Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dreams of the Animus April 30, 2011

Last weekend was special. I was born two days before Easter on Good Friday; but since Easter’s date is always changing, this year my birthday was the day before. April is glorious in Florida, so part of the specialness was getting to spend both holidays with my family in one long weekend at the beach. Another thing making it special was the dreams I had there. Of the two I recall, both featured my masculine side, or animus. Since one of my goals for this blog is to make Jungian psychology as relevant and helpful to others as it has been to me, I’d like to share these dreams in the hope of raising your awareness of your own inner resources.

Dream #4319: Passing Through a Threshold With My Animus. I’m entering an open doorway. A dear male friend (no one I know in waking life) is immediately behind me. His arms are wrapped around me, holding me gently. Our movements are so synchronized and easy that I can’t tell if he’s guiding or following me. Either way, it feels wonderful to be so close.

I awoke from this dream on my birthday. It was my first gift of the day. It said I am not alone as I move forward in my journey. Yes, I know I’m profoundly blessed to have a loving family, but the truth is, not one of them will ever feel my passions and emotions, understand my conflicts and yearnings, or experience my awakenings. It is my job to know and grow myself, not theirs. They have their own souls to make.

That’s okay, says this dream. Because my animus has always been with me he knows me completely; and because I have honored and empowered him, he will support me at the crossing of every threshold, even the one that opens to death. The comforting feeling of knowing my back is covered by this loving inner reality lingered all day.

Dream #4320: Dancing With My Animus. I’m on a small stage in an intimate room that feels like a chapel. I’m the female lead in a play; an attractive man is the male lead. We’re both feeling unsure of ourselves as we demonstrate a phase of a developing relationship in which neither partner completely trusts each other or their own feelings. We dance around the stage then he bends me over backwards and leans over me. We hold this pose and wait for the audience’s response so we’ll know what to do next. This play is an improvisation requiring spontaneous interaction and cooperation between the players as well as between the players and audience.

My birthday dream depicts one reward of accepting my masculine side. My Easter dream says this work is not over. The presence of an audience suggests that my other inner characters are interested in my soul-making drama. It could also refer to an outer audience which is watching and helping. Both interpretations feel right to me.

My ego’s passion is to know and relate to my whole Self; my animus’s passion is to help me manifest what I know in writing. The dream says we’re both still feeling our way in this partnership. The religious setting means our work together is sacred and archetypal. And the presence of an audience tells me the purpose of the dance between everyone’s masculine and feminine sides is twofold: to unite the opposites in our own souls, and to help all humanity birth this Sacred Marriage in the world.

 

What is Mysticism? April 26, 2011

Marcus Borg is a Biblical scholar and best-selling author who sees God as both transcendent and indwelling everything, a perspective called “panentheism.” (Note the second syllable, “en.”) I’ve been a fan for a long time, so when he came to Orlando recently I couldn’t wait to hear him speak, especially about “Mysticism And Why It Matters.” This is not an easy topic to write or talk about, and I was hoping for some pointers. Not only did he provide some, but he handed out summaries of his lectures and encouraged us to borrow liberally from them! In what follows I have done so. Why try to reinvent the wheel?

Borg broadly defines mysticism as being “about union with the sacred. Mystical experiences are ecstatic experiences of God/the sacred/reality/isness.” He notes that ordinary people have been guided and nurtured by these experiences for centuries. As a result, for them the Sacred Mystery is no longer an article of faith, but an element of experience.

According to William James, author of the classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, mystical experiences have two primary features. First, they bring a Sense of Union with God/the Sacred. In this non-ordinary state of consciousness the dualistic sense of being separated from the world softens, dissolves, or falls away and the world looks different. For example, it might have a radiant luminosity, or you might have visions or feel a strong inner awareness of the presence of the Sacred. The second feature is a Sense of Illumination. You might see a strange light, or feel profoundly enlightened, or have a sense of awakening from a foggy blindness, or feel that your eyes have been opened to see reality, the world, and your life differently.

James notes four additional features of such experiences: ineffability (difficulty describing them in words); transiency (they are usually only seconds or minutes long); passivity (you cannot make them happen; they just do); and noetic (meaning you have a knowing, not just a feeling.)

Because some scholars and religious authorities view mysticism negatively or consider it problematic or unimportant, it is rarely discussed. This, despite the fact that it is the foundation of the world’s religions! In Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam all the central figures — Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, the prophets, Buddha, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Mary Magdalene, Muhammad — experienced the sacred in personal, mystical ways and responded by creating religions that were in accord with the values of their particular cultures. Since then, the membership of each of these religions has contained mystics; many, quite well-known and respected even among the orthodoxy. Yet few people know it has relevance in today’s world.

The mistrust of mysticism derives from the fact that there have always been a few terribly unbalanced people whose mystical experiences lead them to do harmful things in God’s name. But know this: While the details and localized beliefs of religions vary widely, all authentic religions and Spiritual Warriors produce the same fruit: “love, compassion, a passion for God’s world.” This is the only test necessary for distinguishing between “diabolical” mystical experiences and healing ones which connect us to “what is” and empower us to help make the world a better place through love.  May we all experience more of this sacred mystery.

For more information, enjoy this video of wisewoman Jean Houston speaking about mystical awakening.

 

Easter to the Soul April 22, 2011

One of the oldest recorded myths comes from Sumeria and tells the story of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. After a period of growing, assuming her authority, working to bless the world with the gifts of civilization, courting, marrying, birthing and mothering, Inanna descends to the underworld to visit her sister Ereshkigal, its Queen. On the way down she is stripped one by one of all her earthly possessions: symbols of her beauty, success, femininity and the power she has worked so hard to attain. At the bottom she is met by Ereshkigal who has her hung naked on a meat hook. And there she hangs. But on the third day, with the help of her loyal priestess, Ninshubur, and Enki, the God of Culture, she’s rescued and returns to life in the world above.

This is an allegory of a universal truth. Like all great myths, which are stories about our relationships with the gods, it does not have to be factually true on the outside but is always true on the inside, the domain of the soul. The truth is, whether or not we all agree on the meaning, names or details, this story is relevant to every soul.

Physically, it’s about the seasonal Death/Rebirth cycles of vegetation and fertility. Psychologically, Joseph Campbell saw it as a metaphor for the soul’s empowerment and evolving consciousness via the descent into the unconscious, the experience of powerlessness, and the realization of our strength through facing our disowned shadow qualities. Spiritually, it’s about the universal longing for salvation and redemption through divine revelation and intervention.

To the ego it sometimes feels crucial that we get the facts right, possess the “correct” interpretation — especially the religious one — and reject the “wrong” one. But to the soul, these details are beside the point. To your soul and mine, this story is a celebration of the sacred miracle of life, and all three interpretations are equally true.

Every soul is grateful for the sun which brings warmth and light to our days so plants can grow and we can learn and improve and do the hard work that brings meaning and comfort to our lives. We’re all glad when each productive day is followed by a cooler, softer, moonlit night when we can rest, enjoy our loved ones, rejuvenate our bodies and spirits.

Our souls appreciate the exquisite balance of seasons whose alternating cycles likewise bring times of arising, thriving, descending, and dying. And every soul celebrates when the ego dies to its ignorance and meanness and awakens to its nobility in a miraculous new season of enlightened forgiveness, gratitude and compassion.

Above all, our souls know our ego selves did not make any of this happen. Something far greater, some Sacred Mystery over which we have no control, some benevolent, boundless, timeless Otherness set the processes of life in motion and keeps them working. And when we set apart times like this to stop and think about it, we remember that we are blessed beyond measure to participate in this miracle.

In this season of rebirth and renewal I send my blessings to all celebrators everywhere of the miracle of life.

 

Lessons Learned From the Flu April 19, 2011

A note to subscribers:  Some of you received this post last Friday when I wrote it and, due to “lingering flu fogginess,” (which ought to be a recognized condition) accidentally published it ahead of the intended date. I hope you won’t mind reading it again. 

As I write this I’m in the ninth day of a bout with a nasty, feverish flu. I use the word “bout” deliberately. At first I fought it, insisting on attending a social event, doing a little writing, flying to North Carolina, preparing a meal for beloved relatives, and flying back to Florida. Thanks to a highly developed Warrior archetype, living in my head and ignoring my body, pushing forward, and toughing it out has always been my normal mode of operation.

But I’ve surrendered to the bug. I’ve canceled three workouts and three engagements, stayed in bed, and written zilch. This is decidedly abnormal. I rarely get sick, never nap or watch television during the day, always show up, and, above all, am almost always attracted to writing. Not this time! Thinking made my head hurt and the last thing I wanted to do was write.

Now that I’m feeling better my passion for thinking and writing is returning. And since I look for meaning and psychological reasons for everything, I find myself wondering what this enforced time-off has been all about. Here are a few random conclusions. (I don’t intend to sit here all day perfecting this piece. I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before the bed starts calling.)

Lesson #1: Giving myself permission to relax and let go of my agenda frees me from a burden of anxiety of which I’m usually unaware.

Lesson #2: My anxiety is nobody’s fault but my own.

Lesson #3: Missing a special grandparents’ breakfast at my 3-year-old grandson’s school will not devastate him or mean I’m a terrible grandparent.

Lesson #4: Daytime television is not a complete wasteland and allowing myself to enjoy it is not a character flaw. I watched some cool movies. I enjoyed them. Enjoyment is good.

Lesson #5: I tend to be a tad obsessive. (This is an understatement.) My head knows this but some largely unconscious needs still haven’t received the message. This morning I awoke from a dream in which I was trying to clean up some messes outside and within my house in preparation for an anticipated event. I was feeling guilty for not having addressed them sooner and annoyed that nobody else seemed to notice or care but me. I think that pretty much speaks for itself! Being sick for nine days hasn’t cured me of my perfectionism, anxiety, or tendency to live in the future.

Lesson #6: I’ve known this stuff for years, yet despite my inner work some issues remain unresolved. Still, I am making progress and this is a very good thing.

Lesson #7: I am human and flawed but my friends and family love me anyway and I am grateful for their love. I knew that too, but I must have needed a reminder.

Lesson #8: I don’t always have to be prepared several days in advance. I wrote this blog post in three hours!

Lesson #9: There are times when surrendering is the correct choice. This was one of them. Bye. I’m off to bed!

 

The Power of Choice April 16, 2011

In this blog I use the framework of Jungian psychology to express my philosophy about life which can be summarized in four words: “Think psychologically; live spiritually.” Because Jung’s discoveries have been so meaningful to me, I’ve hoped to help others make sense of their lives by sharing what I’ve learned.

In my experience, most people drawn to Jungian psychology tend to be curious, progressive, open-minded thinkers who enjoy exploring old ideas and staying in touch with the newest theories in many fields other than psychology. Some of the most common in this mixed bag are quantum physics, astrophysics, astronomy, astrology, anthropology, archaeology, architecture, alchemy, literature, film, religion, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, brain research, dream research, gender relationships and women’s studies. Their goal in familiarizing themselves with such a broad range of knowledge is to gain a better understanding of the reasons for human thought and behavior in the hope of improving the health and wholeness of themselves, their clients, and all humankind.

A field currently yielding some of the most exciting developments is brain functioning, and in particular, the phenomenon of neuroplasticity. MedicineNet.com provides this definition of neuroplasticity: “The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.”

Of most interest to me is the fact that a leading advocate of research in this field is the Dalai Lama who has encouraged Buddhist monks to become “guinea pigs” for scientists wishing to learn if there is a correlation between intentional mind-training techniques like meditation, and physical changes in the brain. The results of this unprecedented collaboration between science and religion point to the startling conclusion that we can change our lives by changing our brains.

The implications are mind-blowing. Until recently, mainstream science has been skeptical of reports that a regular program of meditation creates more compassion, peace, and well-being. But today a growing number of scientists take some of the traditional claims of psychology and religion very seriously indeed.

For example, Dr. Rudolph Tanzi of the Harvard Medical School says we are more than our brains and bodies, which are merely the instruments of an intangible “real self.” If this real self, (what Jung would call the Self), is not in charge of our intellect and emotions — i.e. if our egos do not listen to our thoughts and monitor our emotions and follow our intuition and make conscious, original and caring choices — we are their servant! But with regular mind-training practices such as meditation and dream work we can change our brains and transform ourselves from slaves to masters of our lives!

For more information check out this video of a conversation between Deepak Chopra and Dr. Tanzi. Meanwhile, consider this:  Our mind has unimaginable potential;  our ego is a small, but crucial element of that potential. Small, because its sphere of consciousness is like a grain of sand on the shore of a cosmic ocean of consciousness;  crucial because that tiny grain has the life-changing power of choice. If our lives feel narrow and fulfilling it is because we, our ego selves, have not chosen to do what it takes to enlarge and enrich them. Why?  Ignorance, complacency, laziness, fear of censure, retribution, failure or the unknown…you name it. But regardless of the reason, we can still choose to change our brains and our lives if we truly want to.

 

The Soul’s Twins April 12, 2011

Have you ever felt like more than one person? I’m not talking about a psychotic split, but about how we can feel and behave differently in different situations or seasons. How sometimes we want to be with people and sometimes need to be alone. How we can be passionate about something today and indifferent tomorrow. How we occasionally feel separated from our true selves. If you’ve ever wondered about things like this, you, too, have pondered Life’s Big Question: “Who the heck am I anyway?”

I used to ask myself this during long summers at our vacation home in the Smoky Mountains. There I can spend hours on the porch contemplating hummingbird hostilities, listening to birds define their territories, scanning the sky for soaring hawks and gray clouds, conversing with the gurgling creek, and absorbing the rhythms of the day. I care for animals, feed fish, hike, garden. If we’re having a drought I spend hours driving around the property in my green John Deere Gator with the big water tank labeled WEEKEND WARRIOR lovingly spraying water on every growing thing in sight. I thrive on being alone. I love going nowhere, listening, feeling, sweating, getting dirty. I can’t get enough of the solitude or outdoors.

Do I want to be outdoors in Florida? Are you kidding me? It’s HOT out there! And why would I want to water plants? If they don’t get enough moisture from the dripping humidity and afternoon thunderstorms they’re on their own! In Florida I rarely think about fish or watch clouds or tend to plants. I don’t care if it rains. I want to be with my family, socialize with friends, write.

So who am I? In Florida I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, supporter of the arts, social person. In North Carolina I’m a loner, gardener, observer of nature, enjoyer of solitude. In Florida I side with Apollo, god of the sun, civilization, the cerebral life and culture; in North Carolina I honor Artemis, goddess of the moon, wilderness, the instinctual life and nature.

Did you know these two Greek deities were twins? Which is the real me? The answer, of course, is both. Carl Jung said, “Within each one of us there is another whom we do not know. S/He speaks to us in dreams…” This Another is our unconscious, an inner soup of unknown characters, complexes, untapped interests and disowned emotions. At an early age our ego adapted to the life into which we were born by incorporating the tastiest of these tidbits into our conscious personality and neglecting the rest. We may not normally be aware of the rejected ones, but they are still part of us. Since most are not crucial to our soul’s purpose they don’t mind being ignored. But there are always a critical few we have wrongly disowned. Until we befriend them they show up in our dreams and erupt into waking life in problematic ways.

Splitting my time between two homes in separate and very different settings has actually helped me heal what was once a split between my soul’s twins. For many years my ego favored Apollo’s high ideals, intellectual pursuits and cultured sensibilities, but no more.   Now Artemis leads me through the wild, dark unconscious and Apollo helps me write about what she shows me. Because I love them both as much as I love my twin grandsons, there’s no sibling rivalry, no need for them to vie for my ego’s attention. Life is so much richer and more peaceful this way.

Connor and Jake, this one’s for you. Thank you for enriching my life.

 

Scholar and Wisewoman Archetypes April 9, 2011

The Scholar and Wisewoman archetypes represent our instinct for reflection. Like the two sides of the brain, they symbolize two distinct yet complementary forms of mentation: logos and mythos. Release from delusion is the aim of both, and each pursues this goal in different ways. The Scholar is like a spotlight which enables our ego to think with  clear, focused consciousness and logic.  The Wisewoman is like a moonlit bridge which connects our ego with the subjective wisdom of our body, instincts, emotions and personal and collective unconscious.

He specializes in discerning differences and discriminating details; she specializes in connecting and comprehending the big picture. He is master of logic, abstract ideas, theories, collective knowledge, objective facts, and technology. She is mistress of imagination, metaphors, emotions, personal truths, spiritual meaning, physical awareness and intuition. Together, they represent the fullest kind of wisdom of which we are capable.

A primary feature of her mythos is analogical thinking. This has to do with our ability to see meaningful analogies: similarities and underlying connections between things. Where logical thought is factual, verbal, literal, historic, linear, objective, and “Mosaic”, analogical thought is symbolic, visual, mystical, mythic, intuitive, subjective, and “Hermetic”. As logical thinking is sequential, analogical thought is relational: one idea leads to another not because of an orderly arrangement of incremental steps, but because of an inner connection or comparison that is meaningful to the thinker.

Analogical thinking enables us to make intuitive leaps over vast amounts of information which, although it may be perfectly relevant, can bog us down in a morass of details, preventing us from seeing the big picture or grasping underlying relationships which weave the big picture together. Analogical thought guides all invention, culture, art, architecture, literature, poetry, myth, philosophy, psychology, and religion. This is not to say our accomplishments in these areas are devoid of logic. Far from it. It simply means that without mythos we would not have the imagination to create and beautify them or the insight to imbue them with meaning.

Elaine Pagels, Princeton University professor of religion, says that through analogical thinking one can also receive insights or intimations of the divine which validate themselves in experience. Spiritual illumination and awakened consciousness cannot be fully explained with logic because they are subjective states of being that have to be experienced to be understood; yet they are products of the mind, just as logical thinking is. We have no means by which to prove they exist, but they are nonetheless as real to our souls as any event in the physical world.

Think of it this way. Logical thinking builds the Sistine Chapel. Analogical thinking designs it and paints the ceiling. One honors Sacred Otherness in the outer universe. The other honors Sacred Otherness within.  Together in intimate partnership they explore the heights and depths of our reverence for the miracle and blessings of life.

Our Scholar and Wisewoman aren’t about opposition or gender, but the cooperative interaction between the masculine and feminine in every psyche. As Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Coyne said when asked whether women judges decide cases differently because they are women: “A wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion”.

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

 

 
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