Dancing in the Flames by Woodman and Dickson

Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson. Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness. Boston, Mass.: Shambhala, 1997. Paperback, 240 pages.

Marion Woodman, a renowned Jungian analyst, has authored numerous books. Here, in collaboration with fellow Jungian therapist Elinor Dickson, she turns her attention to the image of the Dark Goddess in her role as transformer.

If the Goddess symbol were merely a matter of bygone times, it would make for little more than interesting conversation. But, as the authors affirm, this symbol is still very much present with and active in us. They argue that in order to grow whole psychologically, both at the individual and collective levels, we must brave the encounter with the Dark Goddess—Christianity’s “Black Virgin” or “Black Madonna,” Hinduism’s “Kali,” and ancient Egypt’s “ Maat.”

One may not wish to agree with the authors’ historical musings about the precedence of matriarchy over patriarchy—the situation was probably more complex—yet, ever since Jung’s path-breaking work, it has become acceptable to use mythological motifs and symbols when examining the play between feminine and masculine forces in the human psyche.

In terms of one’s inner work, it is definitely helpful to think in such polar terms. The authors envision a world in which matriarchy and patriarchy are superseded by androgyny in which we own and appropriately live our female and male aspects. Jungian language clearly is a language with which many Westerners resonate. It is, however, only a language and not reality itself. As such we must be mindful of the fact that all language not only discloses but also potentially conceals reality.

If linguistic designators are reified and made into extralinguistic realities, we become lost in a jungle of fictitious entities, missing out on reality. So long as psychoanalytical/therapeutic language/cosmology is taken cum grano salis, it can indeed liberate us from our projections. In this positive sense, then, the present work can help the thoughtful reader to rid himself or herself of inner limitations, providing he or she avoids the trap of reifying Jungian language. This, I propose, is an integral aspect of the challenge to “dance in the flames.”

We must learn to master many languages, many cosmologies, if we want to respond to life openly, spontaneously, and freely. Jungian language evidently opens up vistas that we need to become aware of and integrate within ourselves. Using the Goddess symbol and related dream imagery, this book is a sturdy guide on one’s journey of self-discovery.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.

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