Last winter Canadian viewers were treated to a powerful six-hour series On Men and
Women, featuring Robert Bly and Marion Woodman. The Applewood Center (1-800-361-0541) has
made the videotapes of this series available, and Robert and Marion have prepared a 28-page study guide.
This is not a series you view, it is a series you experience -- in your body.
The story is told of Beethoven, or Mozart, that after he conducted the first public performance of a
symphony, was convinced it was a total failure. He lowered his baton, turned, and faced an absolutely
silent audience. The audience sat there, stunned and overwhelmed. Only after an interminable silence
did they break out in applause and "bravo!"
My wife and I had a similar reaction to this series. The first two episodes were interesting, and I
thought to myself that they had a refreshing insights on ideas I had heard before. We were totally
captivated by the third and fourth episodes, and saw even more reflection of what we experienced in our
own lives. After the fifth and sixth episodes, all we could do was sit in silence for half an hour, absorbing
In their recounting of the Russian fairy tale "The Maiden Czar" Robert and Marion lead the viewer
on a journey toward inner balance, personal fulfillment and deeply rewarding relationships. In the first
episode Ivan finds, then loses, his heart's desire through the treachery and collusion of his step-mother
and tutor. Robert was very clear that our educational system, from kindergarten to the Ph.D. thesis
process, is dominated by false tutors who stamp out our creativity. Even as we first begin to recognize
our deepest desires, most of us, like Ivan, have pins inserted by society's false tutors and jealously
protective parents. Through our need for approval, feelings of inadequacy, addictions, or a perception
that our dreams are unrealistic, we sleep.
In Episode 2, "The Betrayal," Ivan comes to realize that his life's dream has been drifting away as he
sleeps. He learns of the betrayal of the false tutor, and he learns how to awaken and seize control. Like
Ivan, we must empower our "inner warrior" and cut off the heads of our false tutors if we are ever to
awaken and pursue our own dreams. In Episode 3, "The Descent," Ivan has begun his search for
fulfillment. He seeks a path through the uncharted darkness that will eventually open to fulfillment.
Finally, awake, we now face -- alone -- the darkness which will lead us to the light, the oft-times
frightening prospect of the inner voice of our own creativity and desires.
In Episode 4 Ivan comes face to face with the Baba Yaga, the witch with the power to consume him
if he falls into the trap of oppositional thinking. Only by confronting the destructive energy within us --
that which is most horrible -- can we overcome our own deadly limitations and find our voice.
In Episode 5, "The Firebird," we will learn how inner creativity can carry us far from the Baba Yaga
end ever closer to our heart's desire. Ivan's successful confrontation with the Baba Yaga -- his facing and
accepting the negative energy within his own soul, has freed his voice and given him the power to
experience his desires. Once we recognize the negative within us as well as the positive and accept both
sides of our nature equally, we can harness our creative energy to fulfill our most cherished dreams.
Episode 6, "The Sacred Marriage," celebrates, through dance and joyful ritual, Ivan's spiritual rebirth
and the marriage of masculine and feminine. Ivan's successful encounter with the Crone enables him to
find his heart's desire. He experiences a joyous "inner marriage" -- the merging of his inner masculine
aspects with his inner feminine -- and thereby gains the power to love unconditionally.
Robert and Marion are delightfully animated as they recount the tale. Robert's ad-libbing, for
example eating the flowers Marion handed him, constantly caught Marion by surprise. They live and
breathe the story as they tell it. At one point, as Robert/Ivan mounts the firebird to rise from the ashes
into his creativity, Marion/Baba Yaga clutches just three feathers from the firebird's vest and falls to the
floor with a scream of anguish. We learn later that this was not planned; that Marion felt the Baba Yaga's
pain of barely missing her chance at creativity.
The storytelling and seminar participation is interspersed with interesting focusing dialog between
Robert and Marion. There, too, their creative interplay manifests itself. As Marion starts to speak of
"archetypes," Robert bursts in with, "I hate that word. That's not a word. Bread is a word. Beer is a
word." Marion stands her ground and continues, while Robert puts his fingers in his ears.
By Episode 5 the tension mounts. At one point a woman participant challenges Robert: "If you want
me to hear you ... please hear me." She and other women cry out, "I've always had to listen to Dad and
say he was right, even when he was dead drunk on the floor!" The men sit in silence, then one finally
says, "I don't understand a thing about what's going on here." Robert, anxious to move the discussion to a
talk about the wisdom of the Crone, says, "Let's move on." Marion says, "We are moving on!"
It is clear that there is to be no moving on until the women and men have had the opportunity to express
their grief, their rage, their frustration. A message delivered long ago in Episode 3 become real for the
facilitators and participants alike: "We have to feel the rage, yes we have to feel the grief ... but we also
have to forgive."
While Robert and Marion do a stellar job facilitating, it is the participants that made this series a
very real and moving experience for my wife and myself. They all shared freely in the discussion as it
was taped, even when they were in obvious pain. The women consented to have their body work and
dancing with Marion -- a powerful and very personal experience -- filmed. We felt that we really came
to know the participants, as we shared their experiences with them. And, through this, we felt that we
were participating in the seminar, not just watching a t.v. show.
Marion summed up the conference nicely. "Love is not need, and not dependence, You'll be looking
for, and the unconscious will be finding, a person who also has developed their inner marriage. I see it as
The love is just pulsing between them, because anybody who has gone through this process has really
suffered, and there's such a love when you look at another human being, and you see the soul trying so
hard to be seen and heard."
The best measure of the conference's results is to be found in the views of the participants. One man
described the closing ceremony. "Robert Bly talked about how women were always put down and how
they always feel so frightened and insecure, so small in the world and how they are so powerful. 'Let's
honor them and show them how much we honor them.' So when we were standing in that circle and they
were coming in, my heart was just bursting. I felt such pride and such joy for the women in the world,
for femaleness. When they came in I just started to cry, and I was filled with a sense of joy that these
women were now there and that I could celebrate their being women, their femaleness and what it
brought into my life, what it added to who I was as a man. If the world could get a taste of that, the
world would stop, the raping, the molesting, the putting women down, putting men down. It would stop
in an instant. There would be such respect, such honoring, for our differences and what we can bring for
A woman stated, "I think the one clear, unequivocal experience that I took away from here was that
moment, that knowledge, that it's possible for men and women to get through all the thousands of years
of suspicion and oppression and distrust and come together at a human, an almost transcendental level.
Because it happened. It was there, and we saw it." Another woman added, "Everyone has their own
woundedness, and it's useless to blame anybody. I think eventually you get to the point where you
recognize that we're just all here, wounded. The world's wounded, and we're wounded. It's when we
meet at that level of our woundedness that mystery occurs. It's that holy moment of coming
Here is a videotape series that can help us recognize each other's woundedness, and from that point
of pain and learning, find the magic and the mystery of men and women walking parallel paths,
profoundly respecting the essence of the other, honoring their differences, and giving each other space to
develop their own uniqueness.
Centre for Spiritual Studies Applewood, producer of the Robert Bly/Marion Woodman videotape series "On Men and Women" reviewed in this magark, has a Web site prividing resources for the inner journey, soul work and transformational learning. Home of the Bly/Woodman and Sam Keen video series, Applewood also offers on-line "learning circles" guided by exceptional