The modern woman
stands before a great cultural task,
which means perhaps
the beginning of a new Era.
—C.G. Jung, Women in Europe
from, Preface to the Revised Edition, from The Way of All Women by M. Esther Harding.
It is thirty-seven years since this book was written and many things have happened during that time. A spirit of revolution is in the air, affecting almost every field of human endeavor — science, politics, morals, even religion, have changed almost ouf of recognition. And yet on re-reading this book I was amazed to found how few changes were needed to bring it up to date… but beyond these the thesis is still valid. For while the form of life changes, human nature does not change, or only very slowly. As the Chinese Book of Changes says:
The Town may be changed,
But the well cannot be changed.
[48. Ching / The Well]
Adn the commentator adds: "The style of architecture changed in the course of centuries, but the shape of the well has remained the same from ancient times to this day… Political structures change, as do nations, but the life of man with its needs remains eternally the same… The foundations of human nature are the same in everyone. And every human being can draw… from the inexhaustible wellspring of the divine in man's nature."
from, Preface to the First Edition
The ideas underlying the present volume are based on the teachings of C.G. Jung who has opened to us a new realm of thought and experience which promises a solution of many of the fundamental cultural problems of our day. These ideas, however, are not always easily translated into the terms of daily life. In this book an attempt has been made to perform the entirely feminine task of showing how the knowledge of human nature made available through the study of the unconscious may be applied to everyday experience in a helpful way.
Those who consult a psychologist usually do so with the hope of finding a means of dealing with their practical difficulties. If these people are merely instructed in theory they may well say, "This is very interesting, but how does it help me?" Many books today point out the problems of both social and personal life; many analyze the causes of prevalent modern problems; few undertake to demonstrate a method of living by which the individual may find a workable solution of his own difficulties.
In the following pages I have not attempted to offer a panacea for life's ills. I do not claim any superior knowledge of how the moral or social difficulties of our day may be met, but I do present certain suggestions for action through which each individual who is interested in truth may come to find it more fully in his own life and, through the practical application of the modern knowledge of the psyche, may perhaps build for himself a firmer structure.
In these days when the outer props onto which man has pinned his faith seem to be crumbling, it is all the more necessary that an inner security be built up which will be able to withstand the shock of outer misfortune. All the world over the dark forces of the "downgoing" are making their power felt. No longer can we reassure ourselves with the thought of a bank balance. All too often we build a fortune as a child builds sand castles before a rising tide. Outer security seems to be undermined. Is there any other kind of security to which we can turn? Those who are religious have in all ages turned to the spiritual realm, in times of misfortune, discounting the values of this world. Such an otherworldliness no longer suffices the modern man who desires a more complete and satisfying life here and now. He wishes to realize his spirituality in this life rather than in a problematical hereafter. Yet exclusive concern with the outer world has proved as unsatisfying as the denial of its existence. Today we see arising a new evaluation of a different kind of reality, based on the psychological understanding of human nature, which perhaps contains the germ of a middle way between the extremes of materialism and of otherworldliness.
Understanding is invaluable, but for many people, and especially for women, understanding must be supplemented by a workable practice if life is not to be lived in vain. For man creates the idea and woman transforms it into a living reality.
To those who seek such a practical way of life I dedicate this book.
It is a pleasure to comply with the author's wish that I should write an introduction to her book. I have read her work in manuscript with the greatest interest and am gratified to find that it does not belong in the category of certain priggish books which expatiate on the psychology of women with as much prejudiced one-sidedness as loquacity and finally overflow in a sentimental hymn to "holy motherhood." Such books have another unpleasant characteristic: They never speak of things as they are but rather as they should be, and instead of taking the problem of the feminine soul seriously they benevolently gloss over dark, and therefore unpleasant, truths with advice which is as good as it is ineffectual. Such books are by no means always written by men — if they were they might be excusable — but many are written by women who seem to know as little about feminine feelings as men do.
It is a foregone conclusion among the initiated that men understand nothing of women's psychology as it actually is, but it is astonishing to find that women do not know themselves. However we are only surprised as long as we naively and optimistically imagine that mankind understands anything fundamental about the soul. Such knowledge and understanding belong to the most difficult tasks an investigating mind can set itself . The newest developments in psychology show with an ever greater clarity that not only are there no simple formulas from which the world of the soul might be derived, but also that we have never yet succeeded in defining the psychic field of experience with adequate certainty. Indeed, scientific psychology, despite its immense extension on the surface, has not even begun to free itself from a mountain-high mass of prejudices which persistently bars its entrance to the real soul. Psychology as the youngest of the sciences has only just developed and, therefore, is suffering from all those children's diseases which afflicted the adolescence of the other sciences in the last Middle Ages. There still exist psychologies which limit the psychic field of experience to consciousness and its contents or which understand the psychic to be only a phenomenon of reaction without any trace of autonomy. The existence of an unconscious psyche has not yet attained undisputed validity, despite the presence of an overwhelming amount of empirical material which could prove beyond the peradventure of a doubt that there can be no psychology of consciousness without the recognition of the unconscious. Without this foundation, no datum of psychology, if it be in any way complex in nature, can be dealt with. Moreover, the actual soul with which we have to deal in life and in reality is complexity itself. For example, a psychology of woman cannot be written without an adequate knowledge of the unconscious backgrounds of the mind.
On the basis of a rich psychotherapeutic experience, Dr. Harding has drawn up a picture of the feminine psyche which, in extent and thoroughness, far surpasses previous works in this field. Her presentation is refreshingly free of prejudice and remarkable in the love of truth it displays. Her expositions never lose themselves in dead theories nor in fanatical fads which unfortunately are so frequently to be met with in just this field. In this way she has succeeded in penetrating with the light of knowledge into backgrounds and depths where before darkness prevailed. Only one half of feminine psychology can be covered by biological and social concepts. But in this book it becomes clear that woman possesses also a peculiar spirituality very strange to man. Without knowledge of the unconscious this new point of view, so essential to the psychology of woman, could never have been brought out in such completeness. But also in many other places in the book the fructifying influence of the psychology of unconscious processes is evident.
At a time when the frequency of divorce reaches a record number, when the question of the relation of the sexes has become a perplexing problem, a book like this seems to me to be of the greatest help. To be sure, it does not provide the one thing that all expect, that is, a generally accepted recipe by which this dreadful complex of questions might be solved in a simple and practical way so that we need rack our brains about it no longer. On the other hand, the book contains an ample store of what we actually need very badly, namely understanding — understanding of psychic facts and conditions with the help of which we can orientate ourselves in the complicated situations of life.
After all, why do we have a psychology? Why is it that just now especially we interest ourselves in psychology? The answer is, everyone is in dire need of it. Humanity seems to have reached today a point where previous concepts are no longer adequate and where we begin to realize that we are confronted with something strange, the language of which we no longer understand. We live in a time when there dawns upon us a realization that the people living on the other side of the mountain are not made up exclusively of red-headed devils who are responsible for all the evil on this side of the mountain. A sign of this dim intuition has also penetrated the relation between the sexes; we do not all of us say to ourselves, "Everything good dwells within me, everything evil within thee."
Today there already exist super-moderns who ask themselves in all seriousness if something or other is not out of joint, if we are not perhaps somewhat too unconscious, somewhat antiquated, and whether this may not be the reason why when confronted with difficulties in relationship between the sexes we still continue to apply with disastrous results methods of the Middle Ages if not those of the cave man. There are people indeed who read with horror the Pope's encyclical on Christian marriage, though they can admit that to cave men the so-called "Christian" marriage means a cultural advance. But although we are far from having overcome our prehistoric mentality, and although it is just in the field of sexuality that man becomes most vividly aware of his mammalian nature and also experiences its most signal triumphs, nonetheless certain ethical refinements have entered in which permit the man who has behind him ten to fifteen centuries of Christian education to progress toward a somewhat higher level.
On this level, spirit — from the biological point of view an incomprehensible psychic phenomenon — plays no small psychological role. Spirit had an important word to say in the idea of Christian marriage itself, and in the modern questioning and depreciation of marriage the question of spirit enters vigorously into the discussion. It appears in a negative way as counsel for the instincts, and in a positive way as defender of human dignity. Small wonder then that a wild and confusing conflict arises between man as an instinctual creature of nature and as a spiritually conditioned, cultural being. The worst thing about it is that the one is forever trying to do violence to the other, in order to bring about a so-called harmonious and unified solution of the conflict. Unfortunately, too many persons still believe in this method which continues to be all-powerful in the world of politics; there are only a few here and there who condemn it as barbaric and who would rather set up in its place a just compromise whereby each side of man's nature would receive a hearing.
But unhappily, in the problem between the sexes, no one can bring about a compromise by himself alone; it can only be brought about in relation to the other sex. Therefore the necessity of psychology! On this level psychology becomes a kind of special pleading or, rather, a method of relationship. Psychology guarantees real knowledge of the other sex and thus supplants arbitrary opinions which are the source of the incurable misunderstandings now undermining in increasing numbers the marriages of our time.
Dr. Harding's book is an important contribution to this striving of our time for a deep knowledge of the human being and for a clarification of the confusion existing in the relationship between the sexes.
Zurich, February 1932
1. All Things to All Men
2. The Ghostly Lover
7. Off the Beaten Track
8. Autumn and Winter
9. Psychological Relationship