Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Enemy is in Me: Mapping the Feminine Principle

Written by: on November 16, 2022

Jordan B. Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, is an in-depth look at the backdrop and intricacies of mythology, Jung’s complex theory, archetypes of the collective unconscious, and how they affect belief and behavior. Peterson writes, “Myth is not primitive proto-science. It is a qualitatively different phenomenon […] The mythic universe is a place to act, not a place to perceive.”[1] Joseph Campbell writes, “A mythology may be understood as an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experiences and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time.”[2] The mythic, religious, or symbolic life deals with motivations, behavior, intrapersonal, and transpersonal relationships. Myths are meant to shed light on that which is hidden; therefore, myths are about integration, consciousness, relationship to self, others, and the divine.

Peterson pulls significantly from various global/historical mythologies, particularly creation myths. Peterson uses the story of the Mesopotamian gods Marduk and Tiamat from the oldest known creation myth, the Enuma elish.[3] In short, Marduk represents light, consciousness, and masculine principle, while Tiamat represents darkness, unconsciousness, and the feminine principle.[4] Marduk and Tiamat are locked in a sexual embrace, which represents life and fertility. Long story short, Tiamat does some bad stuff. In retaliation, Marduk captures Tiamat in a net, cuts her body into pieces, which he uses to create the world.

To the Modern Christian reader, this story seems primitive, brutal, and nearly outrageous. However, from a mythological perspective this is a story of life, death, and rebirth, which is essentially the story of Christianity. Robert Moore calls this life cycle the “Archetype of Initiation”; that is, the transcending and ontological pattern of how life begins, ends, and is begins again. Symbolically in this myth, the masculine principle does not lay waste to the feminine principle, but both are necessary for the creation and perpetuation of the world, of culture, of all creation.

So, why does this matter? What does all this have to do with our maps or map-making today? There is a sense in Christianity that we still have multiple gods even though we say we believe in only one. First, we believe in the Trinity, which is three persons in union. Second, though we call this union “God” “we” also believe in a malevolent deity we call Satan. Third, we’ve disidentified with the Satan archetype and solely identified with the “God” archetype, in part because we’ve taken our collective mythology as rational fact rather than myth. If we saw the Christian story as myth, then we could engage with all the characters and see them as parts of us. But since we see them as celestial facts, we choose to identify with one (God) over the other (Satan/evil).

It is my sense, that many Christians and Christian doctrine, have “created” humans in the image of our God, and thereby split off good from evil. The gods/archetypes do not live in embrace or tension, as they do in our human experience, but they are rationally split off. When we have access only to that which is good, and lose access to that which is evil, it only gains more control and causes more destruction. (Of course, this is why shadow work is so essential.)

Peterson substantiates the split by talking about the archetypal split of the great mother and the great father (or masculine and feminine principles) in the Genesis creation myth. As it’s popularly understood, God creates order out of chaos in Genesis 1, and eventually expels the chaos of human sin out of the garden in Genesis 3.[5] However, if we look back at Genesis 1 we see that God does not expel the darkness, but rather creates relationship between light and darkness. Similarly, when the humans are expelled from the garden, relationship with God remains.

Considering the rational interpretation, there seems to be an inflation of the masculine principle of order, and a repression of the feminine principle and chaos. Myths bring chaos before they bring order and deeper clarity; however, we’ve codified chaos and confusion with the deity Satan, who we’ve given the nicknamed “the author of confusion”. As Christians we are brought up to avoid chaos, confusion, transgression, and since we avoid it, when it shows up in our lives, we are faced with a crisis. Our God-image has become inflated with the masculine principle of consciousness, rightness, logos, and supremacy, and deflated with the feminine principle of unconsciousness, nebulousness, chaos, and humility.

Finally, it is my sense that March 2020 marked a collective initiation into the feminine principle, the great mother archetype. Look around. Look at all the seeming disorder. There is religious deconstructionism, gender dysphoria, decolonization of institutions, calls for defunding the police, social services, and the FBI! Even science, something that has been nearly assumed in the western mind, is now up for debate within a variety of cultural and political domains. Meanwhile, the institutional church has by and large identified with the masculine principle of order, conservatism, structure, and tradition. When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn penned the words “men have forgotten God” he was to some degree calling upon the Russian people to remember the great mother because it had some deeply identified with the great father and had become inflated and tyrannical.

Peterson writes, “Evil is rejection of and sworn opposition to the process of creative exploration. Evil is a proud repudiation of the unknown, and willful failure to understand, transcend and transform the social world.” Jesus symbolizes evil with the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and chooses to oppose its creative and unfolding identity, and opts for illumination to the exclusion of darkness, and for the unconscious womb of Eden to the exclusion of the transformational human experience.



[1] Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, 1st edition (New York: Routledge, 1999). 9.

[2] Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor, ed. Eugene Kennedy (New World Library, 2013). 2.

[3] Peterson, Maps of Meaning. 100.

[4] Ibid. 114.

[5] Ibid. 315.

6 Genesis 1:3 NIV

7 Joseph Campbell actually envisions the exodus from the garden as an initiatory process, which serves to deepen human consciousness and connection.

About the Author

Michael Simmons

- Tennessee --> Oregon - Father to David and Bina, Partner to Liz - Portland Seminary Admissions Counselor - Spiritual Director - Companioning Center Leadership Team - Deep Water Board Member - Ordained Elder, FMC - Aspiring Jungian Theologian

9 responses to “The Enemy is in Me: Mapping the Feminine Principle”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Michael, I admit what you discuss in this post is foreign to my understanding, but I’m intrigued by it. If you had to recommend one book as an introduction or an understanding of Jungian psychology, what would you recommend?

  2. Yeah, I had never heard of Peterson until Jason put my onto him a few years ago. I turned out that he was literally doing very similar work with myth, psychology, and spirituality.

    I’d say, Murray Stein’s book “Jung’s Map of the Soul” is a great overview of Jungian psychology. Murray is still living, practices in Zurich and is a Christian. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Jungs-Map-Soul-Murray-Stein/dp/0812693760

    But much of what I’m writing about here is influenced by Joseph Campbell in many ways. His book “Thou Art That” was an incredible introduction to myth. Way more accessible that Hero With 1000 Faces.

    Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Thou-Art-That-Transforming-Religious/dp/1608681874/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3UMXM7YVV694H&keywords=thou+art+that&qid=1668810642&s=books&sprefix=thou+art+tha%2Cstripbooks%2C144&sr=1-2

  3. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Michael: I’m always fascinated in how you think and process the readings each week. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts this week. I’m interested to know when and how you became interested in the mythological. Was it something you engaged in at a young age? It was not something I grew up with.

    • Ah such a fun question Kayli. Thank you! I’ve always been interested in the underlining narratives of people and groups, which explains my interests in the degrees I’ve done. But I believe it was semester 1 in this program, I was listening to “The Power of Myth” which was a PBS Interview with Joseph Campbell. It was a spiritually expansive experience. Hard to put into words, but it opened my soul up and was a paradigm shifting experience. 🙂

  4. mm Eric Basye says:

    Rich blog, Michael. I always have to put my thinking cap on when I read your blogs, slow down, and take it all in! (That is a good thing).

    Can you tell me more about this line as I don’t know if I fully understand what you are saying in this section:

    It is my sense, that many Christians and Christian doctrine, have “created” humans in the image of our God, and thereby split off good from evil.

    • Yeah good question. Ultimately, I think it is a very human thing to create God in our image, and then order our image accordingly. I love this quote, “In its enthusiasm for the divine light, Christian theology has not always done justice to the divine darkness […] Then we try to live up to the standards of a God that is purely light and we can’t handle the darkness within us. And because we can’t handle it, we suppress it” (David Steindl-Rast, “Meeting the Shadow”)

      I think the “Perfect God” archetype has possessed many streams of Christianity, and this one-sided inflation is quite harmful because it makes wholeness nearly impossible. The result is shadowed, disintegrated living, which is how understand the concept of sin.

  5. Elmarie Parker says:

    Michael, thank you for your thoughtful post and engagement with Peterson! I’ve been looking forward all week to reading your post and hearing your take given your focus on shadow work. I especially appreciated how you unpacked the masculine and feminine principles and your assessment of how we in our Christian theologies have conflated the feminine principle with evil/Satan. I’m curious how you understood Peterson’s ‘Divine Son’ as the mediator between the feminine and masculine? Is it somehow related to shadow work? And, how do you see that dimension (‘Divine Son’) of help in the assessment you offer of the USA context since March 2020?

    • Thanks for that encouragement Elmarie! And excellent questions!

      I don’t think I got to the Divine Son portion of Peterson’s work, but I can imagine where he’s going. I think Christ is the ultimate transcendent function – he brings together the past, present, and future; light and darkness, humanity and divinity; masculine and feminine etc. To me, this is the the symbolic meaning of the Transfiguration. Unfortunately, I feel we refashioned Christ as patriarchal divinity who’s all but loosely connected with the feminine principle (this isn’t an issue with Christ, but a theological and hermeneutical issue). I see Christ as an image of the Self, that is the totality of the whole human, and his function is compensatory. Christ is always including, that which is excluded, illuminating that which is hidden, and emphasizing that which is repressed. I see Christ more in our culture now than ever, which is why it’s so sad to hear the throng of evangelicals call for crucifixion. I think the Divine Son archetype is perpetually “crucified” but then resurrects and ascends the collective consciousness ultimately. So much more to unpack here 🙂

  6. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Michael, thank you for bringing your special understanding of Peterson. As I was reading this book, I was wishing you were around to help interpret for the lines and connections.
    I would like to know how you would resolve the understanding of the mother imagine as the great nurturer with Peterson’s interpretation of the Great Mother as the seed of chaos.

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