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A R T I C L E S* &* S P E E C H E S

A Speech by Marion Woodman

Conscious Femininity

The following is a transcript of the keynote speech delivered by Marion Woodman at the 3rd Annual Women & Power Conference, organized by Omega Institute and V-Day in September 2004. To order the CD of this speech or to purchase other CDs from this event, please click here.

Thank you very much ladies. Thank you very much for your welcome. Itís indeed an honor to be here. Itís an honor to be on this stage with all these magnificent paintings, the coloring so feminine, and the love that has gone into every detail of this conference is femininity in itself. I come to you this time, also, as I was sitting in my room this morning and looking out over the towers of New York, I was so glad to be here on this day. And to think, you know, of the innocence with which those towers were standing in the sunlight, as it turned golden on them and then thinking what happened within minutes three years ago today.

Having been through a loss myself this year, and realizing my age, of course is involved in thisóbut with each passing of someone we love, more of us is on the other side. And gradually the reality of that other side is coming in and shifting our reality here, so that the suffering of the loss brings through the transformation.

I know that many of you have heard me over the years and I canít help but think asóI havenít been on a stage for six months. And my cardiologist said well, you just tell your audience if you get the least bit tired, that itís okay. Youíll be gone for ten minutes. Have a good time. But Iím not going to do that. I know thatís not going to happen. But it does at the same time, you knowójust makes me think about the reality of the whole situation. And thatís good.

That business of transformation, suffering happens at a cultural level as well as an individual level. Iím sure you all know individually how the suffering has brought you through to transcendence and to a whole new feeling about soul. At a cultural level a similar thing is going on. As we are losing community, if you think, for example, of the farmers ó Iím sure itís true in the States as well as in Canada ó they cannot survive. An individual farmer has to look at the big farms coming in. And the big farms can put him out of business. The pig farm comes in and says look, you donít want to raise ten pigs. Why donít you just join us and have hundreds of little pigs. And when they get to be ten weeks old, there will be a truck that comes along and they will take them all along to the next person, who will have a different kind of barn, and he will raise them until theyíre six months old. And then weíll move them again. So the farmer never gets to know his pigs. The pig never sees the sunshine. We are creatures of the sun and we are being asked to eat food that never sees the sun? Chickens are in the same situation.

The individuality is being lost, and a whole process is going on where the suffering that this is causing at every level in our society is only just beginning to be felt. You take the community away from the farm. You say yes, weíll put a highway through this part of the city. Weíll get good money for that. And you kill that part of the city. How far can you go with this loss of relatedness, loss of love, loss of recognition that we are human beings, individuals, who live our lives with an open heart, only to be clobbered by insensitivity? People saying Iím right and youíre wrong. No recognition of soul or heart. So it seems to me that as we talk this morning, if you can just sort of hold that position. Iím trying not to be too dark about it. But I am really alarmed.

I saw pictures on T.V. the other night of Indians in Bolivia raging angry with their pitchforks. They looked like the French revolutionaries going to storm the Bastille. And I couldnít see what they were so angry about. And as they were marching, more and more joined them. And then they got to the capital, and what they were angry about is they were having to pay for their own water. Some trade law had been passed. They didnít know anything about it. But they suddenly were asked to pay for their own water. How can you take the heart out of people? Just exactly that way. Donít recognize them. And eventuallyóagain let me just refer to something I saw on television. It showed the people in the concert hall ó the Russians who are in the theater the night of the Chechnyan rebellion when they came in. And it was a whole ó I donít know how many of you saw it. It was simply horrific. No feeling at all. And the terrible moment was when they gave up. One of the men who spoke said if you could see some people died a few hours before their body actually fell over, but their heart went out of them. They couldnít see any hope. And even before the gas was released in the theater, they died. So what I would like to focus on this morning is the loss of the feminine where the heart is no longer recognized. The individuality is no longer realized. The soul is not even thought about. And how that reverberates right through our culture.

And again to keep in mind what weíre talking about at the conference, where is the real power. When everything is looked at. Where is the real power?

In T.S, Elliotís Four Quartets, he talks about the rose of the soul. And if youíre following the Quartets he talks about the wandering of the soul and the flower ó the rose in Christianity is like the lotus in India. You know, the lotus comes up out of the roots, out of the water and opens the top of the water to consciousness. The rose has that symbol in Christianity. And as weíre working with our own souls, we open our rose petal by petal. And hopefully no petal is damaged. At the right time it opens and how ever fierce the fire that it finds itself in, if itís given time and love, it opens. And gradually the whole flower becomes a totality. The reality of the rose is there. And it may be in fire, but itís the fire thatís giving it its strength. The fire ó the suffering as we go through. We canít avoid suffering, thatís simply part of life. But can we hold the reality of our own rose while we are going through that fire?

I would like to refer to the Greek games ó how many of you saw the opening of the Olympics? It was very interesting. You know, I wrote a book 20 years ago called The Pregnant Virgin. And nobody quite knew what it was about. As Elizabeth said, you have to just listen to me in terms of spirals. Iíve given up trying to use logic. I donít think that way. I think with my heart. And so it goes in spirals. But in the Greek opening, it began with the beautiful scenes that weíve seen from Canastas and then we went to Mosinee and Minolta and classical Greece and the beautiful statues we have seen where living people with white on them ó how they did that is magnificent. And then we talked about the Greek theater. And everything was emphasizing here is the cradle of civilization. Here is where it all began. Here in this patriarchy we have the beginning of everything that Western civilization has begun. It was magnificently done, the theater, philosophy, medicine. All the glory of Greece.

Then there was this peculiar little moment when we saw the backside of a woman stand up. And I thought she must have wandered into the camera. And she had long, tousled hair with flowers in it, a little gauzy dress, bear feet. And she was sort of just wandering around. And I thought what is going? And then she turned around and she had a huge belly. And she was carrying it like the primavera, you know Bottocceliís primavera, and she was holding it that way. And it was a bright, bright light inside it. And she was showing it off, having a wonderful time. And walking with that wonderful, feminine sag. And I thought My God. Thereís the pregnant virgin. It was. It was. Thatís exactly who she was. Not one commentator did anything with it. Now, you laugh. But isnít that pathetic? Nobody knew whether she was ó it seemed as if they didnít know whether she was supposed to be there or not. And she was just wandering. And then they turned the lights off in the auditorium, and all you could see was this bright, bright belly. And it was once again saying here is Greece, the center of civilization from which it all came. And maybe ó maybe this is my interpretation. But here is the feminine, somebody dares to put a little pregnant girl in the middle of this darkness and say, 'you figure out what itís about' ...and some of you may have seen the closing even if you didnít see the opening. But the Greeks being the Greeks, carried through the idea. And by the way, it was a woman that organized it.

In the end there was a girl who blew out the light of the torch. And took that light and gave it to children. So that the light that was lit through the first part of the opening, with the bright belly and the pregnant child ó and with the child within the bellyóhere are children carrying out the light. So I thought it was profoundly moving to see it put on ó I mean everybody was watching the Olympics. But you know, practically nobody saw that girl. I asked people, they say, 'Well, I saw it, but I didnít see that.' It was right at the end. But anyway, just keep it in mind ...Maybe youíll read The Pregnant Virgin again and have more of an idea what itís about the next round.

The last time I spoke to you ó I closed with an image of the goddess coming in on a wave. And she was coming in with her arm up like this and the strength in that body and dark. And she was on her way to land. And all these women ó particularly womenóthey were the droplets in the water. And those droplets were carrying this woman into land. I would suggest to you that weíre much closer to the power of that wave now than we were a year ago.

Itís becoming more and more clear that the old way is not going to work. We can no longer say I am right and you are wrong. We can no longer make fun of people who donít think the way we do. There is a shift in consciousness, and that wave that we are all a part of has radically changed. And if you think back to when you were a child, Iím sure you looked at the globe, you know, the world, and you thought China is a long, long way away, Iíll never see China. And all of these parts were unrelated. Where I see the hope is that we are now one world. Weíve been praying that for a long time, that we would be one world.

Now technology has made us one world. And we havenít got the slightest idea what to do with it. We donít know morally what to do. Ethically what to do. Politically impossible. And the dangers are becoming more and more terrifying. And what Iím suggesting to you in that dream of that woman coming in on that wave, it is the feminine principle that can bring a whole different thinking process to the patriarchy, as we have known it. Patriarchy thinking that way cannot work.

I mean you canít have people worshipping God ó and everybody saying theyíre worshipping God ó with totally opposing ideas. The feminine principle would attempt to relate. Instead of breaking things off into parts, it would say, where are we alike? How can we connect? Where is the love? Can you listen to me? Can you really hear what I am saying? Can you see me? Do you care whether you see me or not?Now, these are very, very serious questions. Because the feminine is so difficult, ladies and gentlemen, to talk about the feminine because so few people have experienced it. What Iím talking about here is presence, and relatedness.

A heart that can open so that when you meet another person or youíre talking to a group of farmers who are in despair because they canít grow anything but grass and theyíve lost their beloved animals, theyíve lost their beloved fields, and they cannot figure out what to do ó what meaning does life have without love?

What meaning does it have if nobody has ever seen you? I tell you the number of people who sit in my office sobbing ó men and women ó saying nobody ever saw me. Nobody ever had time to listen to me. So I am unlovable - the saddest word in the language. I am ó donít touch me. Sometimes Iíve had a real flood of feeling about somebody, and I think they have had one for me. And I put out my hand and they say, 'Donít touch me. Iím unlovable.' And they mean it. There is a trauma someplace.

Thereís a child that was brought up by a mother, probably father as well, where the feminine was not present. Now, I have to make clear what I mean by feminine in so far as one can make that clear.You have to experience the feminine to understand it. And I know thatís the hardest thing to say because so many people say, 'I donít know what youíre talking about', and they donít. And how do you ó how do you talk about something or try to live something that you have not experienced. But let me just try here.

When I use the word feminine, Iím not talking about gender. Iím talking about an ďenergyĒ. Itís as ancient as the Hindu religion. Shiva and Shakti. And those two energies go right together. Shiva, the masculine. Not patriarchal. I donít think patriarchy has anything to do with masculinity. It is a power principle that becomes a parody of itself. You know as well as I do that women that are trapped in patriarchy could be worst patriarchs than men. So patriarchy has done as much profound damage to men as it has done to women. And I ó you know, watching ó if I ever get to write another book, thatís what Iím going to write about, is the patriarchal handling of men. And I mean handling.

Iím not talking about a gender where I use the word feminine and masculine. Iím talking about the masculine as a creative energy, that fire, that air, that is just so powerful when it comes in, thereís the egg, it drops its golden ó golden what? Sperm. And a new life is born. Itís that creative principle that can just move in and bring new energy, new faith. The feminine is the receptive side of that. The loving, the heart side, the soul side. That is balancing the ó the feminine being the water and the earth. So the two energies balance, night and day. Nature is full of them. And when weíre talking about that feminine thatís missing, weíre talking about the heart energy. That can fill a room. Certainly in a relationship itís the energy that holds presence. By which I mean the child comes in or the person comes in, has something to tell you or they have prepared a little bouquet. Have you got the time to see it? Have you got the time to see the love that went into it? Can you hear the anguish in the voice that is talking to you?

And some of you might think this is for the birds. But quantum physics tells us very clearly that the presence watching the experiment is influencing the experiment. Itís two different experiments ó the outcome depending on whoís watching it. You see the responsibility that that puts on the presence in a room? And this is where the feminine is crucial.

And itís in men and women. In a family, for everybody running as fast as they can, the cell phones are going off everywhere, and nobody has time really to sit down to a meal that somebody has taken hours to prepare, where is the presence felt. Or if the parents never experience presence, can they hold presence for their own children? The presence is the soul that is holding in love. So thereís no agenda. The parent can listen to the child, be very curious about this little creature that they have produced. They donít want it to be the best little scholar or the best athlete or the best ó the best, the best, the best ... Who is this person? Can I be really interested? Enough to love them? And that feminine presence is what ó you see, again to go to the woman on the wave. That is what is able to change any situation. Itís in the consciousness of the person who is holding it.

I would just ask each of you to think about that for a minute and ask yourself who was able to hold presence for you as a child. Who saw you? Who heard you? Did you have a teacher that could hold presence for you? Was there anyone where you could be totally yourself and trust your own heart responses with that person, your own exploration with speaking your soul responses? Where you knew that when you came into their presence, they were, you know ó you could say, 'Gosh I am somebody. Theyíre happy when I come.' Or did you think, 'I have to please this person so I better turn off, be cool.' Youíve heard that over and over again in our culture. Be cool. Donít get too excited about anything. Donít be yourself. And sure donít depend on anything. Donít be there. And the vitality goes out. Itís tragic.

Most people in analysis are there because nobody had time to see them or hear them. They spent their time trying to please somebody else so, so they never found their own values. They never dared to live their own values. And they come to be adults, and you see them sort of trying to, you know, stand straight and walk strong. And all of a sudden it goes out and you say what happened? And they say the old voice came in. You know what the old voice said? What does it say in you? Who do you think you are? Or youíre too big for your britches. When all this airy-fairy flaky stuff is over youíll come back to yourself. But the person has spent a lifetime trying to be who they are not. And what Iím talking about in the feminine is, 'Who am I?' And God knows thatís hard enough to find out. Where you can sit down with your journal or in a situation you think, if I stay about my integrity, what do I do here. God, you must know this so well in this country. If I stay with my integrity, what do I do here? Who am I? Do I know well enough to speak it? Where in my body ó see, the body is the feminine. Where in my body do I feel the integrity that allows me to come from that place and speak from that place? Do I feel the ripples in my resonators when I speak? I mean that. When Iím really speaking, I resonate, and I can feel it to my feet. And I know Iíve been telling my real truth there. You can know it. If youíre not coming from that reality, where are you coming from? And could you stand up if you were being faced with that? See, here is where I think the real power is. That you can relate to your body. That you can relate to your heart.

Even as I say that, Iím sure somebody is saying, 'Whatís she talking about the heart?' You know, you must wander in a culture where autoimmune break down is the most prevalent of diseases ó lupus, AIDS, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome ó these are all illnesses in which the body refuses to play host to the soul. Is that not a terrible blight in on our culture? Why would a bowel start eating itself? As in Chromes disease. Why would a skin suddenly start to look like armor, you know? Sometimes you see psoriasis that is so scaly you canít get through it. Itís all over the arms, legs, sometimes neck. What is going on in a person where that ó the symptoms are screaming out loud for recognition. You know, those of you who saw Angels in America ó how many of you did see that? Can I use that? You know youíre dealing with AIDS in Angels in America. And all of a sudden this flappy angel smashes through the roof. And she is sort of is not quite able to fly and hold her balance. She has come smashing through the ceiling. The paper is all hanging. Her golden tiara is half off. Sheís a pretty rattled looking angel. But she says, 'Iím here to do the great work.' And youíre saying, well, whatís the great work? And I suggest to you, ladies and gentlemen, it is to bring the feminine into this culture. That is the great work. And itís not an easy path.

Because, time wise, how do you take time each morning to listen to your dreams, to write them down. How do you take time to recognize that thereís something going on and somebody is in terrible grief? Have you got time to listen? Have you got the stamina to deal with the anguish in our culture?

15 minutes, right. Five? It is five.

Well, there you see, it is. Thereís just not time. But that is my point. If we have not got time to hear the soul, to listen to its values, to allow it to touch in to the divine feminine that knows us before we were born, and to live that reality, despair sets in. And when despair sets in, there is an undermining of the culture. People turn to addictions in order to try not to live at all. They canít deal with the agony of the reality of life. They get into the addiction. Iím going to talk really fast now. And great mother becomes food. As much food as you can put into your body because the hole is so big. And you cannot feed the body with a spiritual longing ó the spiritual longing that is involved in an addiction. It cannot be satiated with anything physical. The spiritual demands spiritual food. So the alcoholic wants spirit out of the whiskey bottle. The great mother, who we all long for, becomes food. Sweetness, cherishing. Anything to bring love into the body. And everything is concretized. Look at our culture in terms of concretization. Covering our planet with concrete cement. And hoping somehow that weíre going to be able to stay alive with that concretization. But to be able to take time ó also I remember when I was in India I had all the time in the world. But I got dysentery. You laugh; I tell you itís a terrible disease. I couldnít walk at all.

And I used to go down to the hotel foyer because I thought I had to get comfortable at least. I went down to the foyer and I sat on the couch and wrote a letter to my husband.And a large, very dark woman came and squeezed between me and the end of the couch. She didnít speak a word of English. And I thought, 'What is she doing?' Iím right handed and she gets where I canít even write my letter. But she had a warm arm. And I thought, gee, thatís so good. Itís warm. And she kept pushing this arm against me. We ended up at the other end of the couch. And the next day I went down again and behold, there she was. And she did the same thing. And I loved it even more that day. We couldnít speak a word to each other. It happened five days in a row. And then ó I donít like telling my story so fast. I like to go slowly. But anyway, her husband ó this man came along and he said my wife wonít have to come to sit with you anymore. And I said your wife? He said yes. Sheís the lady that comes to sit with you. He said, "I saw you were dying and I sent her to sit with you. " And she saved my life. That wonderful, warm, skin. Thatís relatedness to a total stranger. And you know that really did change my life. I thought, gosh - she had time to do that? And took the time? And I could receive it.So itís that kind of relatedness that we so desperately need. And the kind of strength thatís in that dream.

Iíll tell you one of my dreams. Itís very clear. I dreamt that I was taken by a beautiful snake along a path. And the snake moved like this. Not on the ground. It went merrily along as I wrote in my journal. It went merrily along. It had on its head an eye. A crown that was an eye. And it took me into a cave, you know ó the snake is related to the feminine. It took me into this cave. There were two huge books in the cave, old ancient books. The one was called The Seven Chronicles of the Western World. And I picked that book up. I was going to read it, for a moment anyway. And the snake just pushed it out of my hands. And said thatís not for you. Here is your book. And the other booked the same eye on the front of it that the snake had in the crown. It was a living eye, a loving ó the eye of God. A loving eye. It just looked at me. And my whole body just opened to that. And there was on the cover a motif of roses and flowers. And when I opened the book, there wasnít a word in it. Everything the book had to say was in that eye. And it was, you knowówhen I came into my bodyó thatís what I like to do with my dream. Take it and bring it into the body. The whole body just reacts and opened. In the moment, in the moment.

I would like to just finish with Elliotís Four Quartets about the rose and the fire. The rose is the soul we talked about earlier and the fire is the struggle to keep on the path. It is a struggle, yes. But once youíre on it, you wouldnít be anywhere else. Itís the only way to go. And here is how Elliot puts it. "Here now, quick, now, always. A condition of complete simplicity. Costing not less than everything. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well. When the tongues of flames are in-folded into the crowned knot of fire. And the fire and the rose are one. " Then the suffering that we go through, the life that we live in the moment ó in the moment ó see thatís where the body lives. Thatís where nature lives.Thatís the feminine. Now. Here. That beating of the eternal and the personal. The fire and the rose are one.Thank you.


This keynote speech was delivered by Marion Woodman at the 3rd Annual Women & Power Conference organized by Omega Institute and V-Day in September 2004. To order the CD of this speech or to purchase other CDs from this event, please click here.

More Speeches from the 2004 Women & Power Conference

Marion WoodmanMarion Woodman
Marion Woodman is a widely read and acclaimed author, a leader in women's spirituality and feminine consciousness, and a Jungian analyst. Internationally acclaimed for her work as a "bridge builder between the male and female worlds," the former high school English and drama teacher has, in the 25 years since she enrolled in Zurich's C.G. Jung Institute, earned a name as a groundbreaking analyst with a rare understanding of the role of the feminine in bringing about personal and cultural transformation.

Perhaps best known for her videotaped workshop with men's movement pioneer Robert Bly, Bly and Woodman on Men and Women, she is also the best-selling author of many books, including Addiction to Perfection, The Ravaged Bridegroom: Masculinity in Women, Conscious Femininity, Leaving My Father's House, and, with psychologist Elinor Dickson, Dancing in the Flames: The Black Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness.

In Woodman's presence, the often enigmatic world of Jungian archetypal psychology becomes accessible to anyone, and especially to women who are on a quest for wholeness. Woodman believes that centuries of "patriarchal thinking" have stripped the soul from the inner and outer lives of individuals and in the world. To recover the soul, we must engage with the complex shadow world of the unconscious and go beyond absolute, either/or thinking to embrace the "dance of opposites."


Omega Institute is the nation's largest holistic education provider, highly regarded for its pioneering work in holistic health, meditation, yoga, transformational psychology, bodywork, spirituality, world music, and art. Founded in 1977, Omega fulfills its mission to provide learning environments that awaken the best in the human spirit through its broad-based curriculum and unique community spirit. www.eomega.org

V-Day, an international movement, distributes funds to grassroots, national, and international organizations that work to end violence against women and girls. In its first seven years, the V-Day movement has raised more than $25 million. Recent events include Confronting Violence, a conference of South Asian women leaders in India; the 2004 International March on Juarez, Mexico, with Amnesty International, to honor the missing and murdered women; the documentary Until The Violence Stops; V-Day delegation trips to Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan; the Afghan Women's Summit; the Stop Rape Contest; and the Indian Country Project; as well as the ongoing presentation by local activists and college students of V-Day benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues. In February March 2004, more than 2,300 V-Day benefits took place in 1100 communities around the world. www.vday.org