child archetype: motif of hermaphroditism

It is a remarkable fact that perhaps the majority of cosmogonic gods are of a bisexual nature:


The hermaphrodite means nothing less than a union of the strongest and most striking opposites

CW9.1 ¶ 292

In the first place this union refers back to a primitive state of mind, a twilight where differences and contrasts were either barely separated or completely merged. With increasing clarity of consciousness, however, the opposites draw more and more distinctly and irreconcilably apart

CW9.1 ¶ 292

If, therefore, the hermaphrodite were only a product of primitive non-differentiation, we would have to expect that it would soon be eliminated with increasing civilization. This is by no means the case; on the contrary, man's imagination has been preoccupied with this idea over and over again on the high and even the highest levels of culture, as we can see from the late Greek and syncretic philosophy of Gnosticism

CW9.1 ¶ 292

The hermaphroditic rebis has an important part to play in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages. And in our own day we hear of Christ's androgyny in Catholic mysticism

CW9.1 ¶ 292




We can no longer be dealing, then, with the continued existence of a primitive phantasm, or with an original contamination of opposites. Rather, as we can see from medieval writings, the primordial idea has become a symbol of the creative union of opposites, a “uniting symbol” in the literal sense

CW9.1 ¶ 293




In its functional significance the symbol no longer points back, but forward to a goal not yet reached. Notwithstanding its monstrosity, the hermaphrodite has gradually turned into a subduer of conflicts and a bringer of healing, and it acquired this meaning in relatively early phases of civilization. This vital meaning explains why the image of the hermaphrodite did not fade out in primeval times but, on the contrary, was able to assert itself with increasing profundity of symbolic content for thousands of years

CW9.1 ¶ 293

The fact that an idea so utterly archaic could rise to such exalted heights of meaning not only points to the vitality of archetypal ideas, it also demonstrates the rightness of the principle that the archetype, because of its power to unite opposites, mediates between the unconscious substratum and the conscious mind

CW9.1 ¶ 293

It throws a bridge between present-day consciousness, always in danger of losing its roots, and the natural, unconscious, instinctive wholeness of primeval times. Through this mediation the uniqueness, peculiarity, and one sidedness of our present individual consciousness are linked up again with its natural, racial roots

CW9.1 ¶ 293

Progress and development are ideals not lightly to be rejected, but they lose all meaning if man only arrives at his new state as a fragment of himself, having left his essential hinterland behind him in the shadow of the unconscious, in a state of primitivity or, indeed, barbarism

CW9.1 ¶ 293

The conscious mind, split off from its origins, incapable of realizing the meaning of the new state, then relapses all too easily into a situation far worse than the one from which the innovation was intended to free itexempla sunt odiosa! [examples are odious!]

CW9.1 ¶ 293




As civilization develops, the bisexual primordial being turns into a symbol of the unity of personality, a symbol of the Self, where the war of opposites finds peace. In this way the primordial being becomes the distant goal of man's self-development, having been from the very beginning a projection of his unconscious wholeness

CW9.1 ¶ 294

The idea of the coniunctio of male and female, which became almost a technical term in Hermetic philosophy, appears in Gnosticism as the mysterium iniquitatis, probably not uninfluenced by the Old Testament “divine marriage” as performed, for instance, by Hosea

CW9.1 ¶ 295

On the other hand, in the Hermetic philosophy that throve in the Middle Ages the coniunctio was performed wholly in the physical realm in the admittedly abstract theory of the coniugium solis et lunae, which despite this drawback gave the creative imagination much occasion for anthropomorphic flights

CW9.1 ¶ 295

Such being the state of affairs, it is readily understandable that the primordial image of the hermaphrodite should reappear in modern psychology in the guise of the male-female antithesis, in other words as male consciousness and personified female unconscious

CW9.1 ¶ 296



But the psychological process of bringing things to consciousness has complicated the picture considerably. Whereas the old science was almost exclusively a field in which only the man's unconscious could project itself, the new psychology had to acknowledge the existence of an autonomous female psyche as well

CW9.1 ¶ 296

Here the case is reversed, and a feminine consciousness confronts a masculine personification of the unconscious, which can no longer be called anima but animus. This discovery also complicates the problem of the coniunctio

CW9.1 ¶ 296




Originally this archetype [of the coniunctio] played its part entirely in the field of fertility magic and thus remained for a very long time a purely biological phenomenon with no other purpose than that of fecundation

CW9.1 ¶ 297

But even in early antiquity the symbolical meaning of the act seems to have increased. Thus, for example, the physical performance of the hierosgamos as a sacred rite not only became a mysteryit faded to a mere conjecture

CW9.1 ¶ 297

As we have seen, Gnosticism, too, endeavoured in all seriousness to subordinate the physiological to the metaphysical

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Finally, the Church severed the coniunctio from the physical realm altogether, and natural philosophy turned it into an abstract theoria. These developments meant the gradual transformation of the archetype into a psychological process which, in theory, we can call a combination of conscious and unconscious processes

CW9.1 ¶ 297

In practice, however, it is not so simple, because as a rule the feminine unconscious of a man is projected upon a feminine partner, and the masculine unconscious of a woman is projected upon a man. The elucidation of these problems is a special branch of psychology and has no part in a discussion of the mythological hermaphrodite

CW9.1 ¶ 297