Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Religion and the Sacred Marriage November 30, 2010

That a man cannot be whole without accepting his feminine side and that the Sacred indwells all of us are not new ideas. But what is less commonly known is that these ideas were accepted by many early Christians.

Dr. Stephan Hoeller has examined the Dead Sea Scrolls and the lost gospels found in the Nag Hammadi Library in Egypt. In Jung and the Lost Gospels he notes that in the Gospel of Thomas Simon Peter asks Jesus to send Mary away from the disciples because he believes women unworthy. In response to Peter’s chauvinism, Jesus tells him in the only way he is capable of understanding, “…every woman that becomes male will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus shows that the opposite is also true when he says, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inmost as the outermost and the outer as the inner and the above as the below, and when you make the male and female into a single unity, so that the male will not be only male and the female will not be only female…then surely you will enter the kingdom.”

Dr. Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton, has also studied the lost gospels. In Beyond Belief she describes the writings and actions of many early church leaders who, despite the assertion in the book of Genesis that we were made “in the image of God,” simply could not conceive “that God’s light shines not only in Jesus but, potentially, at least, in everyone”. One example was Irenaeus, the Christian bishop of Lyons (c. 180) who vigorously warned his flock to despise “heretics” who suggest that we have inner spiritual resources. Nonetheless, what Irenaeus dismissed “as heretical later became a central theme of Jewish mystical tradition — that the ‘image of God’ is hidden within each of us, secretly linking God and all humankind”.

The lost gospels show that Jesus gave special teachings to those of his disciples who could understand them. One of these was Mary Magdalene who succeeded in making the “male” (masculine mode of energy) and “female” (feminine mode of energy) into a single unity, thus experiencing the Sacred Marriage  and entering the kingdom within.

In psychological language we would say that her ego died to the world’s opinion and established the proper relationship with the Sacred Self within. We can imagine how mind-blowing this inner re-centering must have been at a time when no one had any understanding of psychology. In freeing herself from narrow conventional thinking she must have been a revolutionary role model for women, a formidable proponent of the new religion, and an easy target for misogynists like Pope Gregory who, over 500 years later, labeled her a fallen, sinful woman.

In the first century Middle East the concepts of femininity being as worthy as masculinity and humanity containing divinity were incomprehensible to most people and documents promoting these ideas had to be hidden away to prevent their destruction,. Thus, much of the wisdom of the early “Jesus Movement” was lost to the masses for two thousand years. Fortunately, it is being resurrected today by Spirit Warriors from every religion who honor the authority of God’s kingdom within each of us over limiting beliefs imposed by human hierarchies from without.

 

Living Your Myth November 27, 2010

We’re in Bangkok on the first leg of our trip. Twelve of us are traveling with a guide, a native Thailander from a village near the river Kwai. He tells us it’s winter, but it’s hot, in the upper 80’s. Luckily, the little bus we travel in is air-conditioned.

Yesterday morning on my way to the bus I smelled incense. Looking for its origin, I saw a young man standing in a tree-shaded area beside the road. He was placing a marble urn holding several red incense sticks he had just lit onto a pedestaled table. As I watched he gave a little bow then turned to a young woman standing nearby. She handed him two beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers which he solemnly placed beside the incense. I was witnessing a sacred ritual.

The setting was a tiny outdoor chapel, maybe eight feet wide by twelve feet long The walls were trees and plants; the roof was the sky; the floor was a platform of black marble laid over raw earth. The table was an altar. His offerings sat beside small clay jars of water, candle holders, two marble urns filled with sprays of purple orchids, and an intricately patterned tray holding a bunch of small bananas, a coconut with a straw protruding from under its lid, and a pineapple.

A few steps beyond and above the altar, framed in an open-sided ark inlaid with multicolored glass mosaics, was a gilded, four-armed god sitting serenely on a lotus flower. Draped in a thick garland of marigolds, he was flanked by items of worship. Above his head hovered a giant, hooded, seven-headed cobra. I was charmed and intrigued. What was this place? Why was it here? Who was the god? Why were these people bringing flowers and incense to him? Our guide, Ole’, (yes, pronounced like the Spanish accolades for bullfighters), provided the answers.

This place is a spirit house. You can find them all over Thailand. Based on the Hindu belief in the sacredness in everything, they are outdoor chapels where people can honor the spirit of the land and those who have lived there by invoking the blessing of the creator god, Brahma. Usually they are located on the northeast corner of the property where they will not be in shadow. Perhaps the young man used to live on this land where now there is a large, modern hotel. Maybe he came to honor the birthday of an ancestor. Or maybe he and the woman are caretakers of this particular spirit house and come every morning to honor the god with their gifts.

I’ll never know the identity of this couple or the reason for their devotion. But I won’t soon forget their attitude of sincere reverence. It was obvious they were living a myth that informed and infused their lives. They had taken a few moments to enter the presence of the sacred, knowing they were known by something beyond themselves, believing their sincere actions and generous offerings were appreciated and worthy.

It doesn’t matter what your myth is or what gods you worship or how you invoke their presence. What matters is that you have a religious attitude toward the miracle of your life and the people, places, and symbols dear to you: that you practice awareness of the Mystery, approach it with reverence and a sincere desire to honor it, make efforts to connect with it, and derive purpose and meaning from it. What matters is how you are living your myth.  All day I’ve been asking myself, “How am I living my myth?

 

A Thanksgiving Blessing November 23, 2010

Years ago when The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth was first published, I presented several workshops about the differences between the life cycles of men and women. Using the model of the ancient descent myths which preceded hero myths and often featured women whose journeys followed a pattern of sacrifice, suffering, death, and rebirth — for example, the Sumerian myth of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth — I encouraged participants to reflect on how they had experienced these stages in their own lives.

My purpose was threefold. First, I wanted them to understand the differences between how their feminine and masculine sides experience life, and to know that both are valid and worthy of our attention. Second, I wanted to guide them in an experience of inner work that would expand their self-knowledge. Third, I wanted them to understand the repetitive nature of life’s processes so that they might acquire trust that each ending is also always a hopeful new beginning.

One memory from those workshops stands out from all others. Having experienced a lengthy and painful death-like period in the middle of my life, I was speaking about the hope and gratitude that had followed it when a psychiatrist asked me a question. “I have a client who is a deeply depressed and bitter quadriplegic,” she told us. “He can’t do anything for himself. He will spend the rest of his life this way. He is not religious. What hope can I give him about rebirth? What should he be grateful for?”

The room was silent. My first thoughts were, Who am I to be talking about rebirth when I’ve never had a death experience remotely like the one this man is suffering at this very moment? What kind of hope does he have? I had an answer, but in that moment I couldn’t think how to express it in a way that wouldn’t sound flippant.  I was very humbled and remember expressing that feeling, but have no recollection of what else I said. I have carried that question with me ever since and would like to answer it to the best of my ability now, just in case that doctor or patient, or someone like them, might someday find my thoughts helpful.

If you are reading this post on the day of its publication two days before Thanksgiving, I am on a plane headed for Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia, sites of some of the most horrendous killing fields on the planet where vast numbers of human beings suffered and died in ways I cannot imagine or bear to think about. What was left for them to be grateful for in their last moments?

Life. They had Sophia’s sacred spark of Life. Until their last breaths they had traces of sensory awareness, memories, thoughts, feelings. Perhaps they saw the sunlight sparkle on a blade of grass, felt a cool breeze, remembered the taste of chocolate ice cream or the feel of a mother’s tender touch, experienced a rush of love for their lovers, children, or grandchildren.

We have Life. What could be more worthy of thanks? May the miracle of being alive in this precious moment, this perfect Now, give you hope and gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day and in the days to come.

 

Recurring Dreams About the Persona November 20, 2010

Recurring dreams can be especially effective teachers. They describe important inner truths that require your attention. Once you recognize these aspects of your unknown self and can see their impact on your waking life, recurring dreams lose their value and disappear.

If a recurring dream makes you anxious or afraid, it’s usually about shadow qualities your ego would rather not face or painful experiences you want to forget. If it brings pleasure, joy, or awe it’s probably about progress in your journey of self-discovery. Either way, the purpose of a recurring dream is to bring insights that lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

For example, the “naked in public” dream shows how comfortable you are with revealing the naked truth about yourself. Feeling embarrassed and ashamed in the dream usually means you have recently exposed an aspect of yourself you wish you hadn’t. Conversely, being unconcerned suggests you’ve accepted a previously disowned quality and no longer care who sees it.

The common dream of teeth falling out usually pertains to waking life situations in which you’re afraid you’ve created a bad impression and believe you’re “losing face.” After all, having a strong set of choppers lets you “sink your teeth” into something and demonstrates your bulldog strength, determination and persistence. This dream tells you you’re concerned about losing power and appearing weak, impotent, or unconfident.

Dreams about our public personalities are persona dreams. We start wearing masks in childhood when we realize people are watching and judging us. A wounded soul might create a very withdrawn or rigidly controlled persona, or one that changes like a chameleon, or one that is always performing to impress or please.  These are disguises born of the need to shield the core Self from public view. A healthy persona has the flexibility to respond in a variety of ways appropriate to each situation without betraying the Self. Thus, we can sometimes be the teacher and at other times the learner; sometimes a curmudgeon, sometimes a clown; sometimes a sage and sometimes a fool. What truly matters about our persona is not how well it shapes the perceptions we want others to have of us, but how openly and authentically it reflects the truths of the soul beneath.

As a child I was relaxed and confident around others, but after my father died I grew fearful and painfully self-conscious. One recurring persona dream I still occasionally have is of pulling gooey, grainy gunk out of my mouth and trying to dispose of it without anyone noticing, but no matter how much I remove there’s always more.  This depicts an exaggerated concern about offending or annoying people with something that comes out of me. In another dream I haven’t had in years I’d be searching through a closet for something  to wear (clothes are common symbols of the persona) and be thrilled to discover an article of clothing I had forgotten I owned. This said that in my search for ways to enhance my public personality I had happily brought a disowned or forgotten quality into consciousness. 

Recurring persona dreams indicate unresolved issues about our public personality. With reflection we can connect these dreams to recent waking life situations. This awareness empowers us to be easier on ourselves and more relaxed and genuine with others so that our soul’s light can shine through for all to see.

 

The Girl in Dark Water November 16, 2010

The dream “Nude Descending Stairs” demonstrated how full of myself I was feeling for having  dared to bare a “naked” truth. That same night I had a second dream depicting the other side of the tightrope. Prepare yourself. It’s kind of gross.

Dream #4252: Maggot Descending Nostrils

I pick something out of my right nostril. It’s small, whitish, and bean-shaped. I put it in the palm of my left hand to examine it. I move into the light to see it better. I’m appalled to see it has burrowed between two fingers. Oh, God. It is as I have always suspected. I have some sort of rotten infestation and the truth is finally coming out. I wonder if anyone else has seen one of these emerging from my nose. I wonder what it is. A maggot? I find two more and throw them away quickly. I am disgusted, but also resigned. It is what it is. I’ll just have to deal with it.

The day before this dream I noticed a small brown object on the floor that looked like a piece of tree bark someone had tracked in. On closer inspection, I saw it move. It was some sort of insect. Mildly repelled, I carried it outdoors and tossed it in the hedge. This was obviously the trigger for the dream image, but the dream wasn’t just a random replay of a waking event. There was meaning in it, and it was up to me to coax it out.

The first thing I think, both in the dream and when I remember it later, is, Ugh, I knew it. There’s something disgusting in me. Is Dream Mother saying I’m profoundly flawed? I don’t think so. She doesn’t want me to feel badly. She just wants me to see a feeling or assumption so deeply rooted and ever-present that I’m unaware of it; the way a fish doesn’t notice the unhealthy water it’s in because it’s never known anything else.

So I go back to the waking life event that triggered this dream: I picked up something, examined it, and found it repellant. In the dream I’m picking something out of my nose, examining it, and……Aha! This is what I do! I’m always picking at myself and feeling repelled by something that has come out of me: a critical thought, a careless word, a subtle bid for approval or sympathy. The dream doesn’t say I’m basically unworthy: it merely says I have always secretly suspected that I am, or else the Lone Ranger wouldn’t have shot me and Daddy wouldn’t have left me by divorcing Mama and then dying!

Moreover, there’s a pattern. This dream came immediately after the naked dream in which I felt gloriously free to be myself. But I barely had time to enjoy that before Wham! I started picking on myself and the wonderful feelings were replaced with self-disgust and sad resignation. I must have been doing the same thing in waking life without realizing it. In fact, yes, I was feeling a bit low the day before this dream.

There’s a wounded girl in me who’s been floating in dark water for a very long time. But the good news is, I am beginning to recognize her unhealthy attitude! And if I can stay conscious of it, the next time she shows up I can choose to  reassure her instead of letting her drag me down. I like it better when she and I are out in the open, naked and proud and breathing fresh, clean air.

 

The “Naked” Dream November 13, 2010

Beginning with “Gated Religions” I’ve been far more outspoken about social issues than is normal for me.  One night three weeks into the series of posts about injustice I had two dreams depicting my feelings about the new direction my blog is taking. I’d like to share the first one here, partly because it contains one of the commonest dream themes of all — being naked in public — and partly because it helps me illustrate the point I made in “Under the Big Top” about what it’s like for me to try to stay conscious. Next time I’ll tell you about the second dream.

Dream #4251: Nude Descending Stairs

I’m in a public square in an urban area. I’ve walked up a flight of steps to a higher level and am ready to go back down. I go to the edge of the platform I’m on intending to step down, but see I’m much higher than I thought. I return to the steps but am intimidated by their narrowness and the fact that there are no railings. I’m concerned about losing my balance and falling and making a public spectacle of myself. It seems as if I’m wearing big clunky boots that might cause me to mis-step and will make it harder to feel my way. Then I look down at myself and realize, Oh! I’m naked. No shoes, nothing. With a flash of awareness I realize there’s no way I’d be naked in public so this has to be a dream. This delights me. Well then, I think. If this is a dream I have nothing to lose. I shall descend the stairs, proudly naked for all to see! I take a deep breath and in a queenly gesture I throw back my shoulders, spread out my arms, and glide serenely down the steps.

The dream says I’m feeling a bit too high for comfort and want to get down. My first thought is that I want to stay balanced (a frequent concern of mine; hence, the sense of walking a tightrope I wrote about in Under the Big top). My second is that I don’t want to publicly embarrass myself. But seeing my nakedness awakens me to the reality that I’m dreaming and after that I feel wonderful.

In my experience, lucid dreams (dreams in which you know you’re dreaming) point to a new level of awareness in which you have seen a limiting fear or assumption and are acquiring the courage to rise above it. It’s like you’ve realized, If life is just a dream, I have nothing to fear by being me. When I reflect on my waking life I see that what I’m overcoming is a gut-level childhood fear of attracting criticism or controversy for expressing my honest opinions.  After the Lone Ranger shot me and my father died, all confidence and security vanished, danger awaited the smallest mis-step, and conflict felt profoundly life-threatening.

Blessedly, for the moment, at least, I’m losing my fear of exposing the naked truth about my views and feeling positive, confident, and empowered. Hence, my queenly stroll down the steps! If I’d rushed to cover myself up, this dream would be showing me how intimidated I still am at the prospect of public vulnerability and censure.

This is incredibly liberating. I’m reminded of the line from Kris Kristofferson’s song, Me and Bobby McGee: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Sort of like being naked. No more masks to take off. Rock on, Kris!

 

Invoking Mother Justice November 9, 2010

Issues of right and wrong, good and bad, are core concerns of every seeker. Our ideas about how to handle moral issues derive from the psyche’s two primary archetypes: the King and the Queen. The King’s way to keep order, protect citizens and promote the flourishing of the realm is to create hierarchical systems of laws and penalties. The buck stops with the leaders — judges, dictators, presidents, imams, rabbis, priests, generals, CEO’s and gods — at the top of these systems.

Thus far in recorded history the King’s vision has predominated. However, when we look at civilization’s overall progress — from the Code of Hammurabi, the earliest written system of laws created in Mesopotamia in 1790 BCE, to the present — we see that our ideas about justice and morality have evolved dramatically: from ancient codes that self-righteously discriminated against slaves, members of lower social classes, women, minorities, and the poor; through elite monarchies and dictatorships where the leaders have absolute rule; to democracies founded on the principles of freedom and justice for all. Without a doubt we have made progress, but the daily news reminds us how far we fall short of our goals of lawful order and moral virtue.

What is at the heart of our growth toward moral maturity? The complementary vision of our Queen. Despite ignorance and repression, her ethic of shared authority, mercy, compassion, and care has manifested in shining moments throughout history and literature. For instance, in ancient Egypt the Queen’s interpretation of morality as a matter of the heart was considered one of the unalterable laws of life. The goddess Maat tested the weight of each dead person’s heart in one bowl of a sacred balance scale against the lightness of an ostrich feather in the other. If the heart was heavier than the feather, the soul was lost. Christianity was founded on this ethic, as was the legend of King Arthur’s Camelot and Victor Hugo’s fictional masterpiece, Les Miserables.

But no religion, nation, or era has ever been free of the influence of the shadow and never will. The shadow is our unconscious psychological underbelly, and our ignorance of it continually thwarts every effort to purge ourselves of all hardness and heaviness, all uncaring and mean-spiritedness, all selfishness, immorality, prejudice, hatred, and unforgiveness. Despite every fair law and good intention, our individual and cultural shadows will continue their ruthless reigns until we each accept personal responsibility for our moral failings.

Order and virtue rest on individual transformation. Balancing the Queen’s caring, understanding and forgiving with the King’s fairness and justice is key to that transformation. Maat’s scale judges the heart, not the head. She does not evaluate our god-images, ideals, the orthodoxy of our beliefs, the number of rules we know and keep, or whether or not our punishment fits our crime. Her concern is our capacity for compassion, mercy, generosity, kindness, and forgiveness. Moreover, her decisions are not based on her authority or the authority of the wisest leaders. Her decisions are based on internal evidence, and that is something we alone can judge. In Sophia’s ethic, the buck stops with our heart.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that all our hard work and good intentions will never make a lasting difference in the world until we take the first step of healing our own hearts.  If we’re not living with love, we’re still part of the problem.

 

 
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