Several times during my life I have experienced great despair. It was mostly crises connected with partnership and marriage, ruthlessly uncovering two people meeting each other head-on who, on one hand, feel a strong mutual attraction but, on the other, are so different in terms of thought and behavioral patterns that tension, friction, conflict and feeling of “des-pair” are inevitable.
I’ve suffered for many years, my pain eating away at me from the inside. I’ve heaped blame upon my partner and, occasionally, myself. I’ve read many books, had many talks with good friends and even got into therapy. Yet at the root of all that was my profound desire to understand:
What is the actual, deeper meaning of the connection between man and woman?
Soon I realized that all those self-help books and emotional crutches kept reaching a limit. They all succeeded in describing, quite precisely and often humorously, the differing basic patterns of “man” and “woman”. They provided great recognition value and helped me to better understand my partner’s otherness. But they failed at pointing out the deeper idea which brings meaning to the relationship of man and woman.
Reading C. G. Jung, I found the following:
The meeting of two personalities is like the melding of two bodies: if they connect at all, it changes them both
– C. G. Jung: Mysterium Coniunctionis, quote translated by the article’s translator
Jung implies that the male and female counterparts can be transmuted by their mutual devotion. He hints at a creative process whose outcome might be something entirely new.
Today, the term “devotion” usually has exclusively physical implications. Modern couples therapists like Wolfgang Gädecke emphatically point out a paradox hardly, if at all, known to many couples: despite both partners feeling strong sexual attraction and longing for completion and communion, the “power of concupiscence” rushing in often leads to painful feelings of separation and alienation. Lust always has a self-serving aspect. Therefore, often enough, it leads not to the devotion and unification desired by both, but can throw each partner back on themselves all the harder. Obviously, the idea of “devotion” between man and woman should not be limited to the physical aspect but include the emotional and spiritual aspects as well.
The soul’s purity depends on being cleansed of a fragmented life and entering a life which is in unity.
– Meister Eckhart, quote translated by the article’s translator
As current human beings, as beings of flesh and blood in this world of opposites we are always, to some extent, exposed to “di-remption”, to “dis-pute” and “des-pair”. In this painful process we experience our existential incompleteness and imperfection emotionally as well as physically. Even the most loving and understanding partner cannot compensate for this fundamental deficiency. Our soul is ruled by nature’s twin forces (“good” and “evil”), causing suffering and sorrow – but also prompting us to develop a sense of distinction as well as self-awareness. What we suffer is, eventually, our own diremption. At some point, however, we might discover that behind our ego (which causes separation and delineation) there’s a “non-ego” dedicated to unity, waiting to be revived. This non-ego yearns to be liberated from the ego’s confining shell – in every man, in every woman. Man and woman have a great task to accomplish with one another. Man and woman can aid each other in devoting themselves to the innermost non-ego each of them must develop. “Earthly” love is always limited. It is a preliminary stage, a “field of exercise” so to speak, for devotion to the non-ego.
This clarifies the spiritual dimension of the cooperation between man and woman. There’s a divine spark glowing within each man and each woman, ignited at the very dawn of creation by the two complimentary male and female “poles” working together. This fiery element encased in every human being wants to develop into a “spiritual child”, an entirely new creation.
This is what Nietzsche implies when he asks:
Art thou a human being, entitled to wishing for a child?
Art thou the victorious one, the self-conqueror, the senses’ arbiter and lord
of thine virtues?
Or is thy wish intoned from beast and urge? [...]
I want thy victory and freedom to yearn for a child […]
Thou shalt build beyond thyself. But first thou thyself must be built to suit me, orthogonal in body and mind.
Not only forth shalt thou procreate but up!
To that end, the garden of marriage help thee!
A higher body thou shalt create, a primal motion, a wheel turning out of itself – a creator thou shalt create.
Matrimony: this I call the will of the two, to create the one which is more than those who created it. Mutual reverence I call matrimony as before those willing such a will.
This be thy matrimony’s truth and meaning. But that which the all-too-many call matrimony – oh, what do I call that?
– Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, quote translated by the article’s translator
In his spiritual structure the original human being is a creator and thus an image of the divine father-mother- (Isis-Osiris-) entity. The writings of the great gnostic teachers outline the basic principle of creation from the very beginning: from a divine father-mother-entity the “native androgynous human” comes forth. Their male name is: “perfect mind”. Their female name is: “all-wise birth-giver Sophia (i.e. ‘wisdom’)”. All further creation emanating from this immortal, original human being comes to pass through harmonic cooperation of the male and female poles. But this basic principle of creation was violated when, in ancient past, an eon came forth who created ideas involving only one of the two poles. A disturbance between the male and the female ensued – and henceforth all creation (including current humanity) was flawed. (See Slavenburg, J.: Ein Schlüssel zur Gnosis. Haarlem/Birnbach 2003)
Only if we know this great context can we begin to fathom the actual scope of the male-female relationship drama. We humans – as man and woman – are incomplete, unfinished beings, always lacking something. But all hope is not lost at the sight of our shortcomings. The awareness of our “des-pair” can prompt the divine principle, which is encapsulated within us, to grow into a New Soul amalgamating the male and the female, mind and heart. In mutual devotion, man and woman can cooperate to bring forth transmutation and deliverance. They can free the original human being within themselves, the unity of the “perfect mind” and the “all-wise birth-giver Sophia”.
unity of the child,
child, living in the old ones still.
Perfect life before life
which woke us to life.
Oh, let’s become what we were
and unfathomably are,
not man, not woman,
– Erik van Roysbeek, Poetic Reflexion on Verse 4 of the Gospel According to Thomas, quote translated by the article’s translator