Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dragon Lady: Shadow of the Queen April 25, 2014

The Western world has been obsessed with the masculine aspects of Deity for thousands of years. As a result, to experience the Sacred Feminine we must be willing to enter the remote caverns in our unconscious selves where we have dumped all our unwanted garbage in hopes we could forget it ever existed.  In sum, we must be willing to develop a relationship with our “dragons,” by which I mean our frightening, disowned, less-than-lovely selves.

The myths that emerged in the Near East around 2000 BC featured a male deity who, unlike the son/lover of the previous Goddess religion, was a storm god of fire and lightning who conquered a dragon of darkness and evil. According to Merlin Stone, author of When God Was a Woman, “…the plot and the underlying symbolic theme of the story is so similar in each myth that, judging from the stories that do use the name of the female deity, we may surmise that the allegorical identity of the dragon or serpent is that of the Goddess religion.”  Some still call a powerful, assertive woman a Dragon Lady. To many males, (and some women), especially those with domineering mothers, their own feminine sides and certain women seem extremely dragon-like:  something terrible and threatening that needs to be overcome.  Jung agreed and considered the dragon to be “a mother-image (that is, a mirror of the maternal principle or of the unconscious)…”

But the dragon is by no means all negative.  Hindus and Taoists consider dragons to be powerful spiritual beings, masters of the waters and guardians of treasures, especially the pearl of perfection that symbolizes enlightenment and bestows immortality. The Herder Symbol Dictionary says that in China and Japan the dragon grants fertility “because it is closely associated with the powers of water and hence with the yin [feminine] principle.” Thus, one meaning of this paradoxical symbol is that if we wish to attain the highest levels of consciousness and spirituality, we need to face all the despised and rejected qualities we have relegated to the feminine unconscious, and it is this descent that earns us the ultimate prize.

Unconscious parts of ourselves acquire negative power because of the well-known psychological law that the longer and harder we repress them, the more energy we give them until they start influencing our behavior in disagreeable ways.  They are like sweet little girl dragons which start out innocently enough.  If we love them and allow them to come out and play they will grow up to become our friends. But if we ignore them and starve them and keep them cooped up in dark and cramped cages — in much the same way many male-dominated cultures have treated women and their own feminine sides —  they grow stronger and angrier every day.

While the bad news is that facing the Dragon Lady, a symbol for the Queen archetype’s shadow side — i.e., the regressive powers of the feminine unconscious — can be very painful, the good news is that she can initiate us into a far nobler fate than we could ever imagine.  After all, if Snow White had not been terrorized by the evil Queen she never would have run into the wilderness, met her protectors, the seven dwarves, eaten the poisoned apple, and been awakened by the kiss of the prince to experience union with her Beloved.

Prince Ego’s search for the princess, our unconscious feminine self, is the authentic hero’s journey, and their union symbolizes wholeness or enlightenment, the ultimate prize and true destiny of every soul.  So the next time you’re faced with an uncomfortable truth about yourself, it might help to remember that facing and befriending the Dragon Lady is the price of the prize.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

Caryatids and Queens April 8, 2014

Femininity is universally associated with beauty, softness, tenderness, receptivity, relationship, and caring. While some equate these qualities with weakness, Spirit Warriors know they make us stronger than we ever imagined possible. Of the many symbols suggesting this kind of strength, none speaks as strongly to me as the caryatid.

Caryatids are gigantic columns or pillars in the form of beautiful, fully draped females. A very old architectural device, they were originally used to support immense entablatures in sacred public buildings. In ancient times it was said that seven priestesses founded major oracle shrines. These priestesses had different names in various parts of the world. In the Middle East they were known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, hence their common usage as columns holding up temple roofs. These same pillars are referred to in Proverbs 9:1: “Wisdom [Sophia] hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” On the Acropolis at Athens, caryatids are associated with the strong and independent goddess, Artemis Caryatis, from whom they get their name.

My first glimpse of caryatids at the British Museum filled me with awe and wonder. In them I saw feminine beauty, gentleness, independence, spirituality and mystery blended with majestic, connected, immovable strength. I was looking at a manifestation of, and metaphor for, the Queen archetype. This is a feminine aspect of power and strength with which every psyche is furnished regardless of gender.

A defining characteristic of the caryatid’s strength is her queenly way of serving society. She is strong enough to support huge social structures involving a variety of people, skill levels and activities, but never takes on more than she can handle, never gets crushed under the weight of her responsibilities.

Nor does she claim godlike perfection and omnipotence for herself: no savior complex for her! She simply receives what she is strong enough to receive; contains what she is large enough to contain; gives what is hers to give. Her strength is not based on compulsions to prove anything or pretend to be something she is not, but on a clear understanding of the nature of her gifts, dimensions of her interior space, and limits of her authority.

Like caryatids, mature Queens have a sense of social responsibility. They are pillars of society who are always there to listen and understand; share in pain or joy; defend the innocent, weak, vulnerable and disenfranchised; and advance culture. They have a quiet, grounded strength that does not belittle, gossip, or betray confidences. They accept without rejecting differing opinions and protect without exploiting weakness. They do not relinquish softness; rather theirs is the softness of the lioness, not the lamb. Although receptive, they are never doormats. They nurture but never smother. Theirs is the warm and life-giving receptivity of the womb, not the cold hardness of the tomb.

Caryatids and Queens stand tall and firm with eyes wide open. With steadfast devotion and resolve they support institutions and endeavors which are in everyone’s best interest. We emulate their strength when we subordinate our ego’s will to the greater good and work for the betterment of all without betraying our personal standpoints. May we all, female and male alike, manifest more of this wise use of feminine strength.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

The Heroic Making of a Soul March 28, 2014

Maiden/Princess

Maiden/Princess

Child

Child

Earlier this month on March 10, my darling child, Matrignosis, turned four years old.  As it has been with my human children, so it has been with Matrignosis in many ways: Pouring my passion into her and learning more about myself as she’s grown has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life.  Indeed, the overwhelming maternal feelings I have for her and what she’s taught me are reflected in the name I gave her:  matri (Lat. Mother), and gnosis (Gk. knowledge).

Yet, as she has developed through my creative outpourings, Matrignosis has been not only Child, but also Maiden, Mother and Crone to me.  All are part of the life cycle of women and the Sacred Feminine in whatever guise we see her: Goddess, Sophia, Anima, Soul, Yin, Mother Nature, Durga, Kali, the drive for species-preservation…..

As Child she represents my youthful innocence—all the instinctual feeling, vulnerability, wonder and openness I once had and to which I am returning, this time with awareness. (See Dreams of the Divine Child.)

As Maiden she is my dreaming Princess who lives in the questions and tolerates the tension between immaturity and maturity, ignorance and knowing, waiting for a kiss to guide her next steps in the dance. (See The Golden Bear.)

As Mother and Queen she has willingly embraced the otherness of masculinity.  In so doing, she has suffered the loss of innocence, established the boundaries of her identity, struggled to assume her sovereignty, and celebrated the birth of fresh, hopeful new life.  (See The Queen: Lioness of the Psyche)

As a Crone who is slowly and lovingly being stripped of youth’s illusions, she is opening to the mystery of Death while blessing the beauty and wisdom of her body,  experiences, and each fleeting moment of her miraculous life.  (See A Dream of Crones  and Crone Love.)

Matrignosis contains all these qualities and more, as do I. She also reflects my Shadow, the parts of me that are ignorant, self-centered, proud, stubborn, judgmental, defensive, unforgiving.  In some posts I’ve shared my flaws. In others I’ve withheld them. And sometimes they’ve snuck through the cracks in my Persona without my awareness, just as my Shadow sometimes erupts in my behavior.  That’s what Shadows do and I’m okay with that. There’s no human being so transparent that light passes through without casting a shadow.

Yet I am not just a physical body with a flawed personality.  I’m also an evolving soul with a sincere passion for self-knowledge, a deep love for Spirit, and a powerful desire to pass along what I have learned.  As such, Matrignosis is as much a testament to my soul’s healthy truths and accomplishments as to my ego’s unhealed wounds.

The combination of both is what makes me human.  My willingness to take my soul seriously enough to face and admit to both is what makes me heroic.  The same is true of you and every soul who suffers the shame of ignorance, who is appalled when your Shadow overrules reason and good intentions, who enters the struggle for understanding because you want learn how to love and help other suffering souls.  You. Are. Heroic!

And so in conclusion to this celebration of Matrignosis’s fourth birthday, I’d like to say that of all the good things she has brought into my life over the past four years, the courage to claim my soul’s heroism and let its light shine without apology or fear of judgment brings the most satisfaction.

Thank you for reading and sharing your truths here.  It means the world to me to have created this in-between space where heroic souls can meet.

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Crone

Crone

This is for you, Tony.  Did you ever know you are my hero?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

Art: Debutante, by Helen Scobel Raffa. 

Art: Wisdom Lady by C. Victor Posing. Used with permission.

 

Insights From Ireland: Healing Our Divides in The Enchanted Forest May 28, 2013

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest

This is my final insight from Ireland: My dream was precognitive. The first night of the conference I was shown themes and symbols that would reappear many times throughout the week. So much so that at our final dinner, Diana Rubin, trip organizer for the New York Center for Jungian Studies, led a conga line through the room in which we danced to the beat of “E-`LEC-tric-`BLUE…`POS-sum-`EX-cre-ment!”  Monika laughingly said, “You’re going to write about this in your blog, aren’t you?  It was the theme of the whole conference!”

We had come because we’ve found direction in Jungian psychology. We want to pierce the veils of self-delusion. We want to know where our greening has been stunted by the spirit of the times. We want to end our obsession with logic and objectivity; thwart our conformity to conventional wisdom and collective values. We understand that the spirit of our time is the critical masculine and the spirit of the depths is the creative feminine, and we see the most profound and obvious truth Nature has to teach: that life would not exist without an egalitarian partnership between both. We respect the non-rational (not “irrational”) and emotional feminine within and seek ways to integrate her into our waking lives.

Like Jung, we do this by accessing our creative imagination. Creative imagination is a third world between spirit and matter, a holy place where all divides are healed. Ireland is one of the few countries in the Western world that takes this human faculty seriously. Consider her fascination with leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, lucky four-leafed clovers and fairies. Consider Celtic mythology in which Euisneach is the navel of the physical world and the third-world home of the goddess Eriu. Consider that Eriu is a symbol of Ireland and the divine feminine, the central uniting force of life. With her, in the subtle body just beneath the surface of things, live all the kings who have chosen to embrace her instead of killing her.

enchantedforest1The Irish respect the spirit in all things and the mysteries of everyday existence. Poet John O’Donohue says it best in these lines from Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, which Noirin read to us on Wednesday:  “Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence. Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. Respond to the call of your own gift and have the courage to follow it. When you have the experience, don’t miss the meaning. Allow your divine nature and divine appetite to become one.”

Ireland teaches that opening to mystery is what it means to be human and that each stone inviting our attention on the path through the enchanted forest is a gift of meaning. Because I find meaning beyond rational reason, measurable time, and visible space, Queen Maeve’s birthday gift to me was a dream that shattered these illusions with foreshadows of things to come. Why credit her with this gift? Because my creative imagination compels me to notice that the dream came when I was sleeping in Knocknarea Room, named after the hill site of her tomb.

On Friday a few of us walked to Labby Rock, a megalithic tomb behind Cromleach Lodge. Yes, we can lose our way in the enchanted forest, just as I led four others astray on the way back to the lodge. Sometimes we’ll stumble, err, feel angry or afraid. But if our hearts and minds are open to all that we are, we will be met by the magic of Maeve, The Intoxicated One, whose world is as close as our dreams and creative imagination.

My deepest thanks to all who have accompanied me on this inner adventure, especially you who brought the gifts of your comments. Perhaps you’ve noticed your influence in these posts. You’ve helped more than you can know.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon site and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Insights From Ireland: Less Mud, More Poop! May 7, 2013

Irelanddoorsign1We spent the week of our conference in County Sligo. This mostly rural area in northwest Ireland was a favorite spot for William Butler Yeats who lived there as a child and returned often for rest, rejuvenation, and inspiration. Our hotel overlooked beautiful Lough Arrow whose islands inspired his much-loved poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”

On Monday, Jungian analysts Tom Elsner and Monika Wikman talked about the symbolism of alchemy which influenced Yeats and Jung. Tuesday morning’s topic was the symbols of Celtic folklore in Yeats’ poems. We were joined by Noirin Ni Riain, a gifted Irish singer and story teller. Her haunting songs and legends, sometimes voiced in her beautiful brogue and sometimes in Gaelic, brought a deeply spiritual Irish magic to our day and week.

The presentations were supplemented with visits to sacred sites. Some are featured in Celtic mythology; others are megalithic tombs from the early Neolithic period. Of special importance to me was Tuesday’s mid-day hike to the summit of Knocknarea (pronounced knock-na-`ray), a 1,073 foot high limestone hill west of Sligo. At the top is a large cairn about 180 feet wide and 33 feet high that probably dates to around 3000 BCE. This impressive monument is known as Maeve’s tomb.

IrelandbirthdaycallThis visit was special to me because Tuesday was my 70th birthday. And because Fred and I had been given the Knocknarea Room at Cromleach Lodge.  And because in Celtic mythology, Maeve was the Queen of the fairies and the archetype of the Sacred Feminine, the focus of this blog and my books.

The climb up Knocknarea was less steep than the previous day’s and even had a rocky, mud-free trail. Along the way I showed Monika the small stone I had found to lay on Maeve’s cairn. Smooth and flat, the front side was white and the back was a shiny black. Light and dark, conscious self and unconscious shadow: the integration of opposites, the goal of inner alchemy. I also told her about a dream featuring possum poop that I’d had Sunday night after our arrival. First possum poop. Then on Monday’s hike, sheep poop. What next? You’ll see.

Halfway up the trail my cell phone rang. To my delight it was my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters who sang Happy Birthday to me from Florida where it was only 7:30 in the morning! I don’t think I’ll ever manage to take the miracle of cell phones for granted!

Irelandmaevetomb2Most of us made it to the top this time. Through fog, wind, and misty rain our guide told us about the site. Then, in honor of Queen Maeve, and with a nod to my birthday, Noirin led us in a ritual of celebration and respect for the Sacred Feminine who is our guide through our unconscious depths via creative imagination. In closing, we added our stones to Maeve’s cairn along with our prayers and resolutions about our soul-making work. High on my list was to understand why the symbolism of excrement had appeared in a dream I shared at the Jungian conference where I first met Monika six months ago, and then again on the first night of this one.

An especially lovely birthday gift awaited me back at the parking lot.  There, three beautiful horses, one a dapple gray like my beloved horse Shadow, were tied to a fence awaiting their riders from the nearby stable. While I visited with the gray, Fred told Monika about Shadow. When she looked over at us she started to laugh. At first I didn’t understand why, but then she said, “Shadow Behind the Shit House,” and then I got it. The gray horse was tied directly behind a blue porta-potty.

So now it was people poop! We laughed about this for the rest of the conference. With our understanding of the symbolic meaning alchemy attaches to excrement, I was beginning to realize that something significant was going on. Next time I’ll tell you how Tom and Monika’s talks provided more insights about what it was.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon site or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Feasting at Women’s Tables April 2, 2013

feast1Since I left my job to write in 1989 I’ve always been part of at least one women’s circle with sometimes as many as four ongoing groups at the same time. My Jungian study group was formed in 1989 and our weekly meetings lasted for ten years. The Purple Pro’s, my writing group, has met monthly since 1990 and usually shared home-cooked lunches. This year is the first we haven’t had a meeting because of changes in our lives that make it too difficult.

In 1997 a few women and I founded The Matrix, an organization dedicated to identifying and meeting the sometimes physical, but always psycho-spiritual needs of women in Central Florida. Until we passed the torch along a few years ago, my monthly meetings with five unusually wise and gifted women were deeply growth-inducing and soul-sustaining. 1997 was also the year I started teaching classes and leading dream groups at the Winter Park Jung Center. When it closed, our dream groups met in private homes until my latest book demanded too much time and energy.

For over 20 years I have regularly shared meetings, study groups, planning sessions, classes, programs, volunteer projects, weekend workshops, retreats, dream groups, and food with circles of women. We opened and closed most occasions with rituals. Some, like the five minute deep-breathing meditation before dream groups, became traditions. Others were tailored for specific occasions like Matrix meetings, classes, holiday gatherings, and individual life passages such as birthdays, weddings, new babies, transitions into crone-hood, house-blessings, illnesses and deaths.

The defining feeling running through all these groups was abundant nurturing. This is nothing to scoff at, I assure you! Think about it. When’s the last time you were with a group of people who wanted to nourish each other more than they wanted to grab all the goodies? I’m not saying there were no hurts, disagreements or misunderstandings, but there were only two occasions when differences were not resolved with emotional restraint born from growing fullness and caring. In both instances, the unforgiving women who left were deeply wounded neophytes in self-reflection.

A climate of abundance is rare among both genders in social institutions where an attitude of scarcity prevails. Not even religions are immune. Think about the usual office and board meetings, gatherings around the water cooler, times off in the break room, holiday office parties. How many have you attended where you didn’t hear a single snide remark or juicy bit of gossip? I’ve sat in faculty meetings where scorn for other professors, departments or colleges was palpable. Served on boards, chaired committees, and attended church functions where petty gossip, misogyny, exclusivity, and competition to impress hid behind the thinnest of pious veils.

I know some women prefer the company of men. I’m sorry for those who’ve never experienced the deep sustenance offered by mature and generous-spirited women, who’ve been poisoned by the spiteful gossip of miserable, mean-spirited women. I’ve shared tables with a few of the latter type when they’ve joined one of my classes or tried to befriend me. But ever since I excused myself from the company of rigid institutions and started communing with like-minded sisters, women like that have never hung around for long. I think their wounds have left them feeling so empty that they crave a constant diet of discord and drama, and I have no appetite for this.

There are some desperately unsatisfied and spiritually starved women out there, and it hurts knowing they can’t digest the kind of food that would help them discover their inherent beauty and capacity for love. But there are also many generous-spirited Queens, Mothers, Wisewomen and Beloveds, and sharing my journey with some of them, including you who join me at this table, has been a major blessing in my life.

You can find my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at Amazon.com and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Alchemy and the Journey of Transformation December 11, 2012

gnosis_21Whether we know it or not, you and I are on a journey of transformation. The same is true of our species. From the moment of our conception, natural forces of growth and change we could not see or control were in operation, heating, intensifying, distilling, mixing, softening, dissolving, separating and transforming fixed aspects of our cells, minds and bodies. They still are.

Scientists devote their lives to understanding the physical aspects of these forces;  psychologists, to understanding the non-physical. Yet our knowledge of them is still rudimentary. Where does that miraculous light that shines in the eyes of every human come from?  Where does it go when our bodies die?  What is this mysterious thing we call consciousness?  Why can’t science find its location anywhere in the body, especially the brain?

Rooted in the mysteries of life and death, questions like this have always haunted humanity and inspired new directions of study including the science, or art, of alchemy. We don’t know its ancient origins but we do know alchemy was practiced in pre-Common Era China and Egypt. Mother of modern-day chemistry, Alchemy searched for the formula for the Elixir of Life and the secret to transmuting base and dense metals like lead into silver and gold.

But, as A. Cockren writes in his History of Alchemy, the accounts of the lives of those who practiced it “lead us to believe that they were concerned with things spiritual rather than with things temporal. They were inspired by a vision…of man, made perfect…freed from disease and the limitations of warring faculties both mental and physical…man made truly in the image and likeness of the One Divine Mind in its Perfection, Beauty, and Harmony.”

Early in the 20th century Carl Jung incorporated the symbolic language and images of alchemical texts into modern psychology. The base metals represented the baser parts of humanity: our unrefined instincts and raw, ungovernable emotions. The operations to purify and transform them, Calcinatio, Solutio, and Coagulatio, and the stages of change they underwent, nigredo, albedo and rubedo had their counterparts in mental and emotional processes and changes. And the longed-for results, gold and silver, were earthly versions of the heavenly perfection of the opposite energies of Sol and Luna. Finally, the holy marriage (hieros gamos) between theis King and Queen created the philosopher’s stone, a symbol of humanity’s highest accomplishment: transformation into wholeness and enlightenment.

sacredmarriageAlchemy was an attempt to understand the soul’s journey through life, and alchemists were Spirit Warriors committed to personal growth and refinement in preparation for the mystery of death and beyond. We are likewise Spirit Warriors who take our inner lives seriously enough to practice dreamwork, active imagination, astrology, tarot, I Ching, shamanism and so on. All these are symbol systems which address the language, archetypal patterns, and processes of our souls.

“Good Christian” that I was in the 1970’s, I was wary of such things.  My church considered them “occult” and dangerous. As if searching to understand ourselves and grow into our potential for relationship with the divine is the work of the devil! Yet, until very recently, this is exactly what most of the “civilized” world thought, which is why witches, alchemists, gypsies and others with inner wisdom were regularly tortured by the Church.

Whether we know it or not, you and I are on a journey of transformation. The same is true of our species. To continue to fight our natural and desirable growth is a choice to fulfill this prediction by Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

 
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