Best-Selling Author Passes through the Whine Country

Article excerpt

Jean Shinoda Bolen is a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst perhaps best known for her bestseller Goddesses in Everywoman: A New Psychology of Women (New York City: Harper & Row, 1984). This book invested archetypal and spiritual processes into the women's movement, linking Bolen's work to such issues as nuclear disarmament, the environment and the fate of the earth. A prolific author, she also is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California Medical Center, as well as a faculty member of the Jung Institute, both in San Francisco. Bolen maintains a part-time private psychiatric practice in Marin County, Calif., and devotes the rest of her time to catalyzing women's groups around the world and writing about women's spirituality.

Now, at age 67, Bolen speaks thoughtfully about a lifetime of seeking meaning and about how each person can make a difference in the world. In her peaceful sage-green offices in Corte Madera, her speech is punctuated by guffaws that shake her small frame. The room is appointed with meditation statues of various goddesses, reflecting a lifetime of devotion to the feminine principles of nurturing, receptivity and compassion. The spirituality of a woman's journey into the third phase of life is what inspired Goddesses in Older Women (New York City: HarperCollins, 2001) and her most recent book, Crones Don't Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women, 13 Qualities to Cultivate (Boston: Red Wheel Weiser, 2003).

On April 16, Bolen is scheduled to deliver a special lecture titled "The Crone: Archetypal Source of Wisdom in Juicy Women and Exceptional Men"at the 2004 Joint Conference of the American Society on Aging and the National Council on the Aging in San Francisco, and will speak at the symposium "Goddess Culture and Female Archetypes." She was interviewed for Aging Today by Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer Beth Witrogen McLeod, author of Caregiving: The Spiritual Journey of Love, Loss, and Renewal (New York City: John Wiley & Sons, 2000).

Beth Witrogen McLeod (BWM): The title of your book is thought provoking. What is a crone, and why use this term instead of wise woman-or even hag?

Jean Shinoda Bolen (JSB): Crone is an honored state of soul that has been denigrated terribly. Prior to the conquest of the goddess-worshipping peoples of old Europe, it was the third aspect of feminine divinity-maiden, mother, crone. It is my intention to redeem the word crone and the postmenopausal phase of women's lives, beginning with defining active, vital, attractive third-phase women as juicy crones. Crone is coming back into the language through the women's spirituality movement . . . but I couldn't redeem hag.

BWM: Juicy has a lot of connotations.

JSB: Juicy crone seems a contradiction in terms until you look around at older women who have zest, passion and soul. They have energy-juice-and the ability to make a difference where they are.

BWM: And whine!

JSB: I use this word as a litmus test. Crone or wise-woman elder is a goal worthy of aspiring to, and a whiner will never make it. Growing older doesn't necessarily mean growing wiser. Whiners assume they are entitled to more, which makes them unappreciative of what they do have. They can't accept that what was, was, and what is, is. To get this perspective and work toward letting go of past resentments or present comparisons are psychological and spiritual tasks of maturity. Healthy self-estesm, valuing yourself as well as others, is part of being a crone. The crone part of you doesn't whine.

BSM: Do you catch yourself whining?

JSB: I don't whine much. [Laughter]

BWM: Why do you emphasize these particular qualities-speaking the truth, green thumb, creativity? They seem more like powers.

JSB: Most of these qualities are about the feminine principle. For example, saying that a crone has a green thumb means she is nurturing or sustaining the growth of others, or of institutions, or gardens or animals. …