Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Men in Women’s Dreams August 31, 2010

The very first dream I ever wrote down featured a vitally important message about my ego’s relationship with my masculine side. I offer this deeply personal dream as a gift to every woman who has struggled to integrate her animus.

Dream #1A: The Rejected Suitor. I am in a dark hotel lobby. My friend Andrea has just married and is spending her honeymoon here. Her new husband, dark and fiercely good-looking, keeps grabbing me as I drink from a water fountain. I’m very attracted to him, but at the same time, afraid. Andrea is afraid I will take him from her. Suddenly he pulls me away through a night so dark I cannot see a thing. I want him to kiss me but do not want to betray Andrea. He begins kissing me by the edge of a road. A bus driven by middle-aged hag with long dark hair pulls up. She wears a flimsy transparent robe through which I see her flabby body. She is leering at me as she fondles her left breast. I am afraid of her. Andrea’s husband says, “Come on, you know you want it. This is love.” I say, “If this is love, I’ll have none of it,” and run away.

Because of this deeply disturbing dream in the middle of my life I started asking myself some serious questions: Why do I feel so incomplete and unfulfilled? What attractive and compelling force in me does the husband represent? Why am I so afraid of him? How can I keep from ending up like the hag?

At the time of this dream I had long been ignoring my dissatisfaction about my work and was still pursuing a tenure-earning position at the university where I taught.  The dream said I was running way from some very attractive, unknown potential in myself (the husband). The groom represented my animus, the things I associate with masculinity, including the clarity of mind to know my true passions, the confidence to pursue them, and the self-discipline to hone and manifest them in meaningful work that best suits my personality. The dream said my ego was afraid to betray my familiar goals (Andrea, a successful woman I knew in waking life), and equally afraid to begin a relationship with unknown new ones (the groom). Worse, it suggested that running away from my animus could lead to a joyless life of conformity to collective standards (a bus driver takes everyone to the same place at the same time) like my sad and bitter shadow (the sinister hag).

Women’s dreams about men depict their relationship to the masculine principle in their inner and outer lives. Dreams of being in a group of diverse men suggest an animus (unconscious image of masculinity)  that is not clearly differentiated. Dreams of abusive, hostile, arrogant, opinionated, distant, crippled, or unfeeling men reflect our experience of, and attitudes toward, males.  The characteristics of the men in our dreams also highlight aspects of our own masculine side.  This is equally true of dreams about men we like and admire.  In fact, for a woman, pleasant dreams of having sex with very attractive men are usually metaphors for the healthy development of a positive relationship with our animus, and the qualities we associate with these men represent positive qualities we are developing.

The animus is a potent force in a woman’s life and our dreams tell the truth about him. He can be adversary, intruder, or demon lover; hero, prince, or beloved.  We can run away from him or we can befriend him, and our choice can make all the difference.


The Anima’s Role in a Man’s Spiritual Journey August 28, 2010

In my previous post I wrote about a man who, in the middle of his life, had a powerful dream in which he briefly identified with being a woman. I’d like to explain what this means from the perspective of Jungian psychology. In his work life, this man had become a highly successful and respected authority in his field. He was a responsible, law-abiding citizen and a loving husband, father, and social benefactor. Looking from the outside, one might ask, “What more could he possibly lack or want?” What more but a satisfying and meaningful inner life?

This introspective, scrupulous man is aware of the universe beneath the surface of his life. For him, filling society’s roles, following conventional rules, and acquiring worldly success are not enough. He is realizing his fulfillment lies in coming to terms with his whole self, including his unconscious feminine side. Something deep within him wants more than external observances: it wants internal congruence. It wants more than the appearance of caring and compassion: it wants the deeply felt reality. It wants more than the attainment of social power and authority: it wants a connection with his inner spiritual power and authority.

In his book Jung and the Lost Gospels, Dr. Stephan Hoeller summarizes the psycho-spiritual task of the serious seeker: “In Jung’s psychology, women need to integrate their animus, and men must do the same with their anima; the bringing to consciousness of the contrasexual image of each person permits entry into the kingdom of individuation and consequent wholeness.”

The word anima literally means soul. Jung saw the main qualities of the anima as relatedness and mediation, both between self and other and between ego and unconscious. The foundation for these qualities is love, or Eros, with its attributes of intimacy, harmony, tolerance, empathy, compassion, etc. In Volume 16 of Jung’s Collected Works he summarized the four stages in which a man’s anima develops: from the purely biological in which a woman is equated with the mother and only represents something to be fertilized; to an aesthetic and romantic level in which sex still dominates but woman has acquired some value as an individual; to a stage of religious devotion in which Eros is elevated to spiritual motherhood; and finally to Sophia, Wisdom.

Dreams of women show men at least two things about their unconscious selves: unknown feelings and attitudes toward femininity, and the health and maturity of their anima. In the dreams of a man who fears, distrusts, or disdains women and represses his “feminine” qualities, his anima will show up as an angry shrew, hag, witch, nag, victim, tease, or dangerous siren, and his dream ego will respond in ways typical for him in waking life. Conversely, the dreams of a man who is accepting his feminine side — i.e. getting in touch with his feelings, developing respect for women, learning to express tender emotions, becoming comfortable with intimacy, growing more understanding and nurturing in his relationships, etc. — will be visited by increasingly friendly, kind, helpful, loving, trustworthy, and profoundly fascinating women. Thus is the wicked witch transformed into the beautiful princess who awaits the prince’s kiss.  Thus does the feminine Spirit Warrior awaken and bestow her blessings of self-acceptance and spiritual meaning.

Next time I’ll discuss the role of men in women’s dreams.


Women in Men’s Dreams August 24, 2010

Some years ago, a very successful and talented friend of mine began to experience a crisis of meaning. As he became more receptive to his inner life he found himself drawn to Jungian psychology and dreamwork. One night he had the following dream.

An odd chase dream. I am with a woman…no one I know. I am being pursued by a very large bear. I have a thin spear-like stick with which to defend myself. The woman points out to me a very sharp, but very thin and small, piece of metal on the ground. It is like a piece of broken razor blade. I have to search for it a bit on the ground, where it is entangled with leaves, twigs, etc. I have it and force it into the end of the stick. The bear, I sense is close at hand, but I can’t see it…I never see it. I do see various cast shadows of it, almost like cut shots in a film, one of its powerful open jaws. I jab and feint at locations near me where, based on the cast shadows, I feel I might hit the bear. I never do. Shift. I am a woman. I awaken.

I haven’t discussed this dream with my friend, who was amazingly generous to share it with me, so I do not know what it means to him; nor can either of us possibly know its fullest meaning. The best I can do is tell you what it would mean to me if it were my dream. So here goes.

For me this extraordinary dream illustrates the archetypal drama of being compelled to move out of familiar territory (he is being chased by a bear), and accepting help from our feminine side (an unknown woman companion helps him), so as to be empowered to become an authentic Spirit Warrior (he is forced to look for a weapon with which to defend himself against an animal which feels dangerous and threatening). This new problem with its accompanying discomfort and uncertainty makes it necessary to develop creative new resources (the unusual weapon).

The woman in this dream (his anima, or unconscious feminine side, and possibly a suggestion of the archetypal Great Mother) helps by pointing out the sharp piece of metal (a product of masculine, man-made technology) which is entangled on the ground among leaves and twigs (feminine symbols of the natural world). He searches for the piece of metal (possibly a pun suggesting he is searching for his mettle, i.e. courage to honor his true self and live authentically), and then finds a creative way to unite the two objects, man-made metal and Mother Nature’s stick, into one useful weapon which he uses to jab at shadows: i.e. his shadow.

It would appear that when my friend had this dream his ego was trying to figure out how to deal with an aspect of his shadow — perhaps an instinct (suggested by the bear) or regressive tendency — against which it wanted to defend itself. I have no idea what the characteristics of his particular shadow are, but the dream makes it very clear that because he followed the guidance of his inner feminine and found a creative way to unite the opposites, (masculine technology, feminine biology), not only did he find a way to protect himself, but for one, brief moment he was able to identify with his feminine side by actually becoming a woman.

What could this mean? Does this suggest a positive development in this man’s psyche? If so, why would accepting help from a woman and briefly “becoming a woman” be important to a man’s psychological and spiritual development? Next time I’ll answer these important questions from the perspective of Jungian psychology.


Sophia as Spiritual Mediatrix August 21, 2010

In ancient times spiritual guidance was the province of women who mediated between the gods and humanity. Apollo’s temple at Delphi, which was superimposed on an earlier shrine of the Goddess Gaia, was always presided over by female oracles. The dove oracles at Dodona in northern Greece and the sibyls at Olympia, Tetrapolis, Athens, and many other sites were likewise women. Through means of snake venom or special herbs added to the fires on which the sacred cauldron burned, a priestess who had the gifts of divination and prophecy consulted the deity to answer questions and dispense wisdom to supplicants.

Access to sacred wisdom was projected onto priestesses because it was not understood that Sophia is available to all. Yet, through means which have not yet been proven to the satisfaction of the majority of the scientific community, (physicists Wolfgang Pauli, David Bohm, and Jean Emile Charon are among those who have come up with intriguing and widely accepted theories), every serious seeker has the ability to experience sacred energies directly and personally.

Sophia’s spiritual wisdom has always been experienced by small, and sometimes secret groups of seekers, spiritual guides, and mystics of every religion, including saints, gurus, yogis, and shamans. H. Corbin, author of Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Irabi quotes one of the disciples of the great Islam Mystic: “Our shaikh Ibn Arabi had the power to meet the spirit of any Prophet or Saint departed from this world, either by making him descend to the level of this world and contemplating him in an apparitional body similar to the sensible form of his person, or by making him appear in his dreams, or by unbinding himself from his material body to rise to meet the spirit.”

Ibn Arabi’s story is of particular interest because he is an example of a scholarly male who gained access to his Mediatrix through the guidance of three women: Yasmin of Marchena and Fatima of Cordova, his two Sufi mystic teachers, and Nizam Ayn al-Shams, a beautiful young woman who became his image of the Beloved, thus inspiring him in much the same way as Beatrice inspired Dante. Because he was open and willing to learn from these women, Ibn Arabi was gifted with a meaningful vision of Sophia, the Mediatrix who guided his soul’s transformation.

Similar claims about the mystical experiences of spirit persons are made in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism as well. St. Paul, St. John the Divine, Ste. Teresa, and Mother Julian of Norwich are examples from Christianity. Christianity’s ultimate Mediatrix, is, of course, Mary, Queen of the Universe who intercedes with Jesus on behalf of humanity. Examples of Jewish mystics who experienced Sophia’s feminine way of communicating wisdom are Rabbi Levi ben Haytha, Isaac Luria, Rabbi Abraham Berukhim, and Rabbi Joseph Karo. The Dalai Lama of Buddhism and the Hindu guru Sai Baba are current examples from Eastern religions.

If our Mediatrix is not bringing spiritual meaning to us it is because our egos will not cooperate. A fearful ego cannot think freely or creatively. The more fragile and frightened it is, the more fiercely it clings to habit and tradition, for to a death-obsessed ego, stepping beyond the safety promised by orthodoxy feels like a death sentence. Ironically, as innumerable spirit persons have shown, it is, in fact, the way to new spiritual life.


Sophia’s Way August 17, 2010

Sophia, the Wisdom of God, has always been acknowledged in sacred writings. In the Septuagint Old Testament, the oldest translation of the Hebrew Bible, she is a central figure in six of the seven wisdom books: The Wisdom of Solomon, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Ecclesiasticus. Although Sophia’s mystical path to inner knowing has not been preached to the multitudes for the past 2,000 years, today it is returning to our awareness.

In 1987 Jean Houston wrote in The Search for the Beloved, “Denied and repressed for thousands of years, the goddess archetype returns at a time when the breakdown of the old story leaves us desperate for love, for security for protection, for meaning. It leaves us yearning for a nurturing and cultivation of our whole being, that we might be adequate stewards of the planetary culture.”

As people who are finding Sophia for themselves can tell you, her Way is riddled with mystery and paradox. For example, each seeker, whether supported by a group or not, travels alone, yet increasingly experiences not separation, but reconciliation: between conscious and unconscious, self and other, mind and body, masculine and feminine, God the Father and God the Mother. Ultimately Sophia’s Way leads to union with everyone and everything, including the Mystery. Why? Because the essence of the sacred feminine is connection and relationship.

Here’s another paradox: As you move into your own unknown territory, the more lost you get the more found you feel. The inner path leads to a joyful reunion with the lovely sense of wonder, mystery, and meaning most of us had as children and lost as adults. This is a most extraordinary gift, especially during the second half of life, for against all expectations we find that while we were gradually losing our youth and physical power we were gaining something far more precious and lasting: the ability to live from our authentic Self. Why? Because to discover the sacred feminine is to discover the neglected and forgotten half of the Self.

A third paradox: As you grow more introspective on the inward spiritual journey, your perspective on life grows more expansive. This speaks to the common misconception that taking oneself seriously through self-study is somehow selfish, self-indulgent, or self-centered. In fact, the contrary is true: The better you know and love yourself, the more you feel and express love for others. Why? Because the sacred feminine’s form of love is not a mental ideal but a physical and emotional reality.

My latest discovery is that the more reverence you acquire for your internal, metaphysical universe, the more you experience the sacredness of the external, physical one. Why? Because Sophia is the sacred essence of life, both within and without.

The final paradox is that while we have to discover these truths for ourselves, we can claim absolutely no credit for them. As the Right Reverend Larry Maze says in Issue 17 of  The Rose, in an article titled “Jung and the Inner Mystic,” “…Wisdom that is truly Wisdom has always been Wisdom and will always be Wisdom…Wisdom is the stuff of being consciously alive in the world. Indeed, Wisdom is the universe being alive with meaning.”

I’ll have more to say about meaning soon. Meanwhile, you might want to ask yourself what gives your life meaning. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.


Gnosis: The Wisdom of Experiencing August 14, 2010

When my God-image was wholly masculine I was like a computer in a darkened room. My head was a storehouse of data and my mind was a whirlwind of non-stop activity filling every corner of the screen with a continuous flow of thoughts, words, ideas, questions, and concerns. I knew many facts and theories about the outer world, and I knew how to make them sound and look good, but I understood little about my inner life. In effect, the bright screen I presented to the world was only a pinpoint of light in a vast darkness. Meanwhile, beyond my dark room was an unknown universe of light, feeling, meaning, sensation, and beauty.

My introduction to that universe was gradual. In the 30 years between 17 and 47 I underwent three crises of meaning triggered by life experiences that compelled me to question the purpose of my life and the spiritual beliefs I looked to as guides. Each time, after searching for new sources of spiritual sustenance, I was given a glimpse into the realm beyond: twice by way of physical, sensory experiences that had no traditional, logical, or scientific explanations, and the third time by way of some “big” dreams that provided invaluable guidance. Through these experiences my believing was gradually replaced by knowing that something sacred existed in me that had nothing to do with my ego. I knew it because I had experienced it.

I had no idea where my experiences came from or why they happened, and I can prove nothing about them to anyone. But they happened, these physical, sensory, life-altering, inner events. These “feminine” spiritual awakenings. These gifts of grace. And they changed me, inflaming my languishing spirit and restoring meaning to a soul that had practically dried up for lack of it.

Jung pointed out that “the ideas which form the content of every religion are not primarily the product of an externally originating revelation, but of a subjective revelation from within the human psyche.” For him, for the Christian Gnostics, and for everyone who has ever struggled to overcome the limitations of the spirit of the times which does not address the spirit of the depths, a new kind of certainty arises from unexplainable, personally compelling phenomena. Belief in outer authorities simply cannot stand up to an interior event — whether it is a powerful new insight, dream, vision, synchronistic experience, or profound emotion — which opens our hearts and fills us with awe, wonder, reverence, compassion, and meaning.

Once Dr. Jung was asked if he believed in God. His reply was something like, “I do not need to believe in God; I know.” In Jungian psychology our minds and spirits are equated with the masculine principle and our bodies and souls with the feminine principle. Dr. Jung’s reply indicates that he had experienced the Great Mystery in the feminine Way that originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, and that he had used its unique language to inform and enrich his own spiritual journey. His recently published The Red Book is a brilliant testament to the value of this way of connecting with the Mystery as a life-transforming spiritual path.

Personally meaningful spiritual experiences give rise to gnosis, the spiritual knowing that transforms our ego’s heroic struggle for consciousness from single-minded self-centeredness into centeredness in the Self, the source of all our spiritual striving.

What spiritual experiences have helped you become more centered in the Self?


Meeting the Mistress of the Forest August 10, 2010

Once I read about a horse that lived in the same pasture for over 30 years, eating the same old tired grass, trying to find shade in the noonday heat under the same scrawny tree. After many years of neglect, the fence that separated this pasture from a lush, grassy meadow studded with beautiful leafy trees crumbled and eventually fell. Stepping over the fallen wood would have been a very simple matter for the horse, yet it stood at the border where it had always stood, looking longingly over at the grass as it had always looked.

I feel so sorry for that horse. It had become so accustomed to its old boundaries that it never noticed when they were outworn. I wish someone from the other side had called it over so it could have spent its final years grazing in a greener, fresher, infinitely more satisfying space.

Many of us have felt our spirits quicken through glimpses of something ineffable in the mist beyond normal awareness and longed to pursue it. But habitual assumptions are not easy to overcome. Moreover, the daily demands of life are so compelling that we usually defer our journey into the deeply alluring recesses of the forest until another day.

What are we to do if we do not want to end up like that horse? Luckily we humans have a special someone who beckons to us from beyond our outworn boundaries: she is the wisdom of the Deep Feminine traditionally called Sophia. But to hear her call we need to turn off the constant flow of words and listen with our hearts and bodies.

Her voice is very soft; her call, though compelling, is quiet. She speaks to us in urges, needs, wishes, emotions, feelings, synchronicities, yearnings, physical symptoms, accidents, instincts, nature, meaningful insights, joyful experiences, bursts of unexpected pleasure, creative ideas, images, symbols, dreams: all the things we have learned to ignore so we can perform with utmost efficiency in the rat race of daily life.

The message in her communiques seems so subversive that we have learned to ignore it too. Do not fear the unknown, she says when we are tempted to risk exploring the wilderness of our souls. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be content with the half life that comes from avoiding your fears. Feel your fears, follow your passions, experience your life with all your being. Open yourself and go deeper, for great treasures lie buried in your depths.

Following Sophia does not result in a quick fix, but if we will go boldly and persevere, the mansion doors to the eternal sacred that lies within will open unto us. The inhabitant of that mansion is the Self, our inner Beloved. Made of equal parts masculine and feminine energy, the Self is often symbolized by the King and Queen. Here in the West we project our King onto the distant Sky God and remain relatively ignorant of his feminine partner, Sophia, the Mistress of the Forest who is as close to us as our own breath and blood. Thus do we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from her wisdom and cross over into her sacred space.

So how, exactly, are we different from that old horse?

How has the Mistress of the Forest been speaking to you lately? What is she saying?


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