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She Moves in Circles

Rachel Fitzgerald's Remarks

Book launch Santiago, Chile 2010

Book launch in Santiago; Rachel, Maruja and Josefina shown

May I take this opportunity to review what led me to South America and to the publication of She Moves In Circles in Spanish. Although my experience in developing a psychometric tool to measure Toni Wolff's feminine forms was the occasion for an invitation to evaluate Toni Wolff's typology of relationship with the South American theologians creating a School of Ecofeminist Spirituality and Ethics, other passionate interests caused me to welcome this opportunity. These interests arose from my work with cross cultural literary and anthropological studies tracing the influence of colonial cultures on indigenous groups as well as my involvement in feminist consciousness raising. Today my debt to my hostesses in South America is deepened as the womens' collective, Con-spirando, honors our communal work together. Together we have explored vital issues of feminist concern.

Frequently authors comment on why they wrote their books when the works are being presented for the first time. On my part, what piqued my interest in Toni Wolff's relational types was not only her contributions to Carl Jung's typology of cognition and to the initial formation of 20th century psychology, but her later contribution to the field of adult development--her schema focused on relatedness. Her familiar four feminine types are described in a 1934 lecture in which Wolff addresses women's individuating challenges as these characterized Western European women in the first years of the century. She focused on the realities of adult intimacy for women of her time. Later male analysts concurred that her insights applied to mens' development.

Wolff was both a research companion to Carl Jung and his so-called "second wife". She met Jung when she was very young, grew to be a trusted teacher-explicator of his theories, and, as a mature scholar, composed the relational schema which is a subject in my book. I think of Wolff as both a woman of her time and as akin to Antigone, the heroine of the Greek playwright Sophocles. It has been observed that Antigone's suicide is Sophocles' dramatic device calling attention to the Greek understanding of citizenship and politics, and of kinship and the incest taboo as well as the desire for death by suicide as an escape from aging. An ecofeminist focus on the ethical dimensions of life choices might question if Wolff, like Antigone, desired death as a release from the relational burdens of her life. Such constraints were perhaps made intolerable by the social mores of her culture so that Wolff's situation mirrored Antigone's choice of death in order to honor the kinship relationship as essential to the very meaning of Greek social ideals.

As a Swiss European aristocrat of the early 20th century, Wolff may have experienced Antigone's desire to die rather than live life in a partial way. Perhaps Toni Wolff was a woman resisting a lifetime without the possibility of social recognition as an acknowledged partner. Or perhaps she was as the wisdom figures of oracle literature, an unnaturally wise woman acting out resistance to the restricted life of the intellectual assistant to a great man, a status diminishing full participation in the polis. We might ask if she was that Antigone who represents the ethical dimension of un Bien and an instance of French psychoanalyst Lacan's idea that Antigone was un modele d'ethique de la creation, a l'oppose du conformisme? I have wondered if Wolff became the author of a schema realistically and dispassionately exposing the limited social options of women in the culture of the West. From this vantage Toni Wolff offers an opportunity to consider ethical dimensions for the School of Ecofeminist Spirituality and Ethics and to consider them from the perspective of the social roles sanctioned for twentieth century women in the colonizing West.

Many years ago I was encouraged to write an article for a literary magazine,–an article which would focus on Wolff's intimate relation with a famous man. As such this was of little interest to me. I recognized that Wolff was a tragic figure in her personal life. She was also a woman of formidable respected skill as an analyst. Jacques Lacan and Mary Douglas and Judith Butler –each of whom comment on Antigone--would perhaps understand Wolff as an abject figure, an instance of contamination, an intellectual in the Western society constructed not for her good, but to give priority to males constructing a scientific theory of the psyche.

From my first exposure to Wolff's ideas, I valued her focus on the issues of intimacy for both male and female adult development. I also valued her distinction between a typological system of consciousness and a typological system of relatedness. Her idea of a typology which distinguished relationships, a typology possibly shedding light on women's significant social choices—choices either generating life or robbing life of meaning and the desire to live—was a typology capable of analyzing context, system, emergent connections as well as the psychotherapeutic issues of our adult lives. Perhaps my response to Wolff's typology arose not only from my work as a psychotherapist, but significantly from my experience of the study of kinesthetic movement –that organic experience of the senses which allows for the expressive art of the body in movement. Both movement and relationship were of interest to me.

In a passage describing Jung's concept of individuation—the concept which is the generative focus of Wolff's schema and the topic of her 1934 lecture to the Psychological Club of Zurich--, British writer Susan Rowland comments on Jung's contemporary relevance in reference to the image of a dragon as the abject feminine. (In folk tales the dragon of the countryside is an image of the degradation of the Great Goddess Mother and in contemporary film and cartoon art, the Dragon is an image of nature's revenge.) Rowland believes Jung understood the psyche as "ripe for transformation" and understands Jung's concept of individuation to be captured in the image of " the alchemical subtle body [a concept that] is most suggestive of the potential for a postmodern feminist body in Jungian writings….[Jung's] writings on alchemy provide a psychic grammar for renegotiating the abject body when he writes of dragons as the abject feminine; they are simultaneously revealed as protean, mutable psychic images, ripe for transformation….a focus on the irrational is justified by postmodernism's realization that it is this despised and 'feminine' sphere upon which knowledge and truths now rely. Turning to the irrational and unrepresentable is to invoke the idea of the sublime." (Susan Rowland, Jung A Feminist Revision, p. 45.)

Rowland's comments suggest that Jung's use of the alchemists' searches imagines human development going beyond heterosexual categories and histories and beyond merely feminine and masculine dichotomies forever bound in a dualistic dance of opposites. As a fiction writer and a psychotherapist, I am aware of the fatalism and sado-masochism which is associated with women's depression in response to limitations. I am absorbed in study of the associations made between the feminine and death. I question the reasons given for women's self silencing. My book is subtitled Vital Links to the Archaic Mind because I find in the traditional people's relationship to the natural world a valuable attitude toward not only psychological strength and wisdom in the face of loss and sorrow which is related to the feminine, but toward death as an inevitable transition, more mysterious than tragic.

I find in ecofeminism a meta-feminism and a place of opposition to oppressive social and political policy approaching the feminine and the natural world as possible-to-dominate. Postmodern feminists seek to find—even in the destabilizing climate of late capitalism—whether the so-called unrepresented feminine has something fresh to offer. As a student of creative movement focused on movement's organic nature, a student of the improvised experience of the body in creating art, I understand postmodern consciousness as linked to the feminine and to embodied material reality. Organic growth explores oppositions with curiosity and finds non-violent solutions to difference. Creative movement values what is real and explores possibilities to discover how we know what is real. In the School, our investigations required that we practice listening, that we regard as essential what is expressive, what is pleasurable, and what is often called soul. She Moves in Circles attempts to express the poet experiencing a woman's active and creative and inclusive formation of community

Coca Trillini

Coca Trillini, Argentina

Coca Trillini´s Remarks

It is not easy to talk about this book because it was written along the edges of what is announceable, almost at the border of the mystery of life, the border of language, culture, consciousness. It is necessary to cross the bridge toward mystery. To achieve this task I engaged the help of Denise Najmanovich, an Argentinian philosopher. In desiring to honor complexity, she creates a concept she calls "configurazoom". Denise combines configuration as the making of complexity with zoom: that capacity of the photo lens to approach the object in an out of the ordinary way.

In Denise's words:

What I have called "configurazoom" is a way of looking at. This way desires to honor complexity without the need to corner it. It allows for many approaches--making them movable; it wishes to integrate different dimensions of an experience without intending to encompass the whole. In contrast with the theoretical approach (which pretends to be exterior and distant), the notion of configuration is linked to a knowledge which recognizes itself as situated in contextualized embodiment. The central nuclei of this proposal is to understand that human knowledge is not the reflection of an external world but the conscious expression of the activity of a living being; therefore, the activity of a being who is at the same time creative, affectionate, reflective and in relatedness. This is being not existent in a vacuum, but is imbedded in an ecosystem which forms him/her and which he/she modifies.

To capture our South American network I will cite three passages from Rachel's book as well as my own experience of Rachel's workshops. Our network was built by women here today and by many across South America not able to attend. This network is intricate and complex, one in which spiritualities, poor women, violence, the right to pleasure, our relationship with the Earth,--all continue as the themes which attract and challenge us every day.

Rachel writes: In the stories that follow, we imagine the viability of Wolff's schema as an image of a center holding creation together. The center is in whatever holds multiplicity together. The center gains us clarity among conflicting values, shameful memories, painful relationships hidden strengths, and visions to guide our way. Insofar as the regenerative center of the schema involves a spirituality of lunar consciousness, it is understood to be characterized by a slow, constant movement, by quiet experiences of transforming shifts of light and dark. In that gradual movement, the cultures of motherhood, accomplishment, wildness, and mediumship are affirmed….the stories also illustrate conversations as experiences of the rhythms of repetitive, gradually deepening, discoveries of relationship.

This is how Rachel involves people in her workshops, and now in this book. Be prepared! In the workshops I have participated in, I have experienced her presentations, and now, in the way my own eyes have read this dance of mysteries,--this book.

    To get to know Rachel meant an exercise in approaching something distant and inaccessible.

    A language barrier. I don´t speak English. Raquel/Rachel.

    A cultural barrier: I have a history of prejudices…"neither Yankees nor Marxists, but Peronists".

    A professional barrier: she is the one who knows, she is therapist, and me…the client?

Then, Life transformed Us.

Maruja´s voice translating became part of Rachel: yet we also talked with our eyes.

    I arrived at each workshop and started dreaming in the same way the women in this book dream. I needed help to disentangle the threads of my own personal history and interpretations. In that way the cultural barriers crumbled down.

    The breasts of the teacher were those of the nursing mother; a red stole over her body was the amazon announcing here I am, and when she danced, and danced, and danced… the hetaera´s dance, a wise embrace, moved around the room.

    During this process, Rachel included Mother Earth, the ecosystem. At moments her insistence bored or annoyed me. After reading the book, I discovered links that Rachel made clear during our gatherings.

In Denise's words:

A being [is someone] who does not exist in a vacuum, but in the ecosystem in which he/she is imbedded that forms him/her and which he/she also modifies. It is not only a matter of a change of contents but of a transformation of the way we produce, share and devise knowledge. To be able to think in a different way it is necessary to change our way of living. To establish a different relationship with knowledge is not only a mere theoretical change, but a radical transformation of our ways of being that includes our own practices, our ties, our beliefs, our affections, our ways to relate to each other.

And, in Rachel's words:

If consciousness is an invitation to pursue an ethical analysis, such a pursuit requires a commitment to the rights of all life forms. This commitment is central to how the School of Ecofeminist Spirituality and Ethics understood an issue of our day: the imperative to grasp not only the good of our habitat and the perversity of harming the earth, but the good of all forms of life in their extraordinary interdependence and in the consequences to our failure to appreciate and sustain diverse contributions to earth's ecological systems

We then experimented in experiencing the energy fields which everyone lives in-- the mother, the amazon, the heteara, the medium. Wondering how could I show here a tiny part of the mystery in which we all are and live, I made moebius bands which I will pass around for you to play with in your own hands. (an exercise for the audience)

Rachel writes: Wolff's critical idea is that genuine maturity is in the complementary capacity to relate to the personal and to the impersonal, neither personalizing what is essentially impersonal nor objectifying what is personal. A self generated by experience of this flow is a self aware of disavowed and devious aspects of one's nature as well as one's strength and creativity. In this flow subject-object consciousness transforms into a subject-subject recognition of alterity.

Again, a philosopher responds and in the words of Denise:

To let go of the illusion of having a complete knowledge is the key to be able to access the shaky, active and multidimensional landscapes of complexity. But letting go of the privileges and certitudes which organize modern life it is not something that you can decide in your mind nor be able to do alone. It is as such because knowledge has always been something collective, historical and belonging to a place. Knowledge has always been built up through practices, institutions, bonding and loving styles, technologies and languages which design an intricate networking.

Rachel reminds us: circles exist as fluid systems, as relational links, as permanent dreams, as health, as a celebration of our own lives and the diversity of life.

Thank you, Rachel.

Marcia Moya

Marcia Moya, Ecuador

Marcia Moya´s Remarks

This book has not been written, but sung, danced, dreamed and painted. She Moves in Circles is the voice of women who have been gathered at a symphony. It is a book which carries a message traveling from centuries in the memory of our ancestors. Now the ancestors want to reveal the message to us so that we women enrich our knowledge and know that we exist as individuals in recorded history.

The author presents us with a journey through myth, symbol, dreams, memories--a richness of contents, -the same contents we need to absorb and digest little by little so nothing goes to waste. It is a book for women who are looking for their identity in this second decade of the twenty first century.

The writer considers what is human and what is divine, whether in goddesses or in important women, what has contributed to enrich women´s traditions. These are considerations often transmitted in an environment of secrecy and concealment, an environment which has not recognized women's worth. This transmission is possibly done with the fear of losing the power of social traditions supported by men secure at the peak of the patriarchal pyramid.

The book is organized in four parts, each rigorous in attaining content clarity. A searching woman aware of her own rich full experiences will find in this book a guide to her life.

Part 1

Moving, thinking and living in circles

In the first part the author uses I Knew a Woman from Theodore Roethke and calls to mind poetry and the poet´s feeling. The verses are born from beyond words penetrating through to unspeakable forms of language, seducing women into the web of life´s fine threads, into the universe of senses and possibilities. We open to an evolutionary way of moving in cycles, in synchrony with nature as something alive, until we are able to know that we move ourselves, linking our senses to reach a response to our own body´s fibers.

Narrated perceptions trace the challenge to help us think in circles, to let go of the linear and logical way of thinking, to learn how to interact in a dynamic way. The writer pushes us to vibrate in between lines so that we become part of the flow allowing us to understand reality from different dimensions. Suddenly it is no longer the poet, nor the author, but ourselves going deeper and integrating us to the movements of the spiral, to the plot.

Rachel connects creation myths with today´s cultural memory and helps us realize the way we have understood our origins, how the structured thought of a patriarchal religion limited the possibilities to think about divine female images as part of our religious imaginary. She sweeps away the doubt of centuries of emptiness, opening us to the realization of a concealed truth.

We realize the rootedness of Toni Wolff´s schema through women's experiences and the development of consciousness in personal processes and in an analysis of our cultural relationship to the Earth.

Part 2

This part of the book is populated by women who are therapists including the author. Each one has her own name and a descriptive word which eventually helps us find them inside the narration.

The therapists remember their own experiences and make their own journeys visible. When they gather they enrich their analysis of their clinical practices with Toni Wolff´s reflections. It seems that nothing is at random, they weave around interchangeable situations which show up in their personal lives along with everything they perceive when accompanying other women in therapy.

Toni Wolff´s proposal during the first decades of the twentieth century is the work of a pioneer while she develops her 4 forms' schema: mother, amazon, hetaira and medium. Rachel is also a pioneer when listening to the voices of the women of this second decade of this century. Within our diverse cultural contexts, she has been able to read the social codices and perceive our urgency to find answers which can help us identify with our real femaleness and our being as democratic citizens.

Part 3

By deepening into the insights that psychology offers us, we can reach a deeper knowledge of our interior life and its potential. We recognize a wider world of wisdom, one where personal truth allows for a better life and health for women.

By learning to dream we open our perception, we reconnect with the reality around us where we find sounds, colors, aromas and flavors, where there is a palpable reality, where our personal dream becomes a communal dream when we share it and when we listen without judgments.

Dreams show us possibilities we are unaware of. We are invited to dive into the dream world, to get in contact with elements that may seem surreal but which our memory keeps there for a reason, experiences which we need to re-think to get the bigger puzzle, the pieces that we need in our conscious lives to enrich our imagination and creativity, letting go of fixed ways to see and organize ourselves. This section of the book helps us to appropriate the power of our dreams and our intuition which enrich our feminine wisdom.

Part 4

Running Back in All Things

Here there is a tribute to women embodying mercy in the world, helping the disenfranchised, the dying, trying to resolve social chaos and to reduce the destruction of our planet. The section points to the challenge to assimilate the complexity in Toni Wolff´s schema when we try to make it a part of our own process of learning and growth, because it confronts us with the fears imbedded in our bodies by a repressive patriarchal culture. It recreates and multiplies possibilities for relationship among women, having the circular as our main focus when we think, dance, and interchange, and when looking at Mother Earth and her cycles for inspiration.

This book becomes something unfinished in the hands of the reader. One needs to come back to it to read between the lines. One is searching for a hidden treasure. If I could use a metaphor to refer to this text, I would say it is like an overflowing glass, one recycling itself in a transformative way for whoever drinks from it. It challenges just one way of looking at life and seduces us to advance in our growth without resisting the changes. We are invited to enter into a permanent evolution of our consciousness, the perception we have of ourselves, the cosmos, and our own image of a circular relationships moving around in depth and vastness, so that each time we become more aware of the great circle.

This book is not one more among many. It is a text that opens the door for an interdisciplinary interchange. Revelations keep the embers burning for future generations.


We are not islands. The whole universe interacts in a synchronized way and we are part of it. The proposal is to heal relationships, our fragmented relationship with both nature and humans. We are called to bring to life our dreams so that new social and cultural forms may emerge. Such forms integrate respect, diversity, new discoveries about the sacred, ways to know our dreams as parts of ourselves, parts we need to pay attention to every day.

The deep pleasure one finds by reading this book takes us to our origins, so that we can reimagine who we are and where we come from; it gives us new ways of looking at ourselves. It allows us to feel that we are not alone but that we are a circle.

Thank you.