Four Eternal Women: Tony Wolff revisited: A Study of Opposites, by Mary Dian Molton and Lucy Anne Sikes (Fisher King Press, 2011) amplifies Toni Wolff’s paper, “Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche (1934).” The model uses Wolff’s quaternity of archetypal patterns of women’s development: the personally related modes of Mother (Mary, mother of Jesus), and its opposite, Hetaira (pattern Tony Wolff lived out with C. G. Jung); and the other pole of the impersonally related: Amazon Woman (Gloria Steinem) opposite Medial Woman (Hildegard von Bingen). Although some of these terms may be unfamiliar, the authors’ full treatment of these patterns brings them to life and the reader will find soon enough that they have relevance today.
Using case examples, interviews, film studies, and well researched biographies and writings of famous women, the authors have grounded the book in history and culture, giving perspective and depth to feminine development and differentiating archetypal patterns often unconsciously lived out. Not only are the positive aspects and characteristics of each pattern fully explored, but the shadow sides as well.
As I read, I found myself considering the authors’ amplifications of these patterns in myself and in women in my practice. How many times do we unconsciously retreat to familiar archetypal patterns rather than embrace what is unknown? The function opposite one’s primary function is the most undeveloped and least likely to be lived out, but those either side offer important alternative paths of development. How often does a woman whose primary pattern focused on nurturing her children (Mother), upon their leaving home, place her identity in Grand-Mother? Wolff, and then Molton and Sikes, suggest that she might more fully develop Amazon interests of becoming independent and self-contained or, should psyche dictate, the non-rational ability of the Medial Woman to receive frequencies and material of the collective unconscious.
I was taken in by the fullness of the reading and the examples, gaining new perspective. Molton and Sikes’ Four Eternal Women is a contribution to understanding women and our relationships in the world.