Jung the Man: Part VI


Jung the Man:

Part VI—Jung and His “Valkyries”


“Woman’s psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, the great binder and loosener, whereas from ancient times the ruling principle ascribed to man is Logos. The concept of Eros could be expressed in modern terms as psychic relatedness, and that of Logos as objective interest….The modern woman has become conscious of the undeniable fact that only in the state of love can she attain the highest and best of which she is capable,…God himself cannot flourish if man’s soul is starved. The feminine psyche responds to this hunger, for it is the function of Eros to unite what Logos has sundered. The woman of today is faced with a tremendous cultural task—perhaps it will be dawn of a new era.”

Jung (1927)[1]


            The “Valkyries” were the Jungfrauen or “11,000 virgins” who collected around Jung over the course of his career.[2] Like bees to a honey pot, they swarmed him at conferences and hung on his words in meetings of the Psychology Club.[3] The Club became a hotbed of jealousies as these women had to share Jung with others,[4] and in the midst of all this was Jung, enjoying their attentions, using their energies to further his work, relying on (some would say “exploiting”) their devotion and willingness to put their own resources in his service.[5] In this concluding section we will consider one of the most contested aspects of Jung’s thought among later generations: his views on women. We will then examine why so many women found him and his work compelling, and what qualities they had in common. Finally, we will consider Jung’s hope for women’s role in creating a more positive future.


Jung’s Attitudes toward Women

            In Part IV Jung’s background was noted: Swiss, German-speaking, with an upbringing dating from the late 19th century. All these elements of his biography factor into explaining his sexism. Nothing in his background, parentage, education or society would have inclined Jung to be a feminist. He felt it was natural for women to be the supporters of men,[6] to feel content being “contained”[7] by their husbands, to live under the control of a male relative, if they were parentless and single.[8] So we cannot be surprised that his writing is full of patriarchal perspectives and attitudes that we today would call “male chauvinist.”[9]

            His biographers note multiple statements of his that rile modern proponents of women’s equality, e.g.

Woman is “at her best only when she loves a man.”[10]

Women existed to satisfy a man’s needs, bear his children and run his house.[11]

Only men could “talk exclusively at an intellectual level.”[12]

Women had a “secret demand for power” that showed up in their making themselves indispensable.[13]

Man’s foremost interest was his work; woman’s should be the man.[14]

There can be only one bird in the nest; woman’s place was in the home.[15]

Woman’s instinct was to capture and hold one man. Man’s instinct is to get as many women as possible and not be caught.[16]

Helplessness was one of woman’s best stunts. A woman was never quite helpless as long as there is no man around.[17]

Women were not to wear trousers; it was undignified.[18]

            When he talked with men about relationships with women, he urged them to divide the women in their lives into categories, categories formulated for their own masculine comfort and support. Jung felt this would enhance men’s professional creativity. He never considered what such relationships would inflict on the women, and he seemed (at least to Henry Murray) not to have cared.[19]

            In general he did not approve of women’s “mental masculinization.”[20] He felt a woman developing Logos would lead to her becoming neurotic, and he did not encourage any of his women followers to go to college (with the exception of Marie-Louise von Franz, his young pupil, whom he encouraged to study ancient languages, because he needed an assistant fluent in Greek).[21] While formal education was not something he encouraged, he did recognize that some women could have trouble controlling their animus. In these situations he recommended some form of intellectual work, so as to prevent the women from becoming “unpleasant.”[22]

            As the 20th century progressed and flagrant sexism came to be more outré, Jung began to recognize that he was out-of-step with advances in Western culture. This led him, in some interviews and essays, to be defensive and admit that his philosophy of women sounded “like a convenient philosophy of the selfish male.”[23] Yes. But if Jung was indeed so sexist, why was he so popular with women? Why was he always the center of feminine attention? Why were so many women so loyal, so devoted, so dedicated to him for so many years? In part, because his actions did not always match his words.[24]


Why the Attraction?

            In his activities with women Jung was unusual for a man of his time and background, in that he took women seriously,[25] even to the point of taking them on as assistants and collaborators, and later, when the Jung Institute was created in Zurich, in setting many of them up as teachers and administrators.[26] He recognized that the women who collected around him needed intellectual outlets, and he helped give them a direction for their talents and a sense that what they were doing was meaningful and valuable.[27] When a young man once complained to Jung about all “those old girls fluttering around him,”[28] Jung got angry and told the man that the women were doing important and creative work—work that helped him and helped to further the knowledge and understanding of psychology.

            At a time when intellectual opportunities for women were few, Jung gave women the chance to get in on the ground floor of the new discipline of analytical psychology. And it was not coincidental that those most receptive to this new discipline were women: Jung felt women were more receptive than men in general, more open to new ideas and less inclined to be ideological, since ideas were not as important to women as they were to men.[29] This is in part what Jung meant in the statement quoted at the beginning of this essay—that women are more focused on Eros (relationships), men on Logos (ideas and ideologies). Far fewer men took up Jung’s psychology in the early years than women.[30]

            Another reason why women found Jung so attractive was that he helped them “give birth to themselves.”[31] That is, their relationship with him was healing. Jung helped the women who clustered around him to work through their neuroses or psychoses,[32] treating each one as an individual and giving each something different, as their need warranted.[33] Some of them would tell interviewers years later that Jung saved their lives.[34] With so many having neuroses of varying degrees of severity, it was inevitable that “tremendous transferences”[35] showed up in the Valkyries: most of them were in love with Jung,[36] to some degree, and they projected on to him their inner genius, healer, teacher and wise man.[37] Some of Jung’s biographers feel the transference was not only one way: Jung needed the intellectual and creative companionship of women.[38] In his narcissism, he enjoyed their admiration, but his need went beyond this, being rooted in his mother complex.[39]

            In addition to his healing impact, Jung drew women to him because he gave them outlets for their gifts and intelligence.[40] He seemed able to see the particular gifts in each woman he dealt with, and he had a talent for evoking these gifts.[41] So the women around him felt nurtured for who they were and they blossomed.[42]            


The Valkyries’ Traits and Qualities

            “Gifted” and “talented” were two common traits in the women of Jung’s circle. They also tended to be introverted and willing to look within and do the inner work analytical psychology demands.[43] They generally had “big animi,” i.e. they were assertive and able to relate to men.[44] In fact, most of them were “man-centered”[45] or “male-directed,”[46] preferring the company of men, ambitious[47] and eager to succeed out in the world (rather than being content to live focused on home and family). Many of them never married, seeming to believe that life as an intellectual precluded a happy marriage.[48] Some, like von Franz, came to conclude that animus women had to accept being lonely.[49]

            All the Valkyries were from cultured backgrounds, because only the upper class could afford the international travel and expense that analysis required at that time.[50] Unmarried, intelligent, talented, upper class, troubled in some way,[51] these women lived their lives at a very deep level, borne on by their dreams and visions.[52] Few were “commonsensical” types, like Cary Baynes.[53] Most were the type Toni Wolff referred to as the “medium”—intuitive, visionary, virginal, pure, intense, intellectual, driven—like Maria Moltzer, whom Jung found so inspiring.[54] In this Jung reflected his origins in the 19th century German Romantic tradition,[55] which saw “woman” as the source of a man’s inspiration.


Jung’s Hope for Women

            More than a source for inspiration, Jung felt women were likely to be the harbingers of a new era. Why? Because they are generally more open and receptive to the New than are men. They also are much tougher underneath than men,[56] and, given their orientation to Eros, more likely than men to work toward unity, cooperation and collaboration than men.

            In our time of partisan rancor, global terrorism, ruthless competition and ecological destruction, it is more essential than ever for women to recognize their central role in turning things around. Jung is not alone in his assessment that the new era will be pioneered by women,[57] that the future of the world hinges on women stepping up to the plate and taking the lead in setting new trends. With their greater sensitivity and access to their feelings and intuitions, women can be guided more effectively than men by their inner wisdom. This can be an invaluable advantage as women take up the “cultural task” Jung saw facing our time.

            As 21st century people reading Jung, we must remember Jung was a genius, but also a man of his place and time, and, as such, he gave voice to some attitudes that our culture has grown beyond. A feminist Jung was not, but his sexism did not blind him to the potentials in women—potentials that Jung realized could help to save the planet in the coming time of crisis.



Anthony, Maggy (1990), The Valkyries: The Women Around Jung. London: Element Books.

Bair, Deirdre (2003), Jung: A Biography. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

Barrentine, Pat (1993), When the Canary Stops Singing: Women’s Perspectives on Transforming Business. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Boynton, Robert (2004), “In the Jung Archives,” The New York Times Book Review (January 11, 2004), 8.

Brome, Vincent (1978), Jung. New York: Atheneum.

Eisler, Riane (1987), The Chalice & the Blade: Our History, Our Future. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

________ (2007), The Real Wealth of Nations. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Hannah, Barbara (1976), Jung: His Life and Work, A Biographical Memoir. New York: G.P. Putnam.

Jung, C.G. (1970), “Civilization in Transition,” CW 10. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Sands, Frederick (1977), “Men, Women and God,” Jung Speaking, eds. William McGuire & R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Schaef, Anne Wilson (1985), Women’s Reality. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

[1] Jung, Collected Works, 10, ¶255,266,275.

[2] Bair (2003), 321.

[3] Anthony (1990), 72.

[4] Ibid., 15,24.

[5] Ibid., 31,84.

[6] Bair (2003), 775; Anthony (1990), 92.

[7] Bair (2003), 388.

[8] Ibid., 326.

[9] Ibid., 93; cf. Anthony (1990), 92.

[10] Sands (1977), 246.

[11] Bair (2003), 775.

[12] Ibid., 80.

[13] Ibid., 570.

[14] Sands (1977), 244.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., 246.

[17] Anthony (1990), 88.

[18] Brome (1978), 229.

[19] Bair (2003), 389.

[20] Ibid., 394.

[21] Ibid., 369.

[22] Anthony (1990), 94.

[23] Sands (1977), 244.

[24] Anthony (1990), 92,97.

[25] Ibid., 3.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid., 28.

[28] Ibid., 5.

[29] Hannah (1976), 90.

[30] Bair (2003), 334.

[31] Anthony (1990), xii.

[32] Ibid., 94.

[33] Ibid., 93.

[34] Ibid., xii.

[35] Bair (2003), 370.

[36] Anthony (1990), 34.

[37] Ibid., 93.

[38] Ibid., 96.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid., 6,94.

[41] Ibid., 98.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid., xiii.

[44] Ibid., 93.

[45] Ibid., 33.

[46] Ibid., 61.

[47] Ibid., 6.

[48] Ibid., 66.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., 94.

[51] Ibid., 95.

[52] Ibid., 110.

[53] Bair (2003), 333.

[54] Ibid., 192.

[55] Think “Goethe,” one of Jung’s favorite authors. For the Germanic Romantic tradition as an influence on Jung, see Boynton (2004), 8.

[56] Sands (1977), 245.

[57] Cf. Eisler (1987), Eisler (2007), Schaef (1985) and Barrentine (1993).

One Comment

  1. Having had need to explore the origins of “Valkyrie” recently I find that they orginate from Norse Mythology as the host of female figures who decide which soldiers die in battle and then escourt them off to the afterlife. I also remembered the term being used in this essay and cant quite link it to the norse origin. Valkyries also seem to have been referred to as lovers of heroes. A sort of host of figures that flutter around the great (men) and hardly seem to have the power to decide who lives or dies. I would be interested to know your origins for Valkyries…?

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