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David Tacey Review of Marion Woodman: The Stillness Shall Be the Dancing

Carl Jung Depth Psychology Facebook Group

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Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2010, 55, 300–312

The next item to be discussed is a set of cassette tapes by Marion Woodman.

These are recordings of her Fay lectures delivered in 1994, entitled The Stillness Shall Be the Dancing.

Unlike Douglas, Woodman does not present herself as a feminist.

She does, however, view herself as a champion of the feminine archetypal principle.

Woodman is hard-hitting, passionate, and at times hyperbolic.

She uses shock tactics and seems unafraid of every cultural force that might stand in the way of the return of the feminine,
as she understands it. Her style is rhetorical, mythopoetic and challenging.

A gifted orator, she speaks to the emotional lives and complexities of her audience, whom she seems to hold in the palm of her hand.

Woodman speaks as a wise woman, as one who knows and who has experienced the psychic underworld.

Although her style is prophetic, there is not a hint of pretension or inflation in her delivery.

Her wisdom has been gained through suffering.

She has suffered a great deal and the result is that she has emerged with enormous insight and much to offer her fellow human beings.

Her lectures are analytical, cathartic and dramatic.

She seems to be engaged in group therapy rather than in any routine public speaking.

But she has much to offer for those who are able to hold on for the ride.

She seems to reach into the vulnerable inner lives of those whom she is addressing.

This is almost scary; however, the listener is impressed that the holding offered is substantial enough to consider movement toward change.

Like Douglas, Woodman speaks as a ‘father’s daughter’ who abandoned the archetypal feminine in pursuit of a successful career in the patriarchal system.

She is now using what she learnt in that system to try to defeat and overthrow it.

Her lectures and writings are a kind of self-therapy, an attempt to shrug off the patriarchal system to which she has been enslaved.

In this context, Jung is seen as the liberator of the feminine, even though he seemed to perform poorly in the liberation of his own feminine, but he is not expected to live up to the standards of his theory.

It was enough that he gave us the concepts and language, and that he has empowered many ‘recovering’ father’s daughters, who now seem to view Jung as a symbol of the positive and nurturing mother.

Woodman tells of her suffering with anorexia nervosa, a condition in which she aspired toward the spirit and the wish to sacrifice her body because she was not reconciled to her own feminine nature.

After mistreating her body, matter and the Mother, she tells us that her Jungian analysis with E. A. Bennet enabled her to reconstitute herself.

No wonder such writers as Woodman will not be drawn into academic feminism, which seems to construct the feminine as a burden for women who are striving toward spirit and intellect.

Woodman is a highly educated person who treats her erudition with near contempt, because she wants to engage the audience in ‘straight talking’.

She speaks to the audience as if each and every one is a potential anorexic who is on the brink of sacrificing their bodies to the all-devouring Father.

She exhorts them to accept, love and nurture the feminine and asks: ‘How many people do you know who really appreciate
the feminine?’

Further, Woodman warns: ‘Women can be far more patriarchal than men!’

Hers is a tour de force, which would outrage contemporary feminists who would argue: ‘What, not even the feminine is the property of women?’ to which Woodman would reply: ‘Definitely not’.

Woodman claims that feminism has helped many women ‘liberate’ themselves from their femininity.

She has grown to distrust the patriarchy, the establishment, and even the establishment discourse which is supposed to defend and protect the rights of women.

It all seems to her to be part of a conspiracy against the feminine, and the patriarchy will happily support feminism if it means that the power of the masculine remains unchallenged.

Like Toyoda and Douglas, Woodman speaks of a lost feminine ‘essence’, of the need for ‘goddess energy’, of our need to respect our bodies, which, she says, is the Mother in ourselves.

Woodman slams the fashionable discourses that claim there are no essences just as she slams Behavioural Psychology for denying the archetypal dimension of our experience.

To listen to Woodman’s tapes is to be aware of the power of archetypal discourse and its ability to nurture and sustain even academic audiences who might otherwise be opposed to it in a less persuasive speaker. ~David Tacey, WOODMAN, MARION. The Stillness Shall Be the Dancing: Feminine and Masculine in Emerging Balance. (No. 4, Carolyn and Ernest Fay Series in Analytical Psychology). College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 1994. Tape recording, set of two cassettes. Audio Book: $19.95.