide by that code evidently do not care at all for his wellbeing. This killing is like the existential implosion of a man who has just realised the shallowness of his own value structure, carried out with a nihilistic and Cain-esque fury reminiscent of men who murder their wives over unjust divorces. It is no wonder that such is the case, given that the structure of the idea of fate/destiny – where there is a predetermined end at which one will arrive, by whatever means necessary – resembles that of a lie (because when you lie, you choose an end ahead of time at which you want to arrive, and manipulate everyone and everything around you as much as is necessary to get there).

By the end of the poem, Aeneas has little to nothing of value to call his own, and so he curses Jupiter and destiny – or, in other words, the world around him – for stealing from him what he once loved, and the loss of faith in the proposition that existence is worthwhile is almost always accompanied by undeserved and futile (in the sense that existence can never be destroyed by acts of revenge committed against it) death.

The core lesson that we red pill men can learn from the Aeneid, brilliantly written as it was by Virgil, is that the subjugation of our will to external moral obligations that society expects us to adopt unquestioningly only contributes to the, “modern genocide on the male soul,” that Paul Elam describes in his video ‘Servant, Slave and Scapegoat‘ as being mercilessly conducted by the blue pill world. No matter what the dictates of those whom men perceive to be their gods may be, you must understand that your will is your own and that it can only be broken with your consent.


Note: All page references to the Aeneid are to the Penguin Classics edition, translated by David West.