“In our journey [through this book] we meet many aspects of the inner feminine and discover the role each has to play both in a man’s psychology and in the dynamics of romantic love. We have met Blanchefleur, who (has symbolized for us) the fate of feminine in our patriarchal world. Now comes the Iseult the Fair, the most powerful and ubiquitous feminine presence in our modern world – and perhaps for that very reason, the most difficult of all to understand.
Iseult the Fair
Princess of the mystical aisle, daughter of a sorcerers queen, skilled in the mysteries of magic in spirit, Iseult is a part sorceress and part ordinary woman. Part human and part divine. She is the inner ideal of the eternal feminine, the goddess who lives within a man’s psyche, an image of beauty and perfection that inspires into a sense of meaning in life.
Jung and the Anima of man
Carl Jung had a special name for this aspect of our psyche; he called it anima. Animal literally means “soul” in Latin, for Jung discovered that anima personifies that part of the psyche that we have always called “the soul”. Iseult the Fair appears constantly in the dreams and myths of men, often as a figure of superhuman beauty and divine significance. This is the part of himself that Tristan sees in assault in the moment after he drinks of the potion. A man feels that in her he will find the meaning of his life, find completeness, wholeness, and ecstatic experience.
Jung and anima
The feminine principle within a man is above all a principle of relatedness; but anime delivers a man over to a special kind of relatedness: She personifies a man’s capacity to relate to his own inner self, to the interior realm of his own psyche and to the unconscious. Curiously, she pulls him away from human relatedness, just as she pulls Tristan away from his human loyalty to his uncle and from his sense of duty and obligation. At a certain level of our evolution, our relatedness to our soul and our relatedness to our human, personal world are in deadly conflict – and this conflict is the crucible of consciousness.
The Animus of Woman
Women have an equivalent psychological structure within, which Jung calls animus. Animus is the soul in woman just as anima is the soul in man. Animus usually personifies himself as a masculine force and appears in women’s dreams as a masculine figure. Women relate to their animus side differently than men relate to anima, but there is one thing that men and women have in common: Romantic love always consists in the projection of the soul-image. When falls in love it is Animas that she sees projected onto the mortal man before her. When a man drinks of the “love potion” (Ch.4), it is anima, his soul, that he sees superimposed on a woman:
“The projection can only be dissolved when the son sees that in the realm of his psyche there is an imago…
Of the daughter, sister, the beloved, the heavenly goddess, and chthonic Baubo.
Every mother and every beloved is forced to become
the carrier and embodiment of this omnipresent and ageless image,
which corresponds to the deepest reality in a man.
It belongs to him, this perilous image of Woman; she stands for
the loyalty which in the interest of life he must sometimes forgo;
she is the much needed compensation for all of the risks and struggles and sacrifices at all and in disappointment;
She is the solace for all the bitterness of life.
And, at the same time she is the great illusionist, the seductress, who draws him into life with her Maya –
and not only into lives responsible and useful aspects,
but intense frightful paradoxes and ambivalences were good and evil,
success and ruined, hope and despair, counter balance each other.
Because she is his greatest danger, she demands from a man his greatest.
And if he has it in him, she will indeed receive it.”
Carl Jung, Aion, par. 24
A Lost Sense of Soul
One of the Peculiar developments in our western world is that we no longer have any sense of having a soul. If we are asked what the soul is, our minds go blank. The word soul calls up neither feeling nor image; There is nothing in our feelings or our lives of which we can say, “that is my soul – there she is.” It is a word that philosophers, theologians, and poet use, but we don’t know why, and we secretly doubt that they know, either. “Soul” has become of mirror figure of speech, a Sentimentality.
Jung’s Psychology leads us back to soul as concrete reality, capable of being known, described, and experienced with immediacy. What is the point of intersection between the inner life that was found in the religions of old in the inner life of archetypal psychology; Both a test the reality of the soul, and both know that it is only through the soul that we find the unconscious, the inner life, the side that is beyond ego and outside the narrow ambit of its peripheral vision.
There are three things Young said of soul that can guide us as we make this journey with Tristan and Iseult:
Soul As reality
First: the soul is not a figure of speech or a superstition. The soul is a psychological reality, an organ of the psyche; It lives on our unconscious side, but it affects our lives profoundly. Our soul is that part of the unconscious that is outside the ego, out of sight, yet meditates be unconscious to the ego. Dr. Jung said that the soul is “both receiver and transmitter,” the organ that receives the images of the unconscious and transmits them to the unconscious ego mind.
Soul As MANIFESTED Meaning
Second, soul manifests itself, and the unconscious, by means of symbols: The images that flow from the unconscious in the form of dream, vision, fantasy, and all forms of imagination. The vital thing that you Young has discovered for us is that we have lost our sense of soul because we have lost all respect for symbols; Our modern mind is trained that symbols are allusion. We say, “it is only your imagination,” not realizing that all the missing parts of ourselves that we long for, the “lost lane into heaven,” constantly mediated to us in the forgotten language of the soul: The symbols and images that emanate through dream and imagination.
Soul As Woman
Third, for men, the symbol of soul is the image of woman. If a man is aware of this and knows when he is using the image of women as the symbol of his own soul, then he can learn to relate to that image as simple and to live his soul inwardly. Young says, “It belongs to him, this perilous image of woman.” When a man understands that image is his, that it “belongs to him,” then he has taken the first step toward consciousness in romantic love. He begins to see that “Every beloved is forced to become the carrier and embodiment of this omnipresent and ageless image.
Each man must learn to relate to external people and situation’s. But it is equally important, and even more urgent, that he learned to relate to his own self. Until he learns to confront the motives, desires, and unloved possibilities of his own secret heart, he can never be complete within or genuinely fulfilled. That power within, which constantly urges us to experience our unlimited possibilities and values, is the most awesome Force in human life. Aenema is that force for men: She is the soul. No wonder, then, that men see her as a goddess, she who alone can make their lives worth living! For ultimate meaning must be found within: A man must relate to the outer world from the strength of inner wholeness, not search aimlessly outside for meaning that he finds, at last, only in the solitary pathways of his own soul.
Soul in Truth
Here we begin to understand part of what happened to Tristan when he drank the love potion, and what he suddenly sees revealed in Iseult the Fair. As the magical wine in flames his lambs, he looks through new eyes. He sees not so much the salt the woman, seated before him, but a radiant vision of the goddess within himself who is suddenly and magically in residence within the flash of mortal woman. He sees in Iseult his “Lady Soul,” for Iseult has become her flesh, her image, and her symbol.
Soul in Deception
The beautiful and fine side of romantic love inheres in the Truth of what is projected, and what is seen via ones beloved: soul, and its magical world of images. Who would deny this vision or this experience to a man or a woman? Yet… There is another side, and we must face it. We look at Tristan: he has only just drunk the love potion, and what has happened? The ramifications in his human, practical world are terrible! He Cassa side his duty to king Mark. He forgets his obligations. He gives up morality, loyalty, even necessity. The path of treason on which the lovers have set out can only lead to their destruction. He knows this, but it no longer matters: “Well then, come Death!”
Soul in projection
In modern western Westerners we see a host of complications that issue forth from this invasion of soul into the outer world, into our human relationships. A man actually begins to demand of his wife or girlfriend that she be the goddess, but she be his soul and bring him a constant ecstatic sense of perfection. Rather than look within himself, were anima natively dwells, He demands his soul of his external environment; he demands it of woman. He is usually so busy projecting his inner ideal out onto her that he rarely sees the value in the beauty of the woman who is actually there. And if his projection suddenly evaporates and he is no longer “in love” in the romantic sense, then he finds himself in a terrible conflict. He wants to follow his projection as it flies off and the lights on another woman, like a butterfly that moves from flower to flower. Here is the terrible conflict of values, the terrible conflict of loyalties that we see in Tristan: Suddenly our human loyalties and our soul-projections are going in different directions, absolutely at war with t the delicate, easily cracked vessel of human relationship.
Soul As Calling
But behind all this clash of values there is something good, something fine, something of great evolutional power:
“The power that forces you into consciousness
and that sustains you in your conscious world
proves to be the worst enemy when you come to the net center,
for there you are really going out of this world
and everything that makes you cling to it
is your worst enemy.
The greatest blessing in this world
is the greatest curse in the next.”
Carl Jung, "Kundalini Yoga", Spring 1976, p. 10-11
Whenever you are called by fate, whenever you are moved towards the next chakra (level of consciousness) there is a feeling of being “set on your head”, of having your world turned upside down and finding that all the values and loyalties in the world you knew are in terrible conflict with the new world that calls to you.
And us it is with romantic love: Patriarchal Western man has lost his soul, and his soul calls him forcibly, pulling him out of his known world and into a realm where all seems upside down; and always, floating before his eyes, is the image of Iseult the Fair.
Our deceits often express our deeper unconscious needs and desires, those that we will not consciously acknowledge. This principle does not give us license to deceive or to betray, but it we would learn to look for the truth underneath our deceptions, both when we find ourselves lying to ourselves and when we find ourselves lying to others, then we could begin to take responsibility for those truths and begin to live them directly and honestly.
Source: Robert Johnson, We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love. HarperCollins, New York. 1983.