Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Game of Hide and Seek, or How to Build a Shadow October 6, 2015

images-2One day Miss Berry, my first grade teacher, announced that we were to have blood tests. In a few days we would go to the school nurse who would prick our fingers, squeeze out a drop of blood, apply it to a glass slide, and then we would come back to our rooms. It wouldn’t really hurt very much she said. Just a momentary pinprick.  We must take these permission slips home, have them signed by our parents, and bring them back.

That afternoon as I rode home on the school bus, I made my mind into a wordless, imageless blank. Almost of its own volition, my right hand crept into the pocket of my dress where it found a small crumpled piece of paper.  Just a scrap of paper. I looked in determined fascination at the passing scenery, ignoring the hand that secretly tore the permission slip to shreds in the darkness of my pocket.  I shifted the unimportant pieces of paper to my left hand, which moved slowly and casually to the open window.  I looked at the chattering, fidgeting children in the bus and forced myself to smile and speak to the child sitting to my right (usually I kept to myself) as I ignored the fingers of my left hand that casually opened and allowed the scraps of paper to slip stealthily into oblivion.

“My mother decided not to sign it,”  I told Miss Berry when she asked me for my permission slip. “She’s a nurse, so she’ll prick my finger herself.” As I sat alone in my corner of the classroom watching my classmates file back from the school nurse, each with a cotton ball between thumb and middle finger, I felt a deep sense of shame.  But I willed myself to ignore it and banished the tiny ugly creature from which it came to a dark corner of my unconscious self so neither I nor anyone else would see my shadow.  I was a good girl, I told myself.  And I breathed a sigh of relief because I had escaped the pain of the finger prick.

images-3Such is the morality of youth. Honesty is not very important to vulnerable little girls for whom the most pressing need is to survive with a maximum of need fulfillment and a minimum of personal discomfort.  At this, the earliest level of human morality, “good” is anything that protects us from pain and punishment.  “Bad” is anything that hurts or gets us into trouble.

At six, I knew it was wrong to lie to my teacher and not to tell my mother about the blood test, but my need to avoid pain had top priority.  Because this need was so strong, I had no recourse but to ignore and deny the truth I knew at a deeper level:  I had broken some rules that were important to the adults in my life.  I had lied.  I had been bad.

And so, like all children, I learned to play the game of hide and seek.  Hiding my secret badness behind a wall of denial became a way of life for many years.  I believed that because I conformed in public and gained the approval of the people in power, I must really be good, regardless of how I thought or acted in private.  In other words, I didn’t know how to separate the game I played and the mask I wore from the way I really thought and acted when unobserved by others, which, of course, was not always “good.”

There’s nothing abnormal about this in children.  In fact, research into moral development indicates that we all pass through this stage as we wander through the murky forest of ignorance toward the light of moral maturity.  Only we must be careful not to stay there overlong.  Years of hiding and feeding the tiny ugly creatures we created as children can transform them into walking, talking conscienceless monsters; and nothing on this earth is more dangerous or devastating to humanity’s hopes for peace and justice than the fearful, dishonest, single-minded, self-interested shadow of a mask-wearing adult in a position of power.

UnknownWe have to stop our finger-pointing. The real enemy is not out there:  it’s right here inside you and me.  It’s our very own shadow. Fortunately, each of us has the power to take away its power. We do this by committing ourselves to an ongoing three-step program of observing, acknowledging, and forgiving:

(1) pay attention to your inner life so you can see your shadow the next time it shows up,

(2) acknowledge the truth of it to yourself and others,

(3) forgive yourself for being human.

Welcome to the human race.

Image credits:  Google Images

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


Twenty-five Benefits of Inner Work September 29, 2015

UnknownDespite the rapid growth of psychological awareness in the West, many people don’t really get what inner work is or why anyone would want to do it. If you’re one of them, this post is for you.  If you’re not, but struggle with some of the issues below, or know someone who does, it’s for you too.  We can all benefit from using our instinct for reflection in more intentional ways.

Inner work is anything that helps you reflect on who you really are beneath your conscious awareness and public persona. Examples are wounds you dismiss, grief and pain you deny, traits you disown, instincts and needs you ignore and thwart.

One effective form of inner work is to study depth psychology, for example, the writings of Carl Jung and Jungian analysts. This might lead to examining the meaningful themes and symbols of myths and your dreams to see how they relate to you. Other examples include psychotherapy, journaling, active imagination, mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, body work, dance, and other forms of creative and artistic self-expression.

The goal of inner work is to help you see the unconscious forces that shape you, often in dysfunctional ways. Consciousness heals your wounded ego-self and creates an intimate connection with your true, spiritually-connected Self.

Here are some examples of how regular, long-term inner work can transform every aspect of your life.  I hope you find them helpful.

  1. jungquote Self-acceptance: Seeing our true strengths and weaknesses diminishes self-criticism and helps us like ourselves.

  2.  Self-esteem: We learn to accept our basic worth and rights, and we expect fair treatment and respect from others.

  3.  Love: Self-knowledge brings more understanding, compassion and forgiveness toward ourselves and others.

  4.  Courage:  We dare to speak our own truths and live our own lives by our own lights.

  5.  Choice-making:  We see alternative ways of responding, our choices grow less habitual, compulsive and obsessive, and making healthier choices gets easier.

  6.  Morality:  Suffering the knowledge of our shadow and its potential for evil humbles our ego and births a new ethic of caring and love.  It impels us to take responsibility for our actions, care about others’ welfare, act with integrity, and want to be of help.

  7.  Social action:  We practice what we preach with less talk and more action.

  8.  Feeling: We spend less time in our heads and more in our hearts.

  9.  Authenticity: Less faking it and more honesty. We become real.

  10.  Emotional pain:  Grieving our wounds frees us to accept reality instead of fighting it.

  11.  Stress:  Awareness of our internal conflicts eases worry, indecision, fear, frustration, anxiety, and agitation.

  12.  Spontaneity: Accepting our inner realities diminishes our fear of criticism, failure, and what others think about us. We live in the present moment instead of being bound by concerns about the past or future.

  13.  Emotional intelligence:  Taking responsibility for our debilitating emotions prevents us from blaming and hurting ourselves and others.

  14.  Work:  Knowing our true interests and skills motivates us to gravitate away from work we hate and toward work that is personally meaningful and fulfilling.

  15.  Intuition:  We see and know things of which others are unaware, and we trust our knowing.

  16.  Mental acuity: Our mental processes become sharper as we allow our instincts, feelings and bodies to inform our thoughts and guide our behavior.

  17.  GuidanceWe rely more on our own authority and less on outer authorities.

  18.  Relationships:  We grow more honest, authentic, open and forgiving.  Relationships become more intimate, respectful, loving.

  19.  Living:  We overcome obstacles with less effort and move through our days with more pleasure and wisdom.

  20.  Dying: Death feels less like the end of us and more like an exciting new beginning.

  21.  Trust: The benevolence of life becomes an experienced reality. We neither get derailed nor lose hope when problems arise because we know that apparent obstacles are opportunities in disguise.

  22.  Spirituality:  Feelings of wonder, gratitude, reverence and love are commonplace and generate a truly “religious” attitude toward the miracle of our lives.

  23. 115235-004-350EACF1 Meaning:  Our lives have purpose. We no longer live by belief, but by synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) which regularly reassure us that we are known and loved by something beyond ourselves.

  24.  Peace:  We strive less and enjoy more harmonious relationships with our inner selves, work, others, and nature.

  25.  Creativity: Self-knowledge awakens our originality and creativity. We become works of art.

Image Credits:

Jungian Quotes: Google Images

Dervish: Bruno Morandi–Stone/Getty Images

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


Excavating A Wounded Child with a Mother Complex September 22, 2015

child-walking-on-beachMy parents have rented a vacation cabin on Lake Michigan. I’m playing by the shore and realize it’s getting dark. I look around. I’m alone. I begin walking along the water’s edge toward a distant pinpoint of light. Could that be my mother looking for me? How could she lose me? Will she find me? Will anyone find me? Will I have to live with a stranger?  Will they feed me? Could something bad happen to me? After what feels like an eternity, Daddy and Jimmy come up behind me. Daddy explains. He and Mama left the beach separately, each believing I was with the other one. I’m safe, but I want Mama! Why didn’t she come for me? Doesn’t she know how afraid I’ve been?  That I’d want her to look for me? 

This is my earliest memory, described in more depth in my book, The Bridge to Wholeness. I was three. Something new was set into motion that evening. I had become conscious of my separate existence in a very big, dark, and scary world. In their book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, Jungian analysts Massimilla and Bud Harris write:

“…early infancy is the time when the world of the family begins imprinting itself on our tiny psyches, and this is a critical time in our emotional development.  We know by now that much of a baby’s view of the world is filtered through the mother’s body and the emotional attitudes her body reflects. Of course this means that the child of a mother who is overly anxious or is resentful of the birth will feel out of adjustment psychologically, and such feelings will be the beginning of a negative mother complex.  When we grow up this way, our personality will be founded on a deep sense of anxiety, scarcity, and a mistrust of the world.  In contrast, if our mother is sufficiently gentle, loving, and emotionally secure, she will help us develop a basic sense of trust in life and in our place in the world.”

This memory resurfaced after last week’s post in which I described an example of how my mother complex influenced a relationship. Since practically everyone has mother issues of some sort—whether positive or negative, recognized or not—it seems appropriate to share more of what I’ve learned.

Every child experiences anxiety when it becomes aware of its individuality and vulnerability, and mothers vary in their ability to assuage this, our earliest wound. Good mothers are naturally gentle, patient, good-natured, affectionate, reassuring and loving. They make their children feel confident, safe and secure. Mothering can be more difficult for well-meaning women with mother complexes, jobs, other external stressors, or undeveloped “maternal instincts.”  Nonetheless, a well-intentioned woman with a powerful desire to provide loving care and ongoing reassurance can be good enough at meeting her child’s basic physical and psychological needs.

Unfortunately, many mothers are too wounded, stressed, narcissistic or oblivious to give their children enough basic nurturance.  Some are angry, jealous or resentful. Some are unstable, mentally ill or abusive. Some are not there.

My mother was more than good enough. Although anxious and emotionally fragile, she was kind, gentle and loving. I admired her, loved her, and felt loved in return. She tried hard to provide me with a safe and comfortable life, and I did feel safe until she and Daddy divorced and then he died. But when she was pregnant with me and throughout my childhood, Daddy was rarely home because he was having an affair. The strain of this plus her full-time job left her with little energy for me, physical or emotional.

I wasn’t neglected. Mama boarded women students from the nearby university in exchange for minimal rent and baby-sitting. But she was rarely available during my waking hours…and I missed her. As I grew older it got easier to lower my expectations and ignore my need for her. By the time Daddy died, I was proud of my independence and saw my ability to hide my hurt as a strength. But deep within, a three-year-old child still felt sad, lonely, deprived, and sorry for herself.

Me at 5, recovering from the measles.

Me at 5, recovering from the measles.

It’s taken years of digging through layers of rationalization and denial to see her. Besides feeling the aforementioned emotions, she tends to (1) project Mother onto self-confident and accomplished men and women she admires, (2) feel deeply disappointed and unforgiving when they fail to measure up to her ideals, and, most insidious of all, (3) assume she’s unworthy and unloveable.

I’m sharing the causes and effects of my mother complex to help others excavate theirs. Mine doesn’t compare to ones that were shaped by rejection or abuse, but this doesn’t mean I should deny my honest feelings. It’s too easy to fall into that insidious trap. Conventional wisdom urges us to toughen up, ignore our pain, and stay on the “sunny side of the street.” It advises against “self-absorbed navel-gazing” and “blaming your parents for your problems,” leading us to equate acceptance with blame.

This isn’t wisdom.  It’s escapist rationalization. I know the pain of assuming I don’t deserve to live my own life, that I must hide my true self. And I’ve experienced the exhilaration of escaping that dark prison. We can’t become the mature individuals we yearn to be until we make peace with the inner forces that made us who we are.

Image Source:  Google Images, 

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


Shadow or Self: Who’s in Charge? September 15, 2015

Unknown-1“What should I do?” I asked my husband.  “This feels like a test about choosing between courage and cowardice.  Or is it between my noble and selfish selves?” We were talking about a relationship issue that was brought to my attention by a timely and bizarre synchronicity. The odds against this coincidence occurring must have been millions to one.  Because of the wild improbability I knew there was a lesson in it for me.  But what was it?

Which part of me should I act on:  the part that could see this objectively, laugh it off and let it go, or the part that took it personally, felt betrayed, and wanted to let the other know? I couldn’t tell. My habit of suppressing my truths to avoid conflicts or hurting people was still too strong. As a child and young woman, I’d seen this as a noble trait, but I was learning that keeping my mouth shut wasn’t always the right choice. Sometimes it was merely ‘settling.’ Sometimes it was not believing enough in my basic worth to draw firm boundaries and stand up for myself. At the very least it was a lack of authenticity.

Over the years a recurring dream has addressed this issue: I’m in a social situation with a mouth full of sticky mush that I have to remove and dispose of so I can talk. No matter how much I take out, there’s always more. Having people around me is uncomfortable and embarrassing. When I finally understood this was a metaphor for being afraid to use my own voice, I became determined to heal this wound that has its roots in my earliest childhood.

I grew up believing I must protect my mother from agitation or conflict. Something told me she’d had too much pain in her life and I shouldn’t add to it;  for example, by arguing with her, or expressing my disappointment that she didn’t attend my theatrical and musical performances, or begging her to drive me anywhere, or expecting special attention or praise from her.  It was too risky.  I realize now that this is symptomatic of a mother complex.

The part of me that wanted to reclaim my voice believed that expressing my truths in the current situation was the right response. But knowing it could be hurtful to the other party held me back and caused me to question my true motivation. Was there something in me that wanted to hurt this person? The thought that there probably was made me deeply uncomfortable.  So what was I to do? Suppress my truths yet again or take the risk of exposing my secret thoughts? Beneath this was a bigger question:  Which side of my dilemma represented my shadow and which the Self?

UnknownI asked my husband to help me clarify this issue, then made my decision. But we both still had misgivings.  So I asked my daughter. I should tell you she’s a level-headed person with a doctorate in marriage and family counseling. I trusted her response to be truthful and objective. After describing the situation and how I’d decided to handle it, I immediately sensed her hesitation.  “What?”  I asked. “Is this bogus?  Am I being childish?”

“Yes,” she said smiling gently. “I think it’s coming from your mother complex. Your wounded child feels neglected and wants attention and revenge.”  The undeniable truth of this resonated, a dark cavern in my unconscious was flooded with light, and a weight I didn’t know I was carrying vanished. It explained so much about parts of my shadow I’d been struggling so long to understand. A few nights later a vivid dream confirmed the truth. In it, an intelligent and accomplished young Asian woman went to her hotel room after making an important presentation, and I heard her screaming for her absent mother in anguish and anger. The youthful, ambitious, perfectionistic achiever in me still wanted her mother’s affirmation.

“In each of us there is another whom we do not know.  [S]He speaks to us in dreams.” `Carl Jung

Carl Jung believed complexes are perfectly normal. As I recall, he once said he had 13.  No matter how hard we try to think and act wisely, everyone has clusters of attitudes, feelings and beliefs that can impersonate wisdom and shadow our judgment. And when our ego is swamped by a shadow complex, it’s very good at justifying its self-serving motives. So how can we discern the truth and make the best choice?

We can bring the True Self into the picture by asking it to observe our conflict as we follow this 7-step process:

(1) Name both sides of the conflict.

(2) Listen carefully as each side expresses itself fully.

(3) Examine the beliefs, emotions and motives of both sides with objectivity and compassion.

(4) Forgive both sides for being human.

(5) Grieve our hurt fully.

(6) Create an original work wherein our ego, shadow and Self invent their own meaningful sacred dance.

(7) Ask for help if we’re still in the dark.

Then we can choose to step toward the light. Life is too precious to waste in the shadows.

Image credits:  Google Images

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


Signs at the Crossroads September 8, 2015

I'd love to have a beautiful
I’d love to create a beautiful “hobbit house” like this one that’s on exhibit at The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts in Highlands, NC.

“To understand is quick and exciting but to embody is slow and penetrating.”  ~John Tarrant

As I write this post I find myself at a crossroads;  it’s my last week in our Smoky Mountain summer home. By the time you read this I will have left. Part of my heart doesn’t want to leave this sanctuary;  the other part looks forward to returning to my Florida home and family.

Both places hold special charms for me.  Here it’s secluded, cool, mountainous, and forested. Everywhere I go I’m surrounded by nature’s wild beauty. My life is slower, less “mental”, more contemplative and physical—perhaps I should say, “embodied.”  I have lots of solitude, plenty of time to listen to my inner promptings and do whatever appeals, a large granddog companion to accompany me on daily hikes, and occasional house guests to enjoy and entertain…all at an easy, reasonable pace that feeds my soul at a deeply satisfying level.

My life in Florida has a different kind of beauty with its daily and weekly routines: regular workouts, ukulele lessons,  social commitments, holiday celebrations, and fun times with my family, always with enough time left over to write.  The pace is faster and more exciting, given Orlando’s thriving and diverse cultural offerings, but since I prefer a minimum of “fast and exciting,” I usually manage to stay within my comfort level there too.

The meaning of events is the way of salvation that you create. The meaning of events comes from the possibility of life in this world that you create. It is the mastery of this world and the assertion of your soul in this world. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 239.

The thing that makes dividing my time between these two paths work so well is that I’ve finally learned to listen to how I really want to spend my time and to look for meaning regardless of where I am. In Florida I find meaning in my family and friends, writing, music, and art.  Here in the mountains I mostly find it in nature, a road less traveled in our fast-paced world.

I’d like to show you what I mean.  These are some of the meaningful signs I’ve found in nature during this crossroads week. Each one speaks to how I want to live my life, regardless of where I am.

This morning I saw this magnificent display of light in the bathroom. It came from a single sunbeam that found its way through the slats of the window blinds.

Always be mindful of the miracle of life and light.

Stay mindful of the miracle of life and light.

The first thing Izzy has to do on our walks is chase the trout around the pond while I feed them.

If herding trout floats your boat, go for it with gusto!

If trout herding floats your boat, go for it with gusto!

As we stepped onto the trail, the trunk and green necklace circling the base of this beautiful old tulip poplar captured my imagination.

There's beauty in everything: even wrinkles and poison ivy!

Be an objective observer. There’s beauty in everything: even wrinkles and poison ivy!

The next thing to catch my interest was this unusual curved tree trunk.

Straight is not the only way to grow to the light.

There are many ways to grow toward the light. Straight is just one of them.

Izzy loves to run ahead, nose to the ground, while I like to take my time on the trail. But she doesn’t go far, and before long, she always comes back to check in.

Izzy's message to me:

There are few more satisfying or loyal companions than a dog that that has been loved, trusted, and treated with respect. Actually, that’s true of people too.

Yes, she does wait for me, but not always where I would prefer!

When you find a really great mud puddle, stop and take the time to play in it.

When you find a really great mud puddle, take the time to play in it.

She also waits at crossroads to see which way I’ll go.

If you're not sure about which way to go, wait for guidance.

If you’re not sure about your next step, wait for guidance.

I think she prefers the road less traveled too.

When your heart knows the way, step forth boldly!

When your heart knows the right path, face it head-on!

 The other day our friend, Sam, found what we’ve decided is an old moonshine jar almost buried beside the new path. Over the years, Mother Nature has turned it into a terrarium filled with green life. We left it there for Nature to do her thing, and to remind us of the history of these mountains. And to enjoy on our next walk.

Respect local traditions. Respect Nature. Respect change. For as Mother Julian of Norwich said,

Respect local traditions.

Respect Nature.

Respect change.

As Mother Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

We were being serenaded by crows near the end of our walk today when I found a crow feather.  At the trail’s end I placed it on our Crow Altar.

Respect synchronicities with all living beings, for they are reminders that you are known and loved by something beyond yourself.

Honor synchronistic experiences with your full attention and meaningful rituals. Synchronicities remind you that you are known and loved by a benevolent force beyond yourself.

This last sign came when we returned from town one twilit evening. I heard a loud rustle in the woodpile and saw a hawk fly up to a nearby branch. It peered down at us with interest and patiently waited while I pulled out my cell phone and took pictures.

Try to develop a sharp eye and a cosmic view that observes our precious world with infinite patience and love.

Try to develop a sharp eye and a cosmic view that observes this precious world with infinite patience and love.

A true religion is precisely one that can teach you how to recognize and honor God everywhere, and not just inside your own group symbols. ~Richard Rohr

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


Muse, Anima, or Soul? September 1, 2015

The Ponte Vecchio (

The Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”) in Florence, Italy

Recently a reader asked this question: “If a woman performs the function of being an artist’s ‘muse’ and if the artist believes (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell in ‘The White Goddess”) that ‘she is a representative of the goddess deconstructing and remaking him’ then where does muse/anima begin and end?”

I wasn’t exactly sure I understood the question fully, but here’s how I replied…in a slightly revised form now that I’ve decided to make a post of it.

Well, right off hand I’d say that the muse is one of several functions of the Anima.  Anima is the name Carl Jung gave to a man’s unconscious feminine side. As I use the term however, I essentially mean the unconscious or undeveloped feminine in everyone.  Sometimes I use Anima and Soul interchangably.  I do the same with the unconscious masculine:  i.e. Animus or Spirit. 

Our feminine side is associated with empathy, intimately relating, nurturing, receptivity, tender feelings, the instincts, and all the soulful, material, physical aspects of human life. Whichever of these are not consciously developed remain in the unconscious as our Anima.

Our instincts are the source of all creativity:  i.e. we need to eat (the instinct for nurturance), so we create weapons and tools to catch and kill animals and fish. Or look for work we can enjoy and earn money doing. Paradoxically, we contain an instinct for creativity itself, although not everyone activates it as much as artists and other unusually creative people. 

Patriarchal culture educates us into a one-sided way of thinking and behaving with values that are active, productive, dynamic, goal- and achievement-oriented, practical, clear, structured, logical, linear and competitive.  In this masculine-oriented environment, many of us repress our Soul into the unconscious, thus losing the ability to care deeply and have empathy for others, cultivate intimate relationships, feel and express tender emotions, tend lovingly to our bodies and the everyday physical requirements of life, and be receptive to our own repressed needs and instincts. Soul requires more time, quiet, stillness, space, receptivity and contemplation to get in touch with the inner life—including inspiring inner images, visions, dreams and imagination—than the fast track allows.

As a result, many, if not most, men project their Anima onto a woman and let her carry it for them.  A man can learn  a lot about Soul vicariously through her, but he won’t necessarily learn to experience his own Soul, which might be quite different from hers.

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” ~Dante Alighieri

Dante sees Beatrice for the first time.

Dante sees Beatrice for the first time.

This can create real problems between them because he expects her to behave “appropriately,”  i.e. as his own idealized feminine side would.  When she doesn’t mirror his ideal image, or Anima, he may be critical, disappointed, or angry at her. This is because he doesn’t see her as she really is, or even necessarily like her;  he can only see her and appreciate her when she appears to be who he wants her to be.  Yet if she leaves him, he can be devastated.  It’s as if she’s taken away an essential part of him.  Which she has:  his connection to his feminine side.

Now, let’s assume this man has a strong, conscious connection with his creative instinct, and is a writer, artist, poet, composer, actor, etc. Let’s also assume that the woman onto whom he has projected his Anima inspires him to use his creative instinct in unusually imaginative and enormously satisfying ways.  In this case, the woman also assumes the function of his muse.  As such, she provides him with an important connection to the “inspiratrix” aspect of his own Anima.

This is exactly what happened to Dante when he first saw the girl Beatrice on the Ponte Veccio in Florence.  His Anima awoke with a lightning flash and immediately took residence in her image. Even though he married someone else and Beatrice died at a young age, her image forever after functioned as his Anima/Muse/Beloved and inspired him to write The Divine Comedy.

In bringing him in touch with his deeper inner life, the muse as his Beloved also provided access to his entire Soul, not just the inspiratrix part of her, but also the other instinctual parts that helped him care and feel deeply, develop intimate relationships, learn about his own feminine side, and ultimately connect with his Self.  It was this  inner relationship with his Soul and her conscious union with his Spiritual side that activated his authentic Self, expanded his vision into the Sacred Realm, and illuminated his brilliant masterpiece.

Unfortunately, most men never see the woman to whom they are profoundly attracted as an individual in her own right. Nor do they realize that the reason they are so attracted to her is because she represents the feminine half of their own authentic Self.

The Divine ComedyBut a man who can learn about his own Soul from the woman onto whom he projects it—i.e. a man who recognizes that the qualities he admires in her belong to him, and who can gain access to these qualities whether she is physically with him or not—is the most fortunate of men. Why? Because to consciously activate and create harmony between one’s own Soul and Spirit is the whole point of the human journey…or should I say, of the Divine Comedy?

And what is that point? To consciously make of one’s own life a work of art.

Image credits:  The Ponte Vecchio,, Google Images. Dante and Beatrice, Henry Holiday, Wikipedia. Divine Comedy, Google Images.

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


Seeing Through the Mist August 25, 2015

I spent the first half of my life in a mist, blind to all that is truly sacred. A spiritual seeker from the age of 17, I had plenty of ideas about what was sacred, but they came from other people. Only very rarely did I actually experience the sacred for myself. Then I discovered the symbolic meaning in dreams and myths.

Myths are cultural expressions of humanity’s relationship to the gods. While not necessarily literally true on the outside, myths are always true on the inside because they address the truths of the soul. Dreams are personal myths. Imaginatively exploring the symbols and themes of our dreams to gain insights into our personal issues, then seeing how they are addressed and resolved in cultural myths, can help us grow our spirits and recover our souls.

In A History of God, former nun Karen Armstrong says, “The only way we can conceive of God, who remains imperceptible to the senses and to logical proof, is by means of symbols, which it is the chief function of the imaginative mind to interpret.” And in The Holy Longing, Jungian analyst Connie Zweig writes, “In effect, the life of the imagination is the spiritual life.”

Three months after I began to practice regular dreamwork I was staying at the beach when I had dream #46. I called it “Temple in the Wilderness.”

I walk through woods on a path cut through the earth. I’m seeking a stream I know to be at the bottom end of the path. I find it where it spills into the sea and follow it to a mist-shrouded garden. In it are ruins of a Greek temple; one column remains upright. In awe, I kneel to examine some creamy-white flowers. Near the bottom of the plant is a pyramid-shaped arrangement of four glowing, waxy white horses facing the four directions. Surrounding them are blossoms so beautiful I can hardly take them in. A puppy named Prince playfully grabs my hand, inviting me to follow him. A young woman asks his name and is pleased to hear it. Two other people bring food for the puppy. After seeing a couple walking hand-in-hand through the distant mist I awaken.

This dream fascinated me so I worked through the plot by exploring my associations for the symbols: path, woods, stream, sea, garden, Greek temple, column, mist, kneeling, white flowers, glowing horses, the four directions, the puppy Prince who wants to guide me somewhere, the people who feed him, and the couple walking through the mist.  Then I explored cultural and archetypal associations for the symbols I wanted more information about.

The final result was a mythical narrative with an underlying theme of compassion and love. Deeply moved, I felt as if a cold, hard place in my heart was softening, melting down, and warming up.

The body remembers. To honor this feeling so I would never forget it I made a ritual that morning of walking down to the beach with an ice cube in my hand. Kneeling in the sand, I held it in the warm salty water until it melted.

After that I deepened my study of symbolism and myths. Two years later I redesigned my dining room to remind me of the misty temple in the woods, resigned from my job, and began writing a manuscript which became The Bridge to Wholeness. That first book about the inner life opens with an original myth that is a metaphor for my spiritual journey.

As author and spirit warrior William Horden has said, “to those of us attuned to the one psyche, no one can fool us into thinking we are just indulging in our ‘imagination’. We have had a taste of the ever-new bubbling fountain of creation…from that point on, for the intoxicated soul thirsty for more of the gods’ nectar, there is only the creative act…the ‘making’ that reveals the artist within each of us.”

This is holy work. With each creative act we make to honor the truths bubbling up from our source, we re-myth our lives and enter the sacred realm that has always awaited us beyond the mist.

Image credit:  Google Free Images

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.



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