The Sacred Union of Opposites
by Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol, Ph.D.
How ironic to have found myself in Maui, drawn to this island's vibration of erotic love, without even the faintest stirring of sexual desire. I'd come to Maui alone to work on my new book, but I was hurting inside. My long time lover had distanced himself just before I left California. He had finally had enough of our cycles of opening our hearts to ecstatic lovemaking only to have him shrink into jealousy, dependency, and possessiveness when my erotic energy overflowed and attracted other men. Or to have me shut down and become cautious, clingy and bitchy in an effort to control my wild nature.
No blame, no blame, no blame is my mantra. We both know the dance
we've been doing doesn't work anymore. We would love to be together
here, but without a major miracle, our programming makes it impossible.
His masculine script tells him that if I'm not totally fulfilled
by him, he is not enough, he is not really a man. His suppressed
feminine side is only just learning to gracefully handle intense
emotions. My feminine script tells me that if I refuse to sacrifice
my own needs and desires in order to please him, I am selfish and cruel. This
isolation is my punishment. My suppressed masculine side revels in my newfound
freedom and pushes away feelings of vulnerability and fear.
Just as I was beginning to doubt that my erotic juices would ever flow again, a new lover came into my life. At first I felt frozen with pain and unshed tears, but as I curled around his large frame, I found that I could feel again, and my energy began to move. The sensuality of the land, amplified by the many tantric rituals that had taken place here, penetrated my being and I began to melt. In the safety of his loving embrace, I felt tiny and delicate as my feminine self emerged. Feelings of weakness and loss surfaced and I cried. As he continued to stroke and to kiss me all over, I opened to the pleasure of his touch. Our rising passion ignited my masculine self and I delighted in awakening delicious sensations in him. Slowly, slowly I found my way back home and surrendered to the orgasmic flow. I am healed.
Much of the time my internal male and female energies are fairly well balanced because I have worked for years to develop and integrate these two aspects of myself. However, when I am under stress and my equilibrium is disturbed, my inner male tends to take over and make war on my inner female. Like most men, he finds it difficult to ask for help or admit weakness, so instead he defensively isolates himself. At times like this, I have discovered that interacting with someone who sees and appreciates my feminine side helps restore my equilibrium. Sharing erotic energy and accepting nurturing from someone whose male energy is stronger than my own especially assists me in coming back into my center.
Lovemaking is just one of many ways of restoring sexual harmony. It is also an excellent example of a situation in which the absence of sexual harmony can quickly spiral into greater and greater imbalance if it is not handled in the right way.
Returning to Center
Ancient traditions the world over, which honor the sacred union of male and female and recognize the importance of balancing the masculine and feminine elements within each of us, as well as in the external world, offer us a model for healing. Many of us know intuitively the rightness of finding equilibrium between the energies we call masculine and feminine. We feel the discomfort that arises within us when our internal balance is upset, and we see the unhappiness generated by this disequilibrium all over the world. Rarely, if ever, these days, is it understood that the symmetry between feminine and masculine energies, yin and yang, Shakti and Shiva, is the basis for harmony in all of life.
Even the Taoists, whose yin-yang symbol, has survived to remind us of this teaching, have come to lean in a masculine direction over the years. But Hawaiian legend tells us that a time will come when the order of Kane-Wahine, or balanced male and female understanding, will return and the joy and power of direct connection to spirit will once again enable us to live in peace and harmony. Because our present culture has tended to elevate the masculine over the feminine, most people approach life, not to mention sex and relationship, from a male point of view. As a result, women no longer know how to be women and men no longer know how to be men. And most of us believe that unconditional love, that is, love with no strings attached, is not humanly possible, particularly between men and women. Is it any surprise that both genders feel abandoned by the other?
Since we have been immersed in this male oriented culture from birth, its lopsidedness may seem natural and right or it may trigger confusing feelings of rage and rebellion. Instead we must learn to honor the deep feminine as well as the deep masculine, in a way which is not merely a reaction to or mirror image of patriarchal customs, but comes from an entirely different way of being. How can we do this? The path described here is synthesis of the wisdom from many indigenous cultures and spiritual teachings as well as modern Western psychology.
It's worth noting that the cultures we call indigenous which means native or natural are those cultures that have not yet been completely swallowed up by the masculine monolith commonly known as Western Civilization. Many indigenous cultures have taken on some Western influences, directly or indirectly, and these tend to reflect the masculine bias. Those that have escaped this fate may have an imbalance in the feminine direction. So while we cannot assume that all native cultures are inherently balanced, we can look to them for clues about a different way of being.
Honoring the Feminine
We begin by honoring the Feminine for she is the womb from which all life emerges. Some say the essence of the Feminine is Love. Love can appear in a rainbow of different tones, from the magenta hues of passionate erotic love, to the healing green rays of compassionate wisdom, to the golden glow of friendship, and the pure white light of the Divine Mother's unconditional love for all her children. The ancient Greeks had specific names for the different varieties of love, but Love in all its forms is an expression of the Feminine force.
In the Taoist tradition the Feminine force is called Yin. Yin is the receptive, the watery, the earth. Yin is associated with the negative magnetic pole, with the moon, with coolness, with attraction rather than assertion. The power of Yin comes from natural responsiveness, nurturing and support not direct independent action. The receptive force is sensual, flowing, accepting and allowing. Yin energy moves through feelings rather than thoughts, it is diffuse, spacious, and open. Foods, animals, elements, and geometric shapes can all transmit Yin force.
Many cultures associate the Feminine with Earth, with the body, with blood, with tides, cycles, rhythms, and changes of all kinds. The Feminine represents fertility, and is often seen symbolically as a chalice, cup, container, valley or womb. She is the ground of being, the mother, the maiden, and the crone. She is the unconscious, the irrational, the seductive, the intuitive.
The Feminine includes sex and death as well as birth. She encompasses the wild, the chaotic, the untamed forces of nature. The Feminine power is the power of surrender. She is the unknown, the primitive, the pre-verbal, the mysterious. She is the left-hand path and the right side of the brain. Her knowing arises from direct experience.
Finally, the Feminine is also the power of unity, of connection, of relatedness, which weaves all of creation together. The Feminine emphasizes togetherness, similarities, correspondences, and Oneness.
To honor the Feminine, within you and without, take the time to be still, to feel, to savor life. Tune into your body, immerse yourself in water, open your heart, allow the tears come. Meditate, undulate, dance, sing, make love and fill yourself with flowers.
Honoring the Masculine
Next we honor the Masculine, for he is the force which sets all life in motion. Some say the essence of the masculine is Will. Will involves choosing a direction, a goal, a mission and putting all of your attention in service of this objective. Will is associated with discipline, focus, and organization.
In the Taoist tradition the Masculine force is called Yang. Yang is the active, the fiery, the creative. Yang is associated with the positive magnetic pole, with the sun, with heat, with conquest. The power of Yang is that of initiative, forcefulness, and decisive action. Yang energy is discriminating, aggressive, and competitive. Yang force derives from the mind, it is penetrating, categorical, and expansive. Yang seeks challenge, danger, and release.
Many cultures associate the Masculine with the Sky, with Heaven, with spirit, with potency, with structure and stability. The Masculine represents light, the generative power and is often seen symbolically as a rod, a wand, a mountain, a tower or some other variation on the phallus. He is the creator, the doer, the transcendent, the unambiguous, the logical.
The Masculine is the father, the son, the king. He is the problem solver, the conqueror, the builder, the warrior, the provider. He is also the protector, the hunter, the intellectual, the rational mind. The Masculine is the right hand path, and the left side of the brain. He loves order, predictability, and control.
Finally, the Masculine is also the power of discrimination, determination, of making distinctions, creating hierarchies and systems through which we develop mastery in the inner and outer world. The Masculine emphasizes multiplicity, differences, and individuation.
To honor the Masculine, within you and without, summon the courage to go beyond your limits, to accomplish great deeds, to focus your energy. Tune into your life purpose, climb a mountain, dance through the fire, let spirit come through you. Drum, chant, catch a wave, tame a lion, carve a statue, and plant a tree in the earth.
The Concept of Androgyny
Now we bring the masculine and feminine together, and watch to see what happens.
When I was an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, there
was a great deal of excitement about a "new" discovery that was revolutionizing
gender theory. Researchers had found that masculine and feminine were not opposite
poles of the same variable as had been previously assumed by Western psychology.
Rather, the data supported the viewpoint that masculinity and femininity were
two separate dimensions, which were essentially independent of each other.
In other words, masculinity and femininity were not on a continuum, which would require that the more you had of one quality, the less you could have of the other. Instead, a person could have an abundance of both masculine and feminine traits, or they could be neither strongly masculine nor strongly feminine, as well as having a predominance of one or the other.
Furthermore, it was found that the healthiest and most successful people were the ones who exhibited a high level of both masculine and feminine characteristics. This condition was named androgyny. The concept of androgyny really represented a major culture break through, because previously the mental health authorities had maintained that the ideal man was purely masculine and the ideal woman was purely feminine in her psychological make up. However, since feminine traits had basically been defined as inferior to masculine traits, women were caught in a no win situation. Now, the rules had been changed! For the first time, Western culture was giving men and women permission, even encouragement, to develop cross gender qualities and thus opening the door to balance.
Of course, the ancient traditions of Tantra, Taoism, and Alchemy, not to mention indigenous people the world over had known for millenniums that each of us has both masculine and feminine energies within us and that both are of equal importance. The basis of Taoist philosophy is the complementary nature of Yin and Yang. In Tantra it is taught that all of creation arises from the dance of Shiva and Shakti, the masculine force of creation and the feminine source of life. Jungian psychology speaks of Logos, the masculine power of discerning thought, and Eros, the feminine power of unitive feeling as the two archetypal human qualities.
Sex Roles and Polarization
All of these different maps point in the same direction. The masculine and feminine forces naturally seek their opposites. Together they make a balanced whole. When we prevent an individual from accessing both male and female qualities within themselves, they will feel a lack or a deep emptiness. Consequently, they desperately seek to complete themselves by attracting the missing elements in another. Or if the inner masculine and inner feminine are at war with each other, a person will experience chaos within and conflict without as the stronger aspect attempts to take over and suppress the other while the weaker side rebels.
The habitual mode of operating of an unbalanced individual tends to be skewed
to one pole or the other and their environment reflects this. Such a person
will be obsessed with sexual or romantic relationships and often experiences
the possibility of losing their "other half" as a threat to their
However, because the old-fashioned sex roles for men and women have been so divergent, attempts to find union with the external beloved are usually doomed to failure. A situation has been created where men and women are encouraged to be dependent on each other but don't understand each other because they don't even speak the same language. Worse yet, a man who's been trained to control and repress his internal feminine will automatically do the same with his external beloved. Similarly, a woman who fears and distrusts her internal masculine will transfer these feelings to her flesh and blood beloved.
As each individual comes into balance internally, partnering becomes a choice rather than a necessity. As more and more people do the work of creating inner balance, the ripples move outward so that the planetary imbalance is healed.
Shadow Work: Anima and Animus
Carl Jung was the first Western scientist to acknowledge the key role which a man's feminine side and a woman's masculine side, play in our development. He termed the man's feminine self, the anima and the woman's masculine self, the animus. Jung observed that in most people these cross gender personality complexes were part of the shadow, or the disowned, unconscious part of the personality. His theory suggested that only in mid-life would a person begin to integrate these disowned fragments. However, I suspect that the anima and animus are not naturally shadow aspects, but were driven underground as a result of the Western bias against acknowledging our androgynous nature, which only recently has begun to shift.
In any event, Jung's work has helped to illuminate some of the distortions that can take place when the anima and animus are disconnected from conscious awareness. One is the issue of projection and romantic love. Another has to do with the negative manifestations of the anima and animus.
In indigenous cultures, romantic love is an alien concept. In her lovely book, The Spirit of Intimacy, Sobonfu Some, who was raised in a small village in western Africa, says flatly that romantic love doesn't work. That kind of passion, the kind of emotion, feeling, and connection that people look for in the West from a romantic relationship, village people look for from spirit. Furthermore, romance often means hiding our true self in order to gain acceptance. When this happens, we end up with an illusory relationship which often goes up in smoke when the illusion gives way to the real self.
According to Jung, romantic love results when a man or woman projects their anima or animus onto another, and then falls in love with their own reflection. Because this projection process is easily derailed when characteristics that don't fit our ideal man or woman surface, we instinctively try, as Sobonfu notes, to hide our true self, in order to maintain the attraction. This is where the trouble, or pilikia as the Hawaiians would say, begins because we are caught in a trap of struggling to maintain a harmonious relationship based on an illusion of total separation between masculine and feminine qualities. All too often, rather than owning our lopsided projections, we reject the beloved who fails to live up to our fantasy of the perfect man or woman.
Another hazard associated with keeping the anima or animus submerged in the
unconscious falls into the category sometimes called "being bitten by the shadow." Jung noticed that suppressed personality complexes or archetypes have a way of taking over in a rather unpleasant way. If the animus is denied conscious expression by a woman determined to meet the standard for pure femininity, this shadow aspect will often explode inappropriately and sabotage her efforts. The negative expression of the animus often appears harsh, bitchy, bullying— an
unflattering impersonation of masculine power. Similarly, the negative expression
of the anima can be seen in the drag queen whose simpering, superficial emotionality
has become an icon of gay culture.
Jung's method of bringing the anima or animus into consciousness relied heavily
on dreamwork—identifying these figures in our dreams and allowing these
symbolic representations to bring messages into consciousness so that we can
move toward greater wholeness.
Strengthening Your Inferior Aspect
Jung used the term "inferior" to describe aspects of the self which
were underdeveloped. There is no value judgement implied here, merely a realization
that the inferior function doesn't have the practiced ease and mastery of the
stronger aspect. Healing begins for both men and women by accessing their less
developed side, which is usually the feminine for men and sometimes for women
as well. Most people know intuitively whether their masculine or feminine is
dominant, but if you are in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:
- Which side of your body feels more alive, the right or the left? When you are ill or physically challenged, which side of your body is most affected?
- Which are you more comfortable with, feelings and intuition or thoughts and logic?
- Which is your tendency, to focus on differences or similarities?
The feminine is associated with the left side of the body, with feelings and intuition, and with similarities and relatedness. The masculine is associated with the right side of the body, with logical thought, and with making distinctions.
Accessing the feminine means tuning into the wisdom of the body,
into the feelings, images, and dreams which are frequently overlooked
when our busy lifestyle dictates that we adhere to a rigid schedule
Because our whole culture has been skewed toward the male pole for
centuries, we all have a deep hunger for the feminine. Those whose
feminine aspect is underdeveloped will usually find some resistance
to feeding this hunger, even when given the opportunity, while those
with a strong feminine self will drink deeply at this well whenever
Accessing the masculine means inviting the power of spirit, of purpose,
of focused attention, assertiveness, and organization to play a bigger
role in your life.
If you grew up without strong role models, seek out a man or a woman
who embodies the gender qualities you are lacking and spend as much
time as you can in their presence. This person can be a teacher,
a therapist, a friend, or a lover—but
if you choose a lover to teach you beware of relying upon him or her to be
your polar opposite instead of being a model for your own growth.
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© Deborah Taj Anapol