Transcendence from Below: The Embodied Feminine Mysticism of Marion Woodman

Feminine Mysticism

Table of Contents

Abstract :

This article outlines the mystical(Feminine Mysticism) path followed by Jungian analyst and author Marion Woodman. It unpacks the mystical aspects of Jungian psychology and uses Woodman’s life as a lens to view how the practice of mysticism can operate within alternative psycho-religious belief systems. Woodman deeply embraces mysticism as a transformative, feminist practice by focusing her work on healing the psycho-spiritual effects of patriarchy and the associated repression of women and the body. This paper also discusses how Woodman’s mystical revelations have begun to affect the epistemological foundation of Jungian psychology in a way that echoes the embodied and enactive perspective of participatory theory.


mysticism, psychology, Jungian psychology, embodiment, the feminine, feminism, Marion Woodman, participatory theory, (Feminine Mysticism)

Woodman followed and built upon the work of Carl G. Jung (b. 1875). She undertook a fresh and embodied exploration of the feminine archetype within Jungian psychology. She also can be classified as a modern, wild mystic (Hulin, 2014) and this paper seeks to explore the mystical aspects of her life and work. Operating just outside the West’s Christian religious traditions and with the mythopoetic toolbox of Jungian psychology, Woodman has crafted an intimate, embodied, and the feminist psycho-mystical path that has sated the deep spiritual thirst of many women whose spiritual needs were no longer fully contained by more traditional modern religions, especially Christianity. By first looking at the roots of her mystical work, Woodman’s own path and experience come alive and then highlight her specific contributions to the transformation and growth of Jungian psychology, mysticism, and culture itself.

This paper will hold Woodman’s work as the product of her unique personhood as informed by and interacting with the world in which she has lived. Woodman was one of the early Jungians to do the gritty, personal work of opening up feminist issues within the Jungian container. As such, much of her writing holds onto some of the more androcentric, essentialist, and universalist elements of Jungian psychology that are now often contested by the strongly constructivist feminist movement. Wehr (1987) shared her perspective on reconciliation between feminist theory and Jungian psychology, viewing the individual psyche as always in a dialectical relationship with society. She suggested grounding Jungian archetypes in their social context, allowing their psychological 50 International Journal of Transpersonal Studies Menter power as symbols to be retained without a claim to universality. At a minimum, this perspective helps frame Woodman’s work as a healing fiction, a potent story that can provide helpful psychological and spiritual guidance but is not necessarily “true”.1 However, from the vantage point of participatory theory, Woodman’s healing fiction is a creative and dynamic spiritual world amid a plurality of religious possibilities, living beyond the simplistic division between subjective and objective reality (Ferrer, 2009). Whether as healing fiction or participatory enaction, for those who resonate with Woodman’s own perspective and context, her work can be a transformative, mystical pathway for reclaiming authentic selfhood from the internalized oppression of androcentric and patriarchal social systems.


The life of Marion Woodman provides a rich example of the ever-evolving exploration of religious worlds, highlighting how a mystical path can be embedded within a system that blurs the lines between psychology and religion as well as between secular and sacred. She also demonstrated how mysticism can courageously and creatively be used as a transformative force for generating greater understanding and equality in the world. Her poetic imagination, commitment to the feminine, and celebration of the somatic—with all its historical contributions and contextual limitations—has contributed to the wild and brave exploration being done by theologians, psychologists, and others to create space for the peaceful coexistence of all authentic selfhoods.

Woodman’s own personal path highlights many important inquiries into the future of how religious worlds may be defined and perceived. This includes how the religious are distinguished from the secular, how the trend towards embodiment will impact belief systems, and how the democratization of mysticism may be used to create more peaceful or tolerant societies. Another significant, complicated, and exciting line of questioning is how the current expansion towards non-binary gender constructs, intersectional awareness, and post-patriarchal possibilities will continue to impact both psychology and religious studies as well as their related epistemologies. Lastly, there are several interesting lines of inquiry to explore within the participatory theory, including how it relates to feminist philosophy and phenomenology, as well as how it relates to Jungian/post-Jungian psychology.

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FULL Paper PDF file:

Transcendence from Below_ The Embodied Feminine Mysticism of Mari



 Lora L. Menter
California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, California, USA
Date: Dec. 2018


The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies(Vol. 37, Issue 2)
Publisher: Floraglades Foundation

Document Type:

Length: 9,466 words

Source Citation:

Menter, Lora L. “Transcendence from Below: The Embodied Feminine Mysticism of Marion Woodman.” The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, vol. 37, no. 2, 2018, p. 49+. Accessed 16 July 2020.
Menter, Lora L. “Transcendence from Below: The Embodied Feminine Mysticism of Marion Woodman.” The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, vol. 37, no. 2, 2018, p. 49+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 16 July 2020.

PDF reference and original file: Click here

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Professor Siavosh Kaviani was born in 1961 in Tehran. He had a professorship. He holds a Ph.D. in Software Engineering from the QL University of Software Development Methodology and an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chelsea.

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Somayeh Nosrati was born in 1982 in Tehran. She holds a Master's degree in artificial intelligence from Khatam University of Tehran.

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Nasim Gazerani was born in 1983 in Arak. She holds a Master's degree in Software Engineering from UM University of Malaysia.