CHAPTER 4: THE PSYCHE IN RELATIONSHIP TO SEXUAL ELEMENTS. THE HE AND SHE – THE SHE AND HE
Distorted ideas about sexuality prevent many people from attaining any close connection with the inner experience that continually stirs beneath ordinary consciousness. It is a good idea, then, to look to the psyche and its relationship to sexual identity.
The psyche is not male or female. In your system of beliefs, however, it is often identified as feminine, along with the artistic productions that emerge from its creativity. In that context, the day hours and waking consciousness are thought of as masculine, along with the sun – while the nighttime, the moon, and the dreaming consciousness are considered feminine or passive. In the same manner, aggression is usually understood to be violent assertive action, male-oriented, while female elements are identified in terms of the nurturing principle.
Physically speaking, you would have no males or females unless first you had individuals. You are each individuals first of all, then. After this, you are individuals of a specific sex, biologically speaking. The particular kind of focus that you have is responsible for the great significance you place upon male and female. Your hand and your foot have different functions. If you wanted to focus upon the differences in their behavior, you could build an entire culture based upon their diverse capabilities, functions and characteristics. Hands and feet are obviously equipment belonging to both sexes, however. Still, on another level the analogy is quite valid.
The psyche is male and female, female and male; but when I say this I realize that you put your own definitions upon those terms to begin with.
Biologically, the sexual orientation is the method chosen for continuation of the species. Otherwise, however, no specific psychological characteristics of any kind are attached to that biological functioning. I am quite aware that in your experience definite physical and psychological differences do exist. Those that do are the result of programming, and are not inherent – even biologically – in the species itself.
The vitality of the species in fact was assured because it did not overspecialize in terms of sexuality. There was no fixed mating period, for example. Instead, the species could reproduce freely so that in the event of a catastrophe of any kind, it would not be so tied into rigid patterns that it might result in extinction.
The challenges and problems of the species were different from those of others. It needed additional safeguards. The more flexible mating pattern was one. With this came a greater diversity in individual characteristics and behavior, so that no individual was bound to a strictly biological role. If that were true, the species never would have been concerned beyond the issues of physical survival, and such is not the case. The species could have survived quite well physically without philosophy, the arts, politics, religion, or even structured language. It could have followed completely different paths, those tied strictly to biological orientation. There would have been no question of men performing so-called feminine tasks, or of women performing so-called masculine tasks, for there, no leeway for that individual action would have existed.
For that matter, there is far greater leeway in the behavior of animals than you understand, for you interpret animal behavior according to your own beliefs. You interpret the past history of your species in the same manner. It seems to you that the female always tended to the offspring, for example, nursing them, that she was forced to remain close to home while the male fought off enemies and hunted for food. The ranging male, therefore, appears to have been much more curious and aggressive. There was instead a different kind of situation. Children do not come in litters. The family of the caveman was a far more “democratic” group than you suppose – men and women working side by side, children learning to hunt with both parents, women stopping to nurse a child along the way, the species standing apart from others because it was not ritualized in sexual behavior.
Except for the fact that males could not bear children, the abilities of the sexes were interchangeable. The male was usually heavier, a handy physical advantage in some areas – but the woman was lighter and could run faster.
Women were also somewhat lighter because they would bear the additional weight of a child. Even then, of course, there were variances, for many women are larger than small men. But the women could hunt as well as the men. If compassion, kindness, and gentleness were feminine characteristics only, then no male could be kind or compassionate because such feelings would not be biologically possible.
If your individuality was programmed by your biological sex, then it would be literally impossible for you to perform any action that was not sexually programmed. A woman cannot father a child, nor can a male bear one. Since you are otherwise free to perform other kinds of activity that you think of as sexually oriented, in those areas the orientation is cultural.
You imagine, however, that the male is aggressive, active, logical-minded, inventive, outwardly oriented, a builder of civilizations. You identify the ego as male. The unconscious therefore seems to be female, and the feminine characteristics are usually given as passive, intuitive, nurturing, creative, uninventive, concerned with preserving the status quo, disliking change. At the same time, you consider the intuitive elements rather frightening, as if they can explode to disrupt known patterns – in unknown ways.
Males who are creatively gifted find themselves in some dilemma, for their rich, sensed creativity comes into direct conflict with their ideas of virility. Women who possess characteristics that are thought to be masculine have the same problem on the other side.
In your terms the psyche is a repository of characteristics that operate in union, composed of female and male elements. The human psyche contains such patterns that can be put together in multitudinous ways. You have categorized human abilities so that it seems that you are men or women, or women and men primarily, and persons secondarily. Your personhood exists first, however. Your individuality gives meaning to your sex, and not the other way around.
In direct opposition to current theories about the past, there was far less sexual specialization, say, in the time of the cavemen than now.
The family was a cooperative unit. The basis of early society was cooperation, not competition. Families grouped together. There were children of various ages in such a band all the time. When women were near birth, they performed those chores that could be done in the cave dwellings, or nearby, and also watched other young children; while the women who were not pregnant were off with the males, hunting and gathering food.
If a mother died, the father took over her responsibilities, the qualities of love and affection being quite as alive in him as in the female. After a woman bore, she nursed the child, taking it with her on food-gathering excursions, or sometimes letting other women in the group nurse the child. Often after childbirth, women immediately joined the hunting expeditions, and the fathers made clothing from animals’ hides at home. This allowed the male to rest after prolonged hunting activity, and meant that no adult member of a family became over-exhausted. The work, then, was interchangeable.
Children began food gathering and hunting as soon as they were able to – females as well as males – led by the older children, going further away as they progressed in strength. Qualities of inventiveness, curiosity, ingenuity, could not be delegated to one sex alone. The species could not have survived such a division.
You are so use to thinking in terms of mechanics, that it seems to you that uneducated people did not understand the connection between the sexual act of intercourse and childbirth. You are so used to one kind of explanation for childbirth, so familiar with one specific framework, that alternate explanations appear to be the height of nonsense. So it is fashionable to believe that early man did not understand the connection between intercourse and birth.
Even the animals, however, understand without words or language the importance of their sexual behavior. Early man was hardly more ignorant. The male knew what he was doing even without textbooks that outlined the entire procedure. The female understood the connections between the child born and the sexual act.
It is the height of idiocy to imagine that because of the time taken in pregnancy, the female could not understand the child’s origin in intercourse. The body’s knowledge did not need a complicated language. For that matter, your literal interpretation of childbirth is by some standards a highly limited one. In your terms, it is technically correct.
But a child born to two parents is also an offspring of the earth, its tissues as surely a part of earth as any tree or flower, or burst of ocean spray. A human child, true; but an offspring in which the entire history of the earth is involved – a new creation arising not just from two parents, but from the entire gestalt of nature, from which the parents themselves once emerged; a private yet public affair in which the physical elements of earth become individualized; in which psyche and earth cooperate in a birth that is human, and in other terms, divine.
Historically speaking, early man in his way understood those connections far better than you do, and used language he developed to express first of all this miracle of birth. For he saw that he constantly replenished his kind, and that all other species were replenished in the same manner.
There was always more land. No matter how fast he ran or how far he traveled, early man could not run out of land, or trees, or forests, or food supplies. If he came to a desert, he still knew that fertile lands were somewhere available, even if it was a matter of finding them. But the world itself seemed to have no end. It was literally a limitless world in a way most difficult for you to understand, for to you, the world has shrunk.
This unlimited world constantly replenished itself. Children came from women’s wombs. Man was acquainted with death, and many children were stillborn, or were naturally aborted. This also, however, was in the natural order of things, and was done far more easily then than now. All flower seeds do not fall on fertile ground and bring forth other flowers. The seeds that do not grow go [back] into the ground, forming the basis for other life. Biologically speaking, fetuses grow and develop – I am going slowly here because I am being tricky – and when innate consciousness merges with proper form, the conditions are right for the birth of a healthy child. When the conditions are not right, the child does not develop properly. Nature aborts it. The physical elements return to the earth to become the basis for other life.
Only those children perfectly attuned to their environment in time and space survived. This does not mean that the consciousness of a child was annihilated, for example, if it was naturally aborted. It did not develop.
While there was no mating period, still there was a close biological relationship between the species and the earth, so that women naturally conceived when situations of climate, food supplies, and other elements were beneficial.
Biologically, the species knew ahead of time when droughts would appear, for example, and it automatically altered its rate of conception to compensate. Left alone, animal species do the same thing. In broad terms, early man was struck by the fact that all things seemed to reproduce themselves, and it was this fact that first caught his attention. Later he used what you think of as myths to explain this abundance. Yet those myths contained a kind of knowledge that escapes your literal, specific interpretations of sexual events. Such knowledge resides in the psyche, however. If you have any direct experience with your own psyche, then you will most likely find yourself encountering some kinds of events that will not easily fit with your own ideas about your sexual nature.