A recent debate on the Madonna-whore complex made me contemplate the appeal of the subject, together with the multiple layers that are revealed.
I do believe that any of these “concepts” are valuable pointers, indicating something in us that needs to be understood and integrated. This is not to analyse or get lost in theoretical discussions, or even worse identify with any of it, but to be clear about the powerful symbolism and the implication to our own life. There are many truly aspects to this debate. There is for one the original theory of Dr.Freud about a phenomenon in a relationship, in which one – or even both – of the partners separate the desire for love and sex. This dysfunction may be displayed as the ascetism-eroticism theme, that we often find in the arts. (e.g. prominently in Wagner’s Tannhäuser, signified by the Venus and Elisabeth pattern )
Freud based that dysfunctional pattern on intimacy issues in childhood and here we find an important pointer already. Maybe the experience of a cold and distant environment taught the child that it is dangerous to get too close to others and the child may develop strategies to avoid intimacy, to prevent feeling that sense of grief and helplessness that goes along with such an upbringing.
These conditionings usually stay with us a lifetime. By the way, I do believe that these patterns also exist in women, but may be obfuscated, or maybe not that obvious. But this is just the external level and I do believe that there is much more to it if we look at the other dimensions of a human being.
On the level of social identification we have to deal with the whore as the epitome of the sinner, someone who has sunken so low that they have to sell their own integrity. But doesn’t the whore also signify the manipulation and lie and isn’t that what their clients buy : a make believe ? A sense of intimacy and satisfaction with someone who is selling a charade, allowing a sense of superiority and closeness that cannot be generated with the person in real life, because of fear of true intimacy and closeness.
This is what the Madonna represents – pureness and unconditional love. She is the epitome of transformation and surrender, an image so elevated and out of reach that true intimacy is difficult to even fathom.
And yet, we always have to look beyond our identifications, which are rooted in our socialisation, and look for the symbolism, because only there we find the pointer to what is true.
The prostitute is about lying to oneself. It is about manipulation and selling short one’s integrity. The prostitute, who is in all of us, is what is finding excuses, is manipulating oneself and others to strengthen our own egoic principles and it is about taking the low road of deception. It is staggering how often we are betraying ourselves by denying the truth. The archetypal theme of the prostitute is self-esteem, so one does not have to sell one’s truth for safety or the wish to maintain a fragile balance of a false self within our environment.
The Madonna is the archetypal mother – the one who is birthing the self. She is what the Tao-te-Ching calls the Great Mother
The Tao is called the Great Mother
Empty yet inexhaustible,
It gives birth to infinite worlds.
It is always present within you.
You can use it in any way you want.
And this is our pointer and the connection between the two.
Physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy are one. They cannot be separated and if we find ourselves in a life situation that plays out otherwise, it is an invitation to explore the split in ourselves. Many times it is fear and resistance to explore one’s own power, because with true power comes responsibility and the need to act with authenticity. The moment the prostitute develops enough sense of self-esteem to actually believe in her own ability to survive, she will become honest and she will cease to play her games of manipulation and control. That requires her to understand what she is doing – that she is selling out her own truth.
Transcendence follows the moment I cease control and that is precisely the fear of so many seekers on the path. What happens if I cease control and allow everything as is. Let things that belong together reunite, cease control and end separation. Be one. Be truthful and authentic.
Many changes may follow such a decision, but one thing is for sure – a change done out of the sincere need to be truthful can never hurt anyone.