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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge claimed that a “great mind must be androgynous.” (Image: Wikimedia)

I have written elsewhere that the most creative among us possess the power to combine linear conceptual thinking with non-linear associative thinking. This ability to unite the two thinking modes works the creative magic that sets these people apart. A person who heavily favours one mode of thought over the other will inevitably lack outstanding creative powers.

Just such a situation exists in the minds of ordinary men and women. It is unfashionable to say so, but the fact remains that, overall, men favour a preponderance of abstract, conceptual, linear thinking while women prefer a greater reliance on associative non-linear thinking, source of the old-fashioned, and misnamed, “women’s intuition.” Therefore, being normally one-sided, most of us are limited in our creative reach.

Along similar lines, Jung proposed that a man’s unconscious has a feminine aspect, while that of a woman has a masculine aspect, an idea based on his assumption that men are better conceptual thinkers than women, while women are more “intuitive” than men. According to this view, the unconscious compensates for the conscious mind’s one-sidedness. In effect, either sex has a primitive form of the other’s primary thinking mode lodged in the unconscious. I believe the non-linear associative function is always unconscious and the linear logical function always conscious; it is just a matter of what one prefers to rely on. Again, men generally prefer logical thinking, while women generally prefer to await the emerging insights of associative thinking. A person then acquires skill in the preferred mode from constant practice in its use.

This situation has some bearing on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous remark that, “a great mind must be androgynous.” That is, an outstanding mind must combine, in more equal parts than is usual, both masculine and feminine thinking habits. Such a situation would blur the sex-specific thinking characteristics we expect to find. The possessor of such a mind would exhibit features of both masculine and feminine thought in that confusing way we describe as androgynous.

With both male and female characteristics combined in one mind perhaps it should not be surprising that so many androgynous types are solitaries, form non-sexual relationships with opposite sex spouses, or simply have a circle of friends. With both sexes (in the cognitive sense) on board, androgynous types have a reduced need to “complete” themselves by forming the usual liaisons with the opposite sex.

The two modes of thinking, linear logical and non-linear associative, arise from utterly different strategies for solving problems or simply generating thought. Moreover, the two thought modes complement one another in an extremely powerful fashion. Creators must evolve their own way of working with the two ways of thinking. They must solve the riddle of their meshing and cross-fertilization. When these two modes of thought co-exist as equal or near equal powers in an androgynous mind, synergistic thinking occurs to a phenomenal degree and remarkable powers of intellect and creativity emerge.

This does raise an interesting question. Would long practice with combining logical and associative thinking shift a polarized mind towards the middle ground of androgyny?

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