Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Winter Holy Days From A Cosmic Perspective December 28, 2010

It is holiday season in many parts of the planet, and God and Goddess are sitting on their lawn thrones observing the many rituals their children on Earth have created to celebrate their Mystery. There are preparations: lists drawn up, duties assigned, purchases made, rehearsals attended. Spaces are beautified. Bodies are adorned. There are pageants and processions, concerts and recitals, parties, meals, gifts. There are ceremonies with prayers, offerings, readings, teachings, and pronouncements. There are altars, flowers, candles, plants, art, holy objects, sacred images, special vessels. There is food, music, color, texture, scent, darkness and light. And in the hearts of some participants, there are quickenings of sacred meaning.

God glances at Goddess. He can see that she has something on her mind. “You aren’t enjoying this as much as I am, are you? What’s the matter?”

“Well, the reverence and beauty and good intentions are very heartwarming. I adore our children when they’re like this. They’re trying so hard. But for some of them, none of this is making any difference.” Goddess gestures to several spots on Earth. “Look at that place of worship over there. And those over there. And those. I see some hearts glowing with promising light, but do you see how many are almost completely smothered in darkness? I’m hurting for them, the ones for whom the traditional rituals are just duty, habit, entertaining diversions, or social occasions. Some of them don’t even want to be there. They aren’t experiencing Us. For them, the rituals have no meaning. And if there’s no meaning, there’s no transformative power.”

God nods and sighs. “Yes, you’re right. You’re so good at looking beneath externalities to the heart and soul of things. That’s always been your specialty.”

Goddess continues. “It’s just so sad to see how they’re so focused on the past and so worried about the future that they’re numb to the present. They don’t even see their fear, their anxiety, their lack of joy and passion, their hopelessness. They come to these events wanting to feel something, some spark of inspiration or hope, and so many of them leave with nothing but disappointment and guilt. Look at them just sitting there, repeating words that mean nothing to them. Smiling at people they don’t even like. Worrying about whether or not they’re wearing the right clothes or saying the right things. They’re acting, not being true to themselves. Why don’t they pay attention to what really feels sacred to them?

“That one over there should be out hiking. The only meaningful connection she ever felt to Us was on a mountaintop. And him? He should be writing the original music that’s playing in his head right now. It’s the only thing that inspires and excites him, yet he’s too busy doing things he hates to do the one thing he loves.

“And that couple. She’s a brilliant teacher; he’s a gifted therapist. They’re mature spirit persons with so much to offer. They’re dying to be of service, but there are no opportunities for them in their place of worship. Why don’t they create some new rituals with symbols and myths that speak personally to them and invite people with similar interests to participate? Don’t they get it that they don’t have to betray you to honor me? Most of them have no problem with loving both of their physical parents. Don’t they know they can love us both at the same time too? Don’t they know they honor us both by honoring the life in their bodies, their creativity, the true gifts of their souls that we gave them at birth? Their passions? Their genuine spiritual needs? Don’t they understand that they worship us every time they love and nurture new life in themselves and each other?”

Goddess begins to cry. “My poor, poor children. Some of them try so hard to please you by keeping up appearances. But how many of them will leave their bodies without ever appreciating the life in them? Without enjoying the beauty and diversity of that exquisite planet? Without knowing themselves? Without discovering their passions? Without creating anything original or fulfilling their purposes or fully living their unique lives? It’s such a tragic waste!”

Sadly, tenderly, God holds Goddess as she weeps for her lost children, the Orphans who will never know the love of their Divine Mother.

 

The Secret Meaning of Christmas December 25, 2010

Imagine our surprise when, on our recent trip to Indochina, our group of travelers arrived in Saigon to find it decorated for Christmas! Windows of one major department store were topped with thick mounds of carved styrofoam snow. Our hotel lobby held a giant blue Christmas tree and a life-sized Santa Claus who swiveled his hips while he sang “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” When I asked our guide why a mostly Buddhist country celebrates Christmas in such a big way, he replied, “Christmas is universal now. It’s all about shopping.”

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what it’s about for many Westerners too, along with decorating our homes, reuniting with loved ones, preparing special foods and exchanging presents. Amidst all the bustle I wonder how many of us actually experience the love, joy and peace that is the promise of Christmas or profoundly connect with its underlying psycho-spiritual meaning. And what is that meaning? To find it we need to use the symbolic language of mythos.

The Christmas story takes place in a stable filled with animals at the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of year. Throughout the world, common associations for the symbol of darkness include the unconsciousness of our instinctual animal nature and all the ignorance, chaos, death, and moral irresponsibility that goes with it. Psychologically, this setting is a reference to unconsciousness, the state in which we all begin our lives and often end them as well.

The plot centers around a virgin who gives birth to a baby boy. Virgins and babies symbolize innocence and the abundance of undeveloped possibilities, like the pure state of a soul ready to receive Spirit. Birth represents new life with its potential for growth into greater maturity and wisdom. And is there significance in the fact that the baby is a boy? Yes. Remember Durga’s story from two posts back? Mary, like Durga, symbolizes the feminine source of all energy, and Jesus represents an extraordinarily hopeful new masculine form of ego-life that has manifested from the maternal matrix. From our soul’s perspective, the significance of Jesus is that 2,000 years ago he introduced into the Near-Eastern world an unprecedented (for that place and time) new capacity for an inner birth of a deeply personal, intimate experience of Spirit.

At the end of the story three (the number of forward movement that overcomes duality) kings (the masculine principle, sovereignty, and worldly power) arrive after a long and arduous trek from the Far East. Guided by a star, (stars are attributes of all Queens of Heaven and represent the highest attainment, the presence of divinity, hope and light), they bring rare and precious gifts for the tiny baby. The kings symbolize the hard work of individuation and the religious outlook of unified consciousness, a way of being that sees the sacredness in everything and reveres every form of life down to the smallest and seemingly least important.

Like the myths of every religion, the value of this story does not hinge on external fact, but psychological truth. Christ mass celebrates a momentous evolutionary leap forward in ego consciousness from a primitive, self-serving survival mentality into an advanced self-awareness capable of authentic being and compassionate living. The secret meaning of Christmas is that you and I can experience a rebirth into Christ-awareness.

May psychological and spiritual enlightenment be quickened worldwide during this holiday season, and may the love in our hearts be abundant and overflowing.  Thank you for stopping by on this most blessed day. Merry Christmas.

 

Sophia’s Gift of Meaning December 21, 2010

Psychologists look for meaning in dream, myth, and fairy tale symbols because, as products of the unconscious, they compensate for the narrow visions of our egos and show us what we need to know to grow and thrive.  Reflecting on the metaphorical  meaning of our stories educates, encourages, and empowers us.

Here’s an example of what we can learn from fairy tales. The initial situation in a fairy tale represents the conscious state of affairs in a culture or individual. Leaving the original setting and going into the forest opens up the possibility for new insights lacking in the conscious orientation. What happens to those who enter the forest depends on their attitudes. The one who is indifferent, self-centered, self-righteous, proud, or disrespectful; the know-it-all who does not listen to advice; the person who must take charge, dominate, or control; the one who refuses to change: these people fall by the wayside or return home in disgrace. Such characters represent the weak and immature ego which does not easily acknowledge the significance of otherness. As the fairy tales illustrate, this attitude is ultimately destined for failure.

The hero or heroine in fairy tale and myth is always the one who succeeds because s/he has the correct attitude — the same attitude of humility, alert attention, trust, reverence, and respect that characterizes the deeply religious — toward the strange and magical beings encountered in the forest. This theme reflects a very profound truth. According to Jung, acquiring a religious outlook is an essential component of the journey to wholeness. By “religious” Jung did not mean believing in specific creeds that reflect personal or cultural biases. Rather he meant having reverence for every form of life including the unconscious, unknown otherness in the world and ourselves.

Religions try to develop religious attitudes by teaching their devotees to revere the symbols and themes of their myths and find spiritual meaning in them. Meaning is a human necessity. With it, there’s nothing we can’t bear; without it, there’s nothing to live for. There is nothing logical about meaning. We cannot see it, explain it, measure it, or prove it to anyone’s satisfaction. Nevertheless, it is a profound reality. If we have it, we know it because we feel a sense of purpose and vitality that was formerly lacking. Meaning is the “Aha!” of understanding; the “Eureka!” of discovery; the light bulb that turns on with a new insight or idea; the joy of finding the purpose of our lives; the blissful participation in eternity when we’re absorbed in work we love; the awed awareness of the miracle of being alive and knowing we are known and loved by something beyond ourselves.

The Greek myths provided sacred meaning for people in the Golden Age, but as the world changed and people grew more conscious they no longer found meaning in the old myths. The same is true of many people today for whom the myths of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, or Islam are no longer tenable. While losing faith in our religious traditions can be devastating, it is a signal that we are ready for a newer, more personally meaningful and experiential spirituality. We receive this gift from Sophia, our spiritual mediatrix and mother, by looking within, listening to our hearts, discovering our true selves, and following our bliss:  in other words, by creating and living our own myths.

If you seek a deeper, more fulfilling spirituality, listen to what nourishes your soul with meaning. That’s Sophia talking and you can trust her. She knows the way home to your Self.  May you experience more of her gift.

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

 

Solving the Mystery of Archetypes December 14, 2010

There is something very important we need to understand about ourselves if we are to be psychologically literate: Our ego may think it is the whole story, but it is not. It is merely that aspect of  our psyche with which we consciously identify.

If the entire psyche were to be compared to a mystery novel, complete with plot, characters, and events, the ego would be the detective who can never know all the facts because he cannot inhabit the minds of the other characters or be everywhere at once to see all that happens behind the scenes. The information to which the detective does not have access is like our unconscious self which operates independently of our conscious ego. All the detective (or ego) can do is observe and follow the clues our unconscious self leaves behind. The clues are things we don’t understand about ourselves:  all our contradictory urges, compulsive behaviors, thoughtless words and confusing emotions.  Luckily, they are very easy to find for they show up constantly in waking life and dreams.

Our unconscious self has two levels: personal and collective. Our personal unconscious is the sea of forgotten or untapped material unique to us. The collective unconscious, which is farther from our ego’s awareness, is the core of pre-formed patterns inherited by every human. The physical patterns are our instincts; their psychological counterparts are called archetypes. We all inherit the same patterns, but, like the outlined shapes in coloring books, everyone fills them in differently because of different genetic inheritance and life experiences.

Throughout history humans have personified the contents of the collective unconscious  and projected them onto gods and goddesses. For the Greeks,  Dionysus and Aphrodite represented the instinct for sex and the passions of love and jealousy; Persephone stood for the instinct for reflection, particularly the depressions that plunge us into the dark abyss of suffering; and Athena and Ares exemplified the aggressive, warlike aspects of our instinct for activity.

Since the ancients had no understanding of psychology, their deities were given both credit and blame for peoples’ powerful urges and unhealthy behavior. Thus, when a man was overcome with war-like rage he could say with a clear conscience and utter belief in his innocence, “Ares must have wanted that man dead or else he would not have made me kill him.” Or, “Aphrodite told Eros to pierce my heart with love for that woman I stole from her husband.”  People truly believed these things.

Projecting the archetypes onto deities enabled the ancients to escape overwhelming feelings of guilt and kept them unconscious of the almost unbearable knowledge of their own capacity for evil. But wait: Are we any different? Doesn’t belief in God still free us from the burden of having to take responsibility for our actions? Consider this:  if our country or religion makes war against another country or religion, don’t many of us justify it by believing God is on our side and wants us to correct and punish those terrible, evil people?

Why should we try to solve the mystery of archetypes? Because, for good or for ill, we all contain the demonic and divine powers represented by archetypes. Healthily balanced and empowered archetypal energies bring out the very best in human nature and have the potential to guide individuals, nations, and religions to peace, love,  wisdom, and healthy new life.  But this can only happen when enough egos recognize the archetypes as their roommates, and not external enemies or gods.

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

 

Beauty and the Beast December 11, 2010

The killing fields of Cambodia are worse than I imagined. You pull into a parking lot. You walk under a stucco arch identifying this as a site of genocide. You get it. In your mind. But you are utterly unprepared for the impact it makes on your emotions. You see grassy hillocks bordering innocuous-looking indentations in the earth. Then you look closer. Interspersed between grass and clay are snatches of muddied, colored fabric. Fragments of the clothes of victims. Here a bone. There a tooth. Several teeth.

I’m drawn to a thick, deeply veined tree with graceful branches. It looks peaceful as a blessing. I wonder if it has somehow felt traces of the agony of the victims who were brought here blindfolded, forced to kneel over their graves, then bludgeoned to death. I walk around it to read the sign. It has a name, this tree. It’s called Magic Tree. The sign says, “The tree was used as a tool to hang a loudspeaker which make sound [of music] louder to avoid the moan of victims while they were being executed.” Didn’t want to bother the neighbors.

The cuticles of my thumbs are bleeding. I’ve been gnawing at them since morning when we visited the high school in Phnom Penh that was turned into a prison for the men and women the Khmer Rouge considered enemies: teachers, artists, mechanics, shopkeepers. I left a room used for torturing “VIP’s” — mostly intellectuals — feeling ill and wiping away tears. Other rooms displayed glass protected photos taken of prisoners the day they arrived. An especially beautiful woman reminded me of Catherine Zeta-Jones. That’s her picture above. She might have been a movie star too had she lived.

When the Khmer Rouge collapsed in 1979 only seven of the 17,000 people processed through that prison known as S-21 had survived. Three of them are still alive. One happened to be there and agreed to talk with us. He said he was accused of being a spy for the CIA and was tortured three times a day to make him confess. He had no idea what the CIA was. He was spared the trip to the nearby killing field because he was a mechanic and knew how to repair the typewriters used for recording “confessions” and the sewing machines needed for making and repairing the clothes of officers and guards, many of whom are still alive and living, unpunished, in Cambodia.

The killers in the killing fields were teen-aged boys. They held babies and children by their ankles and swung them against tree trunks to bash in their heads. We wondered how they could have done such things. The answer is simple. Kill or be killed. They chose killing. Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge who ordered the killing spent some time in his youth as a monk. What turned him into the unspeakable monster he became? Some say he had syphilis. Others, that something very bad happened to him in his youth.

Can we picture ourselves ever doing such things? Most can’t. And yet, the archetype of evil dwells in all of us. Given the right circumstances our shadows could overcome us and you and I could kill too. But we also contain the Self, the archetype of divinity. It cannot protect us from the Pol Pots of the world, but unveiling its Beauty can protect others from the Beast in us.

 

Dreams of Weddings December 4, 2010

Wedding dreams, which can occur at any stage of life, tend to be especially meaningful. For example, the first dream I ever recorded (see post from Aug. 31, 2010) occurred during a life-changing mid-life transition and featured a wedding.

As a brief aside, you should know that therapists who do dreamwork find the first dream a client brings them extremely significant. This is because the Dream Mother is not about to waste the initial collaboration between the ego and Self on trivialities! Because she knows us better than we know ourselves, she sees when our egos are ready to get serious and intentionally gives us a big dream that highlights our major life issues and sometimes even suggests their resolution.

Sure enough, my first dream marked the point at which I committed myself to inner work and was, indeed, a commentary on the major theme of my life’s journey. (For those of you new to my blog, at the age of 11 my parents divorced and then my father died three months later after remarrying. So my life’s theme of healing my inner masculine and feminine and trying to reunite them in the Sacred Marriage shouldn’t surprise you!) My dream said I was running from the passions of my masculine side (to understand myself and write about the inner life); had an immature view of Love; had a feminine shadow that was woefully uncreative, unfulfilled, and incomplete; and had better start taking my life seriously if I didn’t want to end up like her!

Wedding dreams mark transitions between outworn stages of growth and more mature ones.  Essentially, they symbolize the dreamer’s readiness for greater internal union, expanding consciousness, and new psycho-spiritual life.

For example, a young adult might dream about weddings around the time of college graduation. I would see this as a celebration of the successful completion of an early phase of integrating one’s “masculine” side (developing knowledge and skills in preparation for work) with one’s “feminine” side (growing emotionally stronger and forming new intimate relationships). I’d also see it as a rehearsal for the next phase in which the task of finding meaningful work and a life partner with whom to settle down, establish a home, etc. begins in earnest. Finally, I would expect the role of bride or groom to be filled by the dream ego because this is the phase of life in which developing a strong and healthy ego is of paramount importance.

On the other hand, a wedding dream during mid-life would suggest something quite different. In my above-mentioned dream it was a reminder that I had tarried overlong in the stage of outer world ego-development and a signal that I was ready for the next stage of taking my inner life more seriously and integrating my fuller potential. As one would expect, the bride was an ambitious working woman very much like me.

But the consummate wedding dream is when you are invited to the wedding of the King and Queen, for this is a symbol of wholeness that means your ego is prepared to step aside and witness the Sacred Marriage between the noblest aspects of your Self. May you one day witness this most sacred sacrament of all.

 

 
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