The Power of Feminine Weakness

By Greta Aurora

Women’s weakness and vulnerability is a great source of power. This uniquely feminine power has no male equivalent, because men are generally expected to be able to defend themselves from harm.

Female victimhood has the potential to raise a woman’s social status by making people sympathise with her and want to help her. A man’s weakness, on the other hand, tends to lower his status in the eyes of others.

‘Chivalry’ by Frank Dicksee (1885)

Janice Fiamengo writes:

“Well over a century ago, our ancestors debated women’s demand for voting and other privileges. Traditionalists argued that women faced a choice: they could either have special treatment on the basis of their alleged vulnerability as a group, or they could have political equality, but they couldn’t have both. Lo and behold, women got both, with peculiar results for our political culture.

In our time, the performance of powerlessness has become a dominant strategy of power, nowhere more evident than in politics. “I’ve been traumatized” is now a more galvanizing cry than “I can handle that”—and trembling weakness often eclipses demonstration of strength and competence.”

Everyone pays attention to a distressed woman. Everyone wants to help her and keep her safe. It’s an essential biological instinct to protect the weaker sex, without which our species would’ve gone extinct a long time ago. On the other hand, a man in distress is usually blamed for the situation he’s in; he’s told to try harder and do better.

A woman in distress is not expected to defend herself, because she’s assumed to be weak, vulnerable and in need of male protection. The damsel in distress archetype is the epitome of female victimhood and the resulting power. It doesn’t matter if the distress is real, imagined, acted or exaggerated: there’s always someone around to rescue the damsel and cater to her every need. The saviour may be a man, the government or the media (as in the case of Amber Heard).

Women and Children First

All human beings are innately driven to protect children – an instinct essential for survival. Adult women are able to harness the same empathy people have for children due to a biological phenomenon called neoteny.


Neoteny refers to the retention of juvenile features in adults. In humans, this is a physical characteristic in women that signals innocence and vulnerability. It therefore elicits caring and nurturing responses from other people.

Examples of neotenous or baby-like features that are important for women’s facial attractiveness are large, widely spaced eyes and a small nose and chin. Cross-cultural studies have shown that these features are considered attractive by men all over the world.

Contrast these traditionally feminine features with typical masculine traits resulting from high testosterone levels, such as a pronounced jaw, chin, cheekbones, and brow ridges. In women, the hormone estrogen contributes to the maintenance of neotenous features. During puberty, testosterone levels in boys increase dramatically, which causes them to develop the masculine characteristics that clearly differentiate them from girls.

When we see a tiny baby or puppy, we instinctively want to keep them safe. This is the same instinct women can exploit well into adulthood, while men lose this opportunity after hitting puberty.

An eye-opening social experiment has shown that people are more likely to want to protect girls than they are to care about boys, even before the effects of puberty begin to manifest. In the experiment, people rescued the little girl first, followed by the dog and then the cat. The little boy was the last to receive help from passers-by. Another study has found that both men and women are more likely to sacrifice a man than a woman when it comes to both saving the lives of others and pursuing self-interests. This is heartbreakingly representative of our society, which incessantly exaggerates the discomfort of women, while downplaying the suffering of men.

The price of women’s power has always been male sacrifice. This was as true a hundred thousand years ago and a thousand years ago as it is today.

Feminists misrepresent men’s efforts to protect and serve women as patriarchal oppression. But the truth is that all cultures glorify male suffering and self-sacrifice, while putting girls on a pedestal for their beauty and innocence.

Traditionally, women had fewer rights because they had virtually no responsibilities, and they certainly weren’t required to sacrifice themselves for their community. In the West today, women have the same rights as men, while still enjoying special treatment.

The Temptation of Damselling

Some women exploit the power of the damsel in distress more than others, but I believe we all use it from time to time. I think we are all aware of this power at an instinctual level.

There are, of course, horrible instances of actual violence against women. But women making false allegations and playing the damsel don’t make life any easier for real survivors. In fact, they’re making it much more difficult for actual survivors to get help and justice. They’re also doing a lot of harm by calling into question women’s competence and ability to rule over their own lives.


*For more articles by Greta Aurora visit her Substack Feminine Power

Misogamy and marriage avoidance

While it may seem like a modern topic, the burning question of whether men should marry or more to the point not marry, is centuries old. That men are rejecting marriage in increasing numbers is well documented, however cynicism about the virtues of marriage is nothing new.

Numerous scholarly books such as Howard Chudacoff’s Age Of The Bachelor, or J. McCurdy’s Citizen Bachelors have traced the historical rise of bachelor movements, which tend to occur when a given society sufficiently devalues men while saddling them with unreasonable demands of service to wives and the State. When societies treat males more favourably, then bachelor movements organically decline.

I recently chanced upon another book outlining the deeper history of ‘marriage avoidance’ under the heading the querelle du mariage (quarrel about marriage). The following excerpt provides some interesting detail:

The early manifestations of the quarrel often focus on marriage, one of the pressing problems of the late Middle Ages and the early modern period: An uxor sit ducenda (Should One Take a Wife) was a question much discussed by Italian men, and in Germany it could appear as Ob einem manne sey zu nemen ein eelichs weyb oder nit (Should a Man Take a Wife or Not? – Albrecht von Eyb, 1472). In answer to this question, male misogamy (hatred of marriage) is expressed as misogyny (hatred of women) and philogyny (love of women) is expressed as philogamy (love of marriage).

Christine de Pizan’s praise of women was directed against the misogamists and misogynists of her time, the anonymous text Les quinze joies de mariage (The Fifteen Joys of Marriage) deplored the loss of male liberty in marriage, and a century later Erasmus of Rotterdam presented the misogamist virgin in his Virgo misogamos (The Misogamist Virgin – 1523), who desperately wants to enter a convent but inspired by love she thinks better of it at the last moment. Philogynous texts questioned why women were punished more strictly for adultery than men or why a husband had to be brought (by a dowry); misogamists and misogynists, eg. In England, answered the question by stating that women tend to squeeze money out of their husbands.

In Germany this aspect of the querelle has been largely ignored (interest has focused on voices which argued in favor of women’s intelligence and reason), although the querelle du mariage played an important role here: the wide-ranging marriage debate during the Reformation, in particular in its sensational and scandalous early phases – public betrothals of monks and nuns, closures of monasteries and convents, an epidemic of marriages in Germany to which even French reformers travelled who wished to marry – must be read as an integral part of the European querelle des sexes and the same goes for the marriage debates of the Counter-Reformation. Martin Luther’s Von chelichen Leben (The Estate of Married Life – 1522) speaks quite in the manner of a querelle text by turning against the traditional misogamist attitude:

“What we would speak most of is the fact that the estate of marriage has universally fallen into such awful disrepute. There are many pagan books which treat of nothing but the depravity of womankind and the unhappiness of the estate of marriage […]. So they [young men listening to the advice of a Roman official] concluded that woman is a necessary evil, and that no household can be without such an evil. […] For this reason young men should be on their guard when they read pagan books and hear the common complaints about marriage, lest they inhale poison . For the estate of marriage does not sell well with the devil, because it is God’s good will and work. This is why the devil has contrived to have so much shouted and written in the world against the institution of marriage […]. The world says of marriage, ‘Brief is the joy, lasting the bitterness.”2


I’ve long wondered what form male activism might have taken in response to the excesses of traditional European and Anglosphere gynocentrism. From the above description, and from the many anti-marriage texts abounding through old Europe, it’s clear that a historical form of men’s rights advocacy concerned itself with the dangers of entrapment within marriage.

What Is Feminism?

There are countless definitions of what ‘feminism’ is, with feminists themselves pointing to glib dictionary definitions, and antifeminists preferring to define it as a female supremacy movement. A hundred other definitions could easily be offered, but the more important question is what (if anything) do all these different definitions hold in common?

Below, Adam Kostakis answers this question in the affirmative with an elegant definition that most would agree with. – PW


Even essentially contested concepts, as W. B. Gallie referred to them, must have meanings which are greater than normative, else communication about them would be rendered impossible. That is – there must be some amount of general consensus over what feminism is, between feminists and anti-feminists, or we would not be able to argue about it! Even despite the differences between a feminist’s view of feminism and of our own, some shared content must exist at some level, or we would be talking about entirely different things. They might be talking about the feminist movement, while I am talking about horse-rearing, although we both refer to our respective subjects as ‘feminism’ – but we wouldn’t have much to say to each other, would we, if this were the case?

So, I shall posit the following as a universally applicable definition of feminism; that is to say, it must fit everyone’s criteria for what feminism is, in spite of the different perspectives that different people hold on its nature. It is a suitably limited definition, since it can encompass only those parts of feminism which all definitions hold in common. So, here it is: feminism is the project for increasing the power of women.

That, then, is what everybody who discusses feminism holds in common regarding the concept, whether they are supportive, skeptical, or nihilistically indifferent. No feminist, I think, would deny that this is, at the very least, the ‘bare bones’ of feminism, even if she would prefer to flesh it out in a lot more detail. But that will not do, for beyond this narrow inference, we disagree with each other. To be as objective as possible, then, we must take only that which everybody agrees upon, and that is our universally applicable definition.

Note that there is no mention of equality. This is because there are a number of feminists who explicitly did not pursue equality, but supremacy. So, equality cannot fit into the universal definition of feminism, since certain feminists themselves – who were very famously, unequivocally feminist – disavowed it. To say that feminism is ‘about equality’, then, would be to place oneself in diametrical opposition to several extremely influential feminists! And why, that would be … misogynistic!

Nor can feminism be said to be the project for increasing the power of women relative to men, since, in this counter-feminist’s view, feminists are often quite content to increase the power of women in an absolute sense. That is, they endeavor to grab all they can for women, without reference to the status of men. The phrase ‘relative to men,’ then, only serves to imply that women are power-less relative to men at present, thus casting feminism in an unfairly favorable light. In reality, once women do achieve power which is at an equal or equivalent level to that of men, the demands of feminists do not stop. What we find is that female power becomes entrenched, and extended, and when it surpasses male power, this is simply referred to as ‘parity’ and ignored by feminists – at least, when they are not gloating over men’s newfound powerlessness.

Nor are we able to list, in our universal definition, the specific areas of life, or spheres, in which the feminist project applies. This is because feminism is inherently universalizing; it seeks to colonize and dominate every single facet of life where men and women meet. It aims for domination in every sphere of life, actual and potential.

You may disagree with some of the points above, particularly if you are supportive of feminism. But this does nothing to change our universal definition, because all we can say about those points is that they are contentious. That is, feminists and non-feminists, who are educated about feminism, disagree about these aspects of feminism, and it would simply be biased to take one or the other view for granted. That would be like consulting only Jacobins on the historical accomplishments of the Jacobin Club, or like canvassing only conservatives to explain modern liberalism. It would be a good example of poor methodology, and would help us very little in our search for truth. Right? So then, our universally applicable definition cannot be expanded beyond that which we stated before: feminism is the project for increasing the power of women.

Source: The above excerpt is from Adam Kostakis’ essay Pig Latin.

The Open Court on ‘American Gynocentrism’ (1898)

The following is an excerpt from The Open Court 1898 (pp. 575):

The cause of the new woman has found an enthusiastic champion in M. Jules Bois, who has recently published a very readable book on the subject, L’Eve nouvelle. (Paris: Leon Chailley, 41 Rue de Richelieu. Pp., 381. Price, fr. 3.50.) M. Bois is unstinted in his praise and admiration for the inexhaustible potencies of the fair sex, and reviews their anthropology, or rather, if we may use the word in its literal sense, their gynaecology, less with the eye of the scientist than with the aim of the passionate special pleader.

With many sound and common sense claims he has mingled a few very doubtful sociological theories, evidently at second hand. He proclaims the judgment day of social anthropocentrism, the overthrow of the femme-poupee, the femme-reflet, the femme-victime, above all of that monstrum ingens the femme-homme, and hails the advent of the femme-femme. “Woman, before being a wife, a sweetheart, or a mother, is and should be first a woman. Her full freedom must be conserved.”

This new woman is not a new creation, moreover, but existed in the old woman, who was her undeveloped Platonic archetype. All the sides of her life M. Bois considers in brief, outspoken terms and shows great knowledge of her condition in all countries. We Americans have not so much need to take his admonitions to heart as need Continental Europeans, seeing that captious critics are prone to regard us as suffering rather from gynocentrism than anthropocentrism.

Be that as it may, and sticking still to the geometrical metaphor, what we have both to look forward to in the new dawning millennium is an anthropic, gynecic bifocism, preferably of curves with vanishing ellipticity; when which consummation has been reached, the eternal problem will be solved.

See Also: Historical quotes about USA as champion of extreme gynocentrism

Sexual Dimorphism Vs. Monomorphism in Humans

By Greta Aurora

Studying Sex Differences

When studying sex differences in animals, biologists divide species into two categories: sexually monomorphic and sexually dimorphic. In monomorphic species, males and females can be difficult to tell apart. In dimorphic animals, on the other hand, the sexes differ considerably in terms of size, colour or other physical characteristics. It’s possible to infer a lot of information about the mating behaviour of a species by determining whether it’s sexually monomorphic or dimorphic.

Most animals fit clearly into one of these two categories – but humans do not. We possess both monomorphic and dimorphic features. But before I talk more about humans, let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of monomorphic and dimorphic species.

Sexual Monomorphism

Sexually monomorphic species

When males and females are roughly the same size, it is safe to assume males don’t routinely fight each other to gain access to females. If males actively competed with each other physically, a larger size would be an advantage, so they would’ve evolved to be bigger than the females.

Monomorphic animals are generally monogamous and display long-term pair-bonding. If neither sex is much more colourful than the other, then sexual selection based on physical traits probably doesn’t play a huge role in their mating. Behavioural traits are a lot more important, and females prefer to mate with males who have proven they are willing to share parenting responsibilities.

Females expect to be courted by delaying mating, in order to assess potential mate’s dedication and paternal instincts. Female birds often act helpless to see how the male reacts.

Twin births are common in monomorphic animals, because the two parents can work together to look after more than one offspring at a time. Also, due to monogamous pair bonds, the majority of males get a chance to reproduce. But females do sometimes abandon their long-term mate and form a bond with another.

Some examples of sexually monomorphic species are wolves, gibbons, beavers, swans, penguins and bald eagles.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexually dimorphic species

In dimorphic species, two sexes vary physically quite significantly. In many mammals, males are bigger than the females. In some spiders, on the other hand, females are a lot larger than the males. In a lot of birds, males are much more colourful and sing to attract females.

In some species, males have not only evolved to be noticeably larger and stronger than females, but they may also have unique body parts meant to be used as weapons when they fight each other for dominance. These males are also a lot more aggressive than their female counterparts, due to their higher testosterone levels. That’s why these animals are often referred to as tournament species.

In dimorphic species, females are attracted to physical signs of male health and strength. The largest male in the group is often the most desirable partner, because he is able to provide physical protection. These dominant males usually have a number of sexual partners, but they abandon their mates and offspring. Therefore, females tend to be the only parent looking after their young, and therefore they rarely give birth to twins.

Because a minority of dominant males has access to a majority of females, physically weaker males don’t get to reproduce. Wherever polygamy is practiced, there’s going to be a lot of incels.

In these species, the life spans of males and females tend to differ significantly, too, with females living longer than males.

Where Do Humans Fit in the Picture?

Humans may seem monomorphic in some ways and dimorphic in other ways. Of course, in most cases, it’s easy to tell men and women apart. But we don’t look as different from one another as, for instance, male and female deer, lions or peacocks do.

Although the average man is larger than the average woman, the difference in size is not as significant as in many dimorphic species. The most noteworthy physical sex difference in humans is in upper body strength: the average man has 75% more arm muscle mass than the average woman. The overlap between male and female distributions of upper body strength is less than 10%. This has some crucial implications in everyday life, especially with regards to physically demanding professions.

Men also tend to have higher bone density, which makes them less vulnerable to injury. This difference may not matter much at an everyday setting, but it could be a matter of life and death in the battlefield.

Muscle mass and bone density are largely influenced by testosterone. This hormone also has a significant effect on behaviour, and men clearly have a lot more of it than women do. This fact alone could possibly tilt the scale towards dimorphism in humans, but it’s not quite that simple.

It is true that the average man is more aggressive than the average woman, and testosterone is to blame for this. However, some women are actually more aggressive than the average man, despite having nowhere near the same testosterone levels. It has been established that more testosterone doesn’t make a woman more aggressive. In fact, it’s not clear what causes aggression in women. There are a few theories, centred mostly on brain function. One of the most likely candidates is the amygdala, but no one knows for sure.

This example illustrates that biological differences don’t necessarily make a species dimorphic, because biology doesn’t always translate clearly into behaviour.

Let’s examine some personality traits to see if we can identify any obvious differences in behaviour! Looking at the Big Five personality traits is a good starting point. These are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The Big Five personality traits

Numerous psychologists have replicated the same results when studying gender differences in these five traits. No one has found any significant differences in conscientiousness. In openness, some differences arise only if we break this trait down into several constituent parts. For example, women tend to score higher on their appreciation for aesthetic experiences, while men are more drawn to intellectual experiences. But the sexes don’t differ in their overall levels of openness.

Women tend to score slightly higher on extraversion than men do, but again, this is not a very pronounced difference. Women also score higher on neuroticism, which is the amount of negative emotions experienced. This probably results from women spending all their time with their infants after giving birth. In order to protect a tiny, very vulnerable baby from harm, women have to be incredibly cautious and protective. That’s why women generally worry more than men do. To paraphrase Jordan Peterson, the feminine unit is not woman by herself, but woman and child. The female nervous system is that of a mother.

The most significant personality difference between the sexes is in agreeableness. But even here, there is a great overlap, and the differences only become evident at the extremes of the curve. What we see here is that the most agreeable people are likely to be women, and the most disagreeable people are likely to be men. Combined with high testosterone levels, this is the reason most violent criminals are male. But the majority of men and women don’t diverge very much in terms of agreeableness.

Distributions of agreeableness in the sexes

Those who are following my work will know that I’m fascinated by evolutionary psychology. But the more research we read from this field, the more we’re going to find ourselves focusing on the differences between the sexes, especially with regards to mating. Evolutionary psychologists tend to think in terms of extremes: they represent men as highly aggressive and competitive in their pursuit of professional and reproductive success, and desiring not much more than youth and beauty in a woman. And they represent women as desperate to secure a successful partner, despite knowing he won’t be faithful. In this hugely simplified world, men and women both want one thing, albeit a different one: men only want sex, and women only want a family.

Although evolutionary psychologists like David M. Buss, Geoffrey Miller and Robert Wright have made significant contributions to our understanding of human nature, they often fail to look at the larger picture. They tend to apply the male competition – female choice model to human mating, which is generally true for sexually dimorphic species. But human mating actually resembles that of monomorphic animals is various ways.

Human males have traditionally been involved in parenting, and they are therefore a lot more selective about their long-term mates than the males of dimorphic species. That’s why women make such a great effort to look desirable.

Also, women tend to choose their partner more on the basis of their personality, as well as their ability to provide resources and their inclination to commit long-term. Women still carry the heavier reproductive burden, but they are not necessarily choosier than men are – they just take different considerations into account.

Proponents of sexual dimorphism in humans will point out that women generally live longer than men, and polygamy has been common throughout our history. It is true that men have traditionally died younger, but that used to be mostly due to fighting in wars and working in dangerous environments, such as mines. The life expectancy gap has been consistently narrowing. For example, in the UK between 1991 and 2014, it shrunk from 3.8 to 2.4 years.

As far as polygamy is concerned, it’s true that it had been permitted through most of history, in many different cultures. There were times when it was necessary, exactly because so many men had died in war. But, for the most part, monogamous relationships are the norm, even in societies that allow polygamy.

It’s important to note that our species is highly adaptable to extreme conditions. For instance, if needed, we can survive on an exclusively carnivorous or herbivorous diet for a long time. Thanks to our creativity, we can survive in a desert, as well as in Antarctica. Therefore, we have every reason to believe that our mating strategies are not carved in stone, either.

We don’t have to commit ourselves to being just one thing. We must accept that we have some monomorphic and some dimorphic characteristics, and we can express these in various combinations, depending on the challenges we face.

As neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky said,

“We are not a classic pair-bonded species. We are not a polygamous, tournament species either… What we are, officially, is a tragically confused species.”

We are not necessarily confused, though… We have a lot of potential, and we are the masters and mistresses of adaptation.

Frau Minne: Originator of Today’s Gender Roles

Gendered customs come in a variety of different models, and tend to have variance from culture to culture, and era to era. Each mythological representation of a god or goddess, for example, shows a different slant on gendered behavior; there’s no ‘one gendered model fits all.’

In the context of mythology I like to cite the example of Frau Minne, a medieval personification or ‘goddess’ as she has been called, who offers a template for gender roles in the context of romantic love – with romantic love being our most popular trope for organizing sexual relationships today.

Frau Minne likes men to look up to women as pure and transcendent creatures, encouraging men to serve them from a more humble position. In the words of Irving Singer,

Courtly love is often said to have placed women on a pedestal and to have made men into knights whose heroic lives would henceforth belong to elevated ladies. The idea arises from the fact that men frequently used the language of chivalry to express their servile relationship to whatever woman they loved, and sometimes they described her as a divinity toward which they might aspire but could never hope to equal… that he must prove himself worthy of her and so advance upward, step by step, toward a culminating union at her level; that everything noble and virtuous, everything that makes life worth living, proceeds from women, who are even described as the source of goodness itself. But though the lady now discourses with her lover, the men frequently cast themselves into the typical posture of fin’amors. On their knees, hands clasped, they beg the beloved to accept their love, their life, their service, and to do with them as she pleases.1

What sociologists like to refer to as “respectful relationships” can be seen a euphemism for Frau Minnie’s call to establish a gender hierarchy where women are cast as ‘nobles of love’ in relation to chivalric males – with women being spoken of with classist characterizations such as “esteem,” “respect,” “dignity,” “worth,” “praise” and “status.”

It would be a brave person who would attempt to count how many Offices for the Status of Women exist throughout the Western world today.

A man’s role, according to Frau Minne, is to “place a Lady on a pedestal” and to offer himself to her in a position of sacrifice and service. Minne’s archetypal formula constitutes the heart of romantic love, all three waves of feminism, and the Jungian infatuation with the notion of “the feminine” (which is the Jungian counterpart of feminism). These systems of devotion to women’s esteem each point back to the vision of Frau Minne whose religion, according to Joseph Campbell, triumphed over Christianity during the late Middle Ages to become our dominant worldview — which is why today the romantic love literary genre outsells all of the world’s holy books *combined*.

In summary, Frau Minne provides an example of how gender concepts are a result, to some extent, of the archetypal imagination.

[1] Irving Singer, The Nature of Love: The Modern World, University of Chicago Press, 1984

For a longer exploration of this theme, see: ‘Frau Minne’ the Goddess who steals men’s hearts: a pictorial excursion

Women Viewing Men as Dogs: A Study in Gynocentrism & Misandry

The following book titles are all aimed at female readers and were collected from a cursory glance at Amazon. This sample is nowhere near the entirety of those available in this, er, genre – but they are sufficient to paint a picture of how millions of women around the world apparently view relationships with men as experiments in animal behaviorism and manipulation strategies, with the aim of controlling men.

The tables of contents reveal the books as patently disrespectful toward men, misandric and certainly repulsive for any self-respecting male. But for the adventurous reader who would like to look more closely at the content, each of the titles are searchable at

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) compared with gynocentric beliefs & behaviours

DSM criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are compared in the table below with beliefs and behaviours of the gynocentrism oriented woman (GW):

Table excerpted from: Wright, Peter. Gynocentrism As A Narcissistic Pathology. New Male Studies 9, no. 1 (2020).

Victimhood and the Child Archetype – by Lyn Cowan

The following excerpt is from a chapter titled ‘The Archetype of The Victim’ in Lyn Cowan’s book Tracking The White Rabbit: Essays In Subversive Psychology (page.92). Here the author makes a direct correlation between victimhood identity and enactment of what Jungians refer to as the child archetype.

* * * *

As noted earlier, the root of the word victim carries an ancient meaning of “increase” or “growth.” However, I am not suggesting that victimization ought to be considered an occasion of “positive growth.” To do so minimizes the horror and fear and shame or represses them completely. The injunction to the victim to “grow” through adversity is a subtle appeal to the victim’s ego to leave the victimization experience behind (a form
of denial). “Growth” in this usage is defensive, the demand of an anxious parent who does not know what to do for a child in pain (as in, “Grow up, stop crying, stop feeling sorry for yourself”).

A deeper objection to the demand on the victim to “grow” is that it keeps the experience of the victim within a fantasy of the child. Whatever complex meanings victimhood may have for the soul are obscured and reduced to false simplicity by forcing them into the single perspective of the child archetype. Thus the victim appears passively childlike or irresponsibly childish. This may be one reason why our culture takes a profoundly ambivalent attitude toward victims: either total neglect and abuse or idealization and galvanic convulsions to rescue. (Remember little Jessica McClure, who fell down a well in Texas in 1989? The whole country vicariously participated in the rescue operation.)

When perceived through the child archetype, the victim is infantilized: whatever injury has been done can now only be understood as a sign or consequence of psychological immaturity – the naïvety of a child, the innocence of a child, the carelessness of a child, the abuse of a child, the child who cries for grownups to play fair. Instead of an adult drama deep in the soul’s sacred interior, victimization is seen as one of many misfortunes that befalls a child. We demand either excessive responsibility of the victim (“She should have known better”) or expect him or her to be as helpless in trauma as a child.

Archetypal Psychology: Defining “Archetype” and “Archetypal”

By “archetype” I can only refer to the phenomenal archetype, that which manifests itself in images. The noumenal archetype per se cannot by definition be presented so that nothing whatsoever can be posited of it. In fact whatever one does say about the archetype per se is a conjecture already governed by an archetypal image. This means that the archetypal image precedes and determines the metaphysical hypothesis of a noumenal archetype. So, let us apply Occam’s razor to Kant’s noumenon. By stripping away this unnecessary theoretical encumbrance to Jung’s notion of archetype we restore full value to the archetypal image.’

(Hillman 1971).

The archetypal school rejects the noun “archetype,” even as it retains the adjective “archetypal.” For Hillman (1983), the distinction between archetypes and archetypal images, which Jung regards as comparable, respectively, to Kantian noumena and phenomena, is untenable. According to him, all that individuals ever encounter psychically are images – that is, phenomena. Hillman is a phenomenologist or an imagist: “I’m simply following the imagistic, the phenomenological way: take a thing for what it is and let it talk” (p. 14). For the archetypal school, there are no archetypes as such – no neo-Kantian categories, or noumena. There are only phenomena, or images, that may be archetypal.

For Hillman, the archetypal is not a category but a consideration – a perspectival operation that an individual may perform on any image. Thus Hillman (1977, pp. 82–83) says that “any image may be considered archetypal.” The archetypal is “a move one makes rather than a thing that is.” To consider an image archetypal is to regard it as such, from a certain perspective, to endow it operationally with typicality – or, as Hillman prefers to say, with “value.” Thus, perspectivally, an individual may “archetypalize” any image. Merely considering it so makes it so – or, as Hillman (1975/1979) says, merely capitalizing it makes it so – as in the “Sunburnt Girl” (p. 63). In effect, the archetypal school embraces what Jung tries (never, he admits, entirely with success) to avoid – that is, what he (CW 9.i, p. 59) calls “metaphysical concretism.” Jung says that “any attempt at graphic description” of an archetype inevitably succumbs to metaphysical concretism “up to a point,” because the qualitative aspect “in which it appears necessarily clings to it, so that it cannot be described at all except in terms of its specific phenomenology.” Concrete descriptive qualities cling quite obviously to an archetype like the Great Mother (less evidently to an archetype like the Anima, which is more abstract) – as they also do to the Sunburnt Girl. Most Jungians would be reluctant to dignify the Sunburnt Girl as equal in status to the Great Mother – or even to regard the image as “archetypal” at all. When Hillman capitalizes the Sunburnt Girl, he considers the image archetypal, typical, or valuable. He does not posit or infer the metaphysical existence of archetypes prior to the images. For archetypal psychologists, any and every image, even the most apparently banal, can be considered archetypal.

This post-Jungian, post-structuralist usage of the term “archetypal” is controversial. Most Jungians retain the term “archetype” and continue to define it as Jung did. One Jungian analyst, V. Walter Odajnyk (1984), criticizes Hillman for adopting the name “archetypal psychology.” According to Odajnyk, Hillman should simply have called the school “imaginal psychology” to avoid unnecessary terminological ambiguity. “Archetypal psychology,” Odajnyk (1984, p. 43) says, “sounds as though it were based on the Jungian archetypes, when in fact it isn’t.” This criticism is cogent to Jungians who remain strict structuralists. It is unpersuasive to archetypal psychologists, for they believe that the archetypal, or the typical, is in the eye of the imaginer – or in the imagination’s eye. In a sense, the archetypal is in the eye of the beholder – the subject who beholds an image – but it is also, in another sense, in the eye of the imagination, a transcendent dimension that archetypal psychologists regard as ultimately irreducible to any faculty immanent in the subject.

Source: Michael Vannoy Adams, ‘The Archetypal School,’ Chapter-6 in The Cambridge Companion to Jung. 2008

Archetypal Image

ARCHETYPAL psychology axiomatically assumes imagistic universals, comparable to the universali fantastici of Vico (Scienza Nuova, par. 381), that is, mythical figures that provide the poetic characteristics of human thought, feeling, and action, as well as the physiognomic intelligibility of the qualitative worlds of natural phenomena. By means of the archetypal image, natural phenomena present faces that speak to the imagining soul rather than only conceal hidden laws and probabilities and manifest their objectification.

A psychological universal must be considered psychologically. An archetypal image is psychologically “universal,” because its effect amplifies and depersonalizes. Even if the notion of image regards each image as an individualized, unique event, as “that image there and no other,” such an image is universal because it resonates with collective, trans-empirical importance. Thus, archetypal psychology uses “universal” as an adjective, declaring a substantive perduring value, which ontology states as a hypostasis. And, the universals problem for psychology is not whether they exist, where, and how they participate in particulars, but rather whether a personal individual event can be recognized as bearing essential and collective importance. Psychologically, the universals problem is presented by the soul itself whose perspective is harmoniously both the narrow particularity of felt experience and the universality of archetypally human experience. In Neoplatonic thought, soul could be spoken of as both my soul and world soul, and what was true of one was true of both. Thus, the universality of an archetypal image means also that the response to the image implies more than personal consequences, raising the soul itself beyond its egocentric confines (soul-making) and broadening the events of nature from discrete atomic particulars to aesthetic signatures bearing information for soul.

Because archetypal psychology gives priority to particular pattern over literal particle – and considers that particular events are always themselves imagistic and therefore ensouled – imagination too is assumed to be primordially patterned into typical themes, motifs, regions, genres, syndromes. These kinds of patterns inform all psychic life. Gilbert Durand (1960, 1979) – following upon the lines opened by Bachelard – and Durand’s Centre de Recherche sur l’Imaginaire ( have been charting the inherent organization of the imaginary as the basis of cultural anthropology and sociology, even as the basis of psychological meaning in all consciousness. Durand’s papers published in the Eranos Yearbooks since 1964 present a range of archetypal cultural analysis.

Archetypal psychology has pressed beyond the collection of objective data and the correlation of images as verbal or visual symbols. If archetypal images are the fundamentals of fantasy, they are the means by which the world is imagined, and therefore they are the models by which all knowledge, all experiences whatsoever become possible: “Every psychic process is an image and an ‘imagining,’ otherwise no consciousness could exist …” (CW 11:?889). An archetypal image operates like the original meaning of idea (from Greek eidos and eidolon): not only “that which” one sees but also that “by means of which” one sees. The demonstration of archetypal images is therefore as much in the act of seeing as in the object seen, since the archetypal image appears in consciousness itself as the governing fantasy by means of which consciousness is possible to begin with. Gathering of data does less to demonstrate objectively the existence of archetypes than it does to demonstrate the fantasy of “objective data.”

Furthermore, unlike Jung who radically distinguishes between noumenal archetype per se and phenomenal archetypal image, archetypal psychology rigorously refuses even to speculate about a nonpresented archetype per se. Its concern is with the phenomenon: the archetypal image. This leads to the next step: “… any image can be considered archetypal. The word ‘archetypal’ rather than pointing at something … points to something, and this is value … by archetypal psychology we mean a psychology of value. And our appellative move is aimed to restore psychology to its widest, richest, and deepest volume so that it would resonate with soul in its descriptions as unfathomable, multiple, prior, generative, and necessary. As all images can gain this archetypal sense, so all psychology can be archetypal… ‘Archetypal’ here refers to a move one makes rather than to a thing that is” (Hillman 1977b).

Here, archetypal psychology “sees through” itself as strictly a psychology of archetypes, a mere analysis of structures of being (gods in their myths), and, by emphasizing the valuative function of the adjective archetypal, restores to images their primordial place as that which gives psychic value to the world. Any image termed archetypal is immediately valued as universal, trans-historical, basically profound, generative, highly intentional, and necessary.

Since “archetypal” connotes both intentional force (Jung’s “instinct”) and the mythical field of personifications (Hillman’s “gods”), an archetypal image is animated like an animal (one of Hillman’s frequent metaphors for images) and like a person whom one loves, fears, delights in, is inhibited by, and so forth. As intentional force and person, such an image presents a claim – moral, erotic, intellectual, aesthetic – and demands a response. It is an “affecting presence” (Armstrong 1971) offering an affective relationship. It seems to bear prior knowledge (coded information) and an instinctive direction for a destiny, as if prophetic, prognostic. Images in “dreams mean well for us, back us up and urge us on, understand us more deeply than we understand ourselves, expand our sensuousness and spirit, continually make up new things to give us – and this feeling of being loved by the images … call it imaginal love” (Hillman 1979a). This message-bearing experience of the image – and the feeling of blessing that an image can bring – recalls the Neoplatonic sense of images as daimones and angels (message bearers). “Perhaps – who knows? – these eternal images are what men mean by fate” (CW 7:?183).

Although an archetypal image presents itself as impacted with meaning, this is not given simply as revelation. It must be made through “image work” and “dream work” (Hillman 1977b, 1979a). The modes of this work may be concrete and physical as in art, movement, play, and occupational therapies; but more importantly (because less fixedly symbolic), this work is done by “sticking to the image” as a psychological penetration of what is actually presented including the stance of consciousness that is attempting the hermeneutic. Image work is not legitimately such unless the implicit involvement of a subjective perspective is admitted from the start, for it too is part of the image and in its fantasy.

Image work requires both aesthetic culture and a background in myths and symbols for appreciation of the universalities of images. This work also requires a series of tactical moves (Hillman and Berry 1977), frequently linguistic and phonetic (Sardello et al. 1978; Severson 1978; Kugler 1979b) and etymological (Lockhart 1978, 1980; Kugelmann 1983), and also grammatical and syntactical experimentation (Ritsema 1976; Hillman 1978a). Other tactical moves concerning emotion, texture, repetitions, reversals, and restatements have been described by Berry (1974).

The primary intention of this verbal work with images is the “recovery of soul in speech” (Sardello 1978a), which at the same time reveals the erotic and aesthetic aspect of images – that they captivate, charm, persuade, have a rhetorical effect on soul beyond their symbolic content. Image-work restores the original poetic sense to images, freeing them from serving a narrational context, having to tell a story with its linear, sequential, and causal implications that foster first-person reports of the egocentric actions and intentions of a personalistic subject. The distinction between image and narrative (Berry 1974; Miller 1976a) is fundamental to the distinction in imaginative style between archetypal polytheistic psychology and traditional psychologies that are egocentered, epic narrations (therapy).

Three further developments in theory of archetypal images are worth attention. Paul Kugler’s work (1978, 1979a) elaborates an acoustic theory of images as structures of invariant meaning apart from linguistic, etymological, semantic, and syntactical meaning. Charles Boer and Peter Kugler (1977) have correlated archetypal images with the theory of perception of J.?J. Gibson, asserting that archetypal images are afforded directly by the environment (and are not subjective), so that “archetypal psychology is mythical realism.” Casey (1979) sets forth the idea that imagination is so closely related with time, both psychologically and ontologically, that actual image-work not only takes time into soul or makes temporal events soul events but also makes time in soul.

Source: Hillman, James. Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account (Uniform Edition). Spring Publications.