Jean Grey as the Cosmic Mother
The Ultimate X-Men: Jean Grey and Campbell’s Cosmic Mother
In literary discussions involving both the X-Men and Joseph Campbell’s Heroic Journey Jean Grey is classified as either the virginal goddess through whom the ultimate can accessed for the benefit of all, as the temptress using her feminine powers and mysteries for her own ends, or as a mixture between the two extremes. She is in fact none of these things. Jean Grey is the Cosmic Mother of the mutant world.
Campbell teaches that marriage with the goddess is “The ultimate adventure…” that is only gained after everything else has been overcome (Campbell 109). The only truly notable time throughout the novel when a consummation between Jean Grey and another of the heroes is effected is when she and Wolverine spend their time together in the hotel. They had just survived a mission to rescue the president’s daughter and were resting, and healing at Xavier’s mansion. Despite appearances this cannot be classified as the “ultimate adventure” explained by Campbell, because, by this point, nothing has been finished. Even though they have done some good things, and overcome some difficult trials, no real ogres have been surpassed, nor barriers crossed. Here she is no goddess, but a woman, loving a man.
Then one may reason, that she easily falls into the category of the temptress. She beds Wolverine quickly and dresses as any seductress would. Meeting a temptress, however, is a highly detrimental thing for a hero. As Campbell explains, a man who has been with the temptress often has a period of revulsion following this act. Campbell goes into greater detail on page 123 saying, “[the] woman [has] become the [symbol] no longer of victory but of defeat…No longer can the hero rest in innocence with the goddess of the flesh; for she is become the queen of sin.” Again referring to her time with Wolverine: there is no revulsion period, they may fight over semantics regarding his arrival with the X-Men, but she never fulfills that role. She does not seduce, she does not use the power of woman hood and her control over the gates of life to her advantage, and she does not create that guilt in her partner. Indeed she is no temptress. If anyone need be assigned that role it would be Wolverine, but that is a topic for another time.
A combination of both points is the best possible explanation. That she is a sexy, virginal goddess that provides life, and this can be found in her treatment of Kurt Wagner (better known as Nightcrawler). While in the cell with him she performs a “pre-verbal mind exchange” and provides him with a great deal of relief he otherwise, would never have had. But, even this moment does not fulfill the requirements needed to be either of the roles she is forced into by inexperienced theorists. This scene is only a means to an end. The author, Mark Millar, I trying to convey that Nightcrawler is human underneath his blue skin, and that he has suffered greatly here for a long time. This is no marriage of hero and goddess. It is an author attempt to establish the setting and circumstances under which the heroes of the journey find themselves.
Now that we know what she is not, let us examine what she is.
The Cosmic Mother provides each person with “[a] mortal, tangible body” (Campbell 162), that allows them to begin their journey to meet and atone with the Cosmic Father. The very first pages of the novel are dedicated to Jean Grey’s interaction and recruitment of the first X-Men. Later pages reveal that Scott Summers is a member of the squad, but Xavier sent Jean Grey. There is never a clearly defined reason given for her selection. Despite the lack of a given reason, what follows immediately afterwards suggests a new birth, and her the Mother; “these aren’t nicknames Storm. You’ve just been rebaptized as a post-human being” (The Tomorrow People Part 1 of 6).
Campbell would suggest that Xavier’s explanation of their new names is saying exactly what I have stated: Jean Grey has become the Cosmic Mother to this group. She found them, and brought them to a place where their old lives die and they are rebaptized, reborn, as post-human beings, or maybe more aptly described as heroes on a journey.
Before examining the second point we must understand something of the divine nature of the Cosmic Father and Mother. The Cosmic Father possesses abilities that allow him to see things that others simply cannot imagine. He is most often a God with which the heroes must seek atonement. To paraphrase Campbell, the Father’s power is such that he can tear us and heal us. Eat us, and then give us rebirth as new creatures (162). His power is a magnificent thing to behold.
One may argue that this is insufficient evidence because Xavier also sends Cyclops to retrieve the children of Magneto in the interlude story. However, the major difference is that Cyclops not only brings two other warriors with him in Colossus and Iceman, but that he fails as well. Neither Quicksilver nor Scarlet Witch join their cause. They come to the edge of joining, Quicksilver is on his knees talking quietly to himself, “Maybe you’re right…”
But, then it can be suggested that Cyclops did not have the power to prevent their denial of Xavier’s offer, because it was one of the soldiers who attacked causing Pietro (Quicksilver) to choose the other side. The nature of Jean Grey’s powers would have provided her with the ability to recognize the soldiers intent, and stop him mid-thought which would have given Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch the needed time so that they would join the X-Men. The Cosmic Mother is the only one who can give birth to the heroes. Others can try, as Cyclops did, but they do not have the power necessary to give life where there is none.
The Cosmic Mother has similar power to the Father, in that she can provide life. However, her power is such that she does not provide us with the perfected, or exalted, bodies that are available from the Father’s power only:
“The dear, protecting mother of our body could not defend us from the Great Father Serpent; the mortal, tangible body that she gave us was delivered into his frightening power. But death was not the end. New life, new birth, new knowledge of existence…was given us.” (Campbell 162)
So understanding that the Cosmic Mother must have powers that are like the Father’s but on a scale far weaker than his, we can see the intriguing connection between Jean Grey and Xavier.
Xavier, who is commonly regarded as the Cosmic Father of the X-Men world, has psychic powers that allow him to do a great deal with nothing more than a mere thought. Jean Grey has the exact same power set. She is constantly communicating through telepathy with the other heroes, she connects her mind with Nightcrawler allowing him a brief release from the solitary confinement that he has even though he’s surrounded by his own kind, she uses her powers to throw Wolverine across the tundra when they first find him and then again in their hotel room after his confession, and near the very end of the Return to Weapon X saga she uses her abilities to stop Colossus from killing a great deal of innocents.
The art itself suggests that she and Xavier share abilities by utilizing the same glowing style and green coloration every time either of them uses their powers. Campbell would agree that this similarity in powers her and the Father Xavier strongly suggests her role as the Cosmic Mother of the X-Men, and really, of the entire mutant race. Without Jean Grey the
She is no goddess, no temptress, nor anywhere in between. Jean Grey is the Cosmic Mother of the mutant race. She is the one who allows them entrance into the world where they may find atonement with the Father, where they may find a new life, and a new path to live.