The Jewell in the Wound: A Review

The Jewell in the Wound by Rose-Emily Rothenberg. Reviewed by Jorge Alberto Piña Quevedo

The Jewell in the Wound
by Rose-Emily Rothenberg
Chiron Publications, 2001       ISBN  1-888602-16-3

A review by Jorge Alberto Piña Quevedo.

I will begin this review with a quotation: “…impulses from the unconscious are the spiritus rector of the human intellect. Opposed to the spiritual aspect of the psyche is the instinctual. Instincts are seen to be grounded in physiology and to provide the driving energy of the psyche. It is just such an instinctual drive that forces the archetypal contents of the collective unconscious into consciousness” (Carrie Lee Rothgeb, 1992, p. 40). 

It is well known that as the Bible explains, the first couple was living in paradise where they together could go wherever they wanted to go, and they together could do whatever they wanted to do, and they together could be naked without shame or guilt and they together could eat whatever fruit but the ones from the forbidden tree. The serpent instigated Eve –the feminine energy of the couple- to eat the red apple, and Adam –the masculine energy- to fear the punishment from God, the father, that would come afterwards.

Eve gave him the fruit and they ate it together. Then both were rejected from paradise, or in other words, they got consciousness and with it on the one hand came the chance to become more human but on the other hand they were separated for the first time, at least consciously.

This could mean that from the patriarchal point of view, body consciousness can be taken as a sin which deserves a punishment (but only if women act it out). However, from the matriarchal vision, body consciousness is needed to recover the energy and the wisdom that is hidden in matter.

As the world has evolved from the feminine to the masculine, from matriarchal to patriarchal a wound has been created in Psyche, particularly in its feminine aspect, a wound that can only speak through physical symptoms. So the self uses that language to make us understand what is needed to turn our head down and to swallow this idea in a manner that can be assimilated. Its essence nurtures our very souls.

There is an statement used during a Catholic marriage ceremony: What God has joined shall not be separated by men, and this seems to be a good starting point because -if that is true- only God has the power to wound the soul. In other words: “Outer trauma alone doesn’t split the psyche. An inner psychological agency –occasioned by trauma- does the splitting” (Donald Kalsched, 1996, p.15). So spontaneous psychological dissociation is beyond the influence of the human will. The serpent knew that.

The soul always finds a way to be alive in the outer world and within the soul there is everything that shall be needed to be as complete as a human being can possibly be depending on the circumstances of a personal life. Soul has whatever the person is lacking. If the mother is absent it is possible to find those maternal feminine energies in the body, as Mrs. Rothenberg shows, and when the father is absent it is possible to find its energies in the spirit.

To me, the book written by Mrs. Rothenberg has within itself the capacity to make clear and to explain from deep inside the hard and long journey needed to let God re-join spirit and matter (re-ligare) and to let the powerful drive of the self have an expression in the conscious world however it is possible. Sometimes the drive is experienced as faith and other times as scars on the body or through other physical symptoms or even a physical illness.

In this book it is possible to find a way to imagine the deepest layers of Psyche and how the self and –as the author points out- the collective unconscious enlightens and gives direction to the healing process through symbols encountered in active imagination, dreams and awakened life.

The co-operation between ego and Self is clearly exposed as Mrs. Rothenberg expresses in her own words that a conscious relationship has to be made to reach the point where the archetypes live and where the healing power will do what the human could not. This means that if disease comes from the archetypal level, healing must come from the same place.

At the same time the author speaks about her experience in dealing with the dark energies which come with every healing process and that -first of all- the ego must be strong enough to resist the overwhelming forces of the unconscious and as in her particular case, the enchantment of the spirit (to leave behind the body, literally) during active imagination practice.

Mrs. Rothenberg makes clear that a physical symptom is the expression of an aspect of the Self which cannot reach consciousness by other means. Thus the body forces the ego to be aware of itself and its need to pay attention to what the physical symptom is trying to say (using the right-brain hemisphere feminine language).

To continue speaking of the healing process presented I quote from the book’s introduction: “An orphan, especially, needs something upon which to project the absent parent”. That shows the importance of working with some kind of art to link spirit and matter so the unconscious has another way to reach consciousness.

Mrs. Rothenberg also tells us that shame comes up by hiding our wounds from others’ view and the danger that comes by hiding them from one’s own view because it can be the source of guilt. It makes possible the setup of a complex related with to seeking perfection and acceptance from others. With it comes the sacrifice of oneself.

Sometimes, the orphan takes care of others because she/he knows the pain of abandonment and projects the wound on the outside but at a certain level is unconsciously re-wounding her/himself.

All the pain experienced and rejected from consciousness finds a place to live in the body. It is an aspect of the Self that has been erased from the conscious mind that lives in the body. The physical symptom is its voice, and just like the process of learning a language, repetition of the wound and pain are needed for the symptom’s installation. As well, an automatic response pattern is unconsciously at work, and so every new wound will be processed in the mind (rationalization defense) and the pain will be felt in the body. Spirit without matter is established as a provisional solution but the self “suffers” and keeps looking for what is lacking, the mother, the earth.

Mrs. Rothenberg explains that in a lifetime the split is re-lived again and it is the reminder of the original wound. The blame upon others disappears and we take it upon our shoulders -which is a very destructive, self-hurting pattern- until we find the way to become re-born. It is like blaming myself for doing something I did not want to do. It is as if the wound could be acting against healing to preserve nothing but its own life.

Mrs. Rothenberg tells us that the healing process includes facing the fears of being blamed by a partial personality within us (the orphan archetype) when what is needed to move forward in individuation is the betrayal of the “old father” and to forgive the “old mother”. This move creates a new container in which the portion of the archetypes which have remained at the unconscious level reaches consciousness. The unknown has arrived and with it dark and light come together.

The author also points out how important it is for healing that a parent or any other authority figure accepts the responsibility for having hurt someone (child or adult). By doing so an idea becomes a fact, the spirit comes to matter, and reality is completed. Then it is possible for the child to stand up alone to walk and to catch up with the other partial personalities which have been growing up (inside her/him) but missing her/him.

To end my review I quote from chapter seven what to me are the voices of the wounded feminine within us humans, women or men: “We are an accumulation of people’s neglect and are lost in space…we have been tears over centuries for blame and guilt…blame and guilt have been thrown at us because people don’t want to transform us…we are not beautiful…you are not innocent. You demand perfection but you are a part of us”.

I will add: We are what you lack to be a more complete human being, so, please try to forget that you are a goddess or a god because after all if you were not a human being you would not be living in this world.

It is a wonderful book.


Rothgeb, C.L., Abstracts of the Collected Works of C.G. JUNG, 1992, Ed. Karnac Books, London, Great Britain.

Kalsched, Donald, The Inner World of Trauma, 1996, Ed. Routledge, London, Great Britain.

© Jorge Alberto Piña Quevedo 2004.

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