LEAVING MY FATHER’S HOUSE: A JOURNEY TO CONSCIOUS FEMININITY. By Marion Woodman with Kate Danson, Mary Hamilton, Rita Greer Allen. Boston: Shambhala, 1992. $15.
The four authors of this book decided not to meet until the manuscript was deposited with the publisher, in order to protect the integrity of each woman’s voice in telling the story of her psychological and spiritual journey.
When they did meet, each recognized in the others a striving to let a feminine voice speak truth despite the strictures of patriarchal culture.
Their separate stories were organized into a whole by Marion Woodman, who had worked with each of them as a Jungian analyst.
She knit the women’s stories into the fairy tale “Allerleirauh,” which runs as the uniting thread through the book and allows Woodman to share some of her own journey with the reader.
Although the book rambles some as it looks to establish its connecting links, it does in time make its point with a fierce intensity of feeling that goes right into the reader.
The wisdom of nature, also identified as the spirit residing in matter and the spirit in our bodies, is, we are told, emerging into consciousness, both collectively and in individuals.
This feminine wisdom has both been neglected and wounded by a patriarchy concerned only with power, control and perfection. In contrast, in the thinking presented here, feminine wisdom focuses on what is, on including all the parts, and on connection.
Men and women alike need to bring into consciousness this feminine source in order to live in relation to the creative energy of life.
This may also occasion the discovery of the creative masculine, in contrast to its destructive forms.
That failing, not only individuals, but human society and the planet will suffer and perhaps destruct.
To grow a feminine consciousness strong enough to house life’s creative energy is no easy task, as the courage, endurance, and ingenuity of these women amply illustrate.
We need to allow ourselves to drop into an abyss of not knowing, to lose our grip on projects and plans and our inherited frames of reference.
We need to find the missing parts of ourselves and our world, feminine and masculine, that need to be healed to be put together in a new vision of wholeness.
The women’s stories unfold in the guts of life and the reader is moved to witness them and take heart from them.
Along the way the book gives useful information for religious and psychological professionals.
The symbolic meanings of clothes, soup, kitchen work, even soot, illustrate how to approach fairy tales.
We learn the labor it costs to withdraw projections onto others and truly respond to ourselves, to pay attention to our bodies’ response to dreams, and the fact that denial lies at the core of addiction.
A clear-eyed toughness of description shows what it feels like for a woman to live inside a father-complex.
Negatively she lives in fantasy to the neglect of the real relationship in front of her.
Positively, if she is cherished by her father, she can build relationship to an inner guardian.
To build relationship to her inner masculine energy only strengthens her relationship to the man she loves.
When caught in a father-complex a woman strives to be best, to be in control at the expense of her body’s wisdom.
To get free of the complex, she must reclaim the love of her body, for her body.
Kate, Mary, and Rita act as companions to others seeking their path, encouraging readers on similar journeys who do not have the help of an analyst.
They show us there is no quick way.
Only sustained attention, even devotion, to the work of transformation will work.
Each woman offers images that ring with originality: the leap of faith that “my body will catch me” (p. 103), the “claws of Christ” (p. 193), the vision of everything being composed of “a mass of vibrating cells” (p. 247).
The authors do not set out to forge a new religion this way; rather they bequeath to us their own precious God-images. ~Ann Belford Ulanov, Journal of Religion and Health, Page 381-383