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Ring of Power: The Abandoned Child, the Authoritarian father, and the Disempowered Feminine, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Harper Collins, 1992.
Following on from the excellent Goddesses in Everywoman (1984) and the slightly less successful Gods in Everyman (1989), Bolen’s Ring of Power is a book about love and truth and their relationship to power and unawareness. Wagner’s Ring Cycle is graphically retold and interpreted from a Jungian perspective, exemplifying the range of dysfunctional family dynamics. As she states in her introduction, “There are no good marriages or happy families in classical mythology.”
This is a book about patriarchal authority, the disempowered feminine and abandonment—both physical and emotional (“A child who is not cared for or cared about is abandoned”, p.203). The writing compels us to recognise ourselves through these archetypes, and reminds and inspires us towards consciousness and choice.
The book is divided into six chapters. The first four deal with the four operas of the Ring Cycle. Chapter five is an interesting piece on inner work, called “freeing ourselves”, that is written with a fine clarity. In chapter six, she speculates upon the possibility of a post-patriarchal era and the individual contribution we can each make to that possibility (probability?).
She has an uneven style of writing. Some paragraphs take me inspired and wondering into deep contemplation in their depth and succinct density of meaning, while the next passage may be presented in an easy flowing pop psychology style. But sometimes the effort required to penetrate the deeper meanings of myths demands light relief.
Occasionally the retelling of the myth, followed by its detailed analysis, leads into too much repetition of the story. But the sheer breadth of vision of Wagner’s Ring Cycle comes over as quite breathtaking and reflects a sense of generation following generation. Bolen concludes that discovering the truth of our situation and ceasing to play our part in the cycle of unawareness frees us to discover the inner depths of wisdom, healing and love. In this book she goes some way towards helping us to do this.
This article was published in Self and Society, European Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol 22 No 4.