Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Symbol of the Eye November 29, 2011

Although the symbol of the eye was later appropriated by male gods, originally it spoke to qualities of the Great Mother Goddess.  Foremost among these was wisdom. Author Merlin Stone translates this ancient hymn to Ua Zit, the Cobra Goddess of pre-dynastic Egypt: “Uniting with Her sister Nekhebt, to create the power of all Egypt…Ua Zit emerged from holy forehead as the Third Eye, the Eye of Wisdom.”

The following passage comes from The Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha of the New English Bible and dates about 900 B.C. It refers to Hokhma, the Hebrew feminine word meaning wisdom. Like Shekhinah, (Judaism’s feminine “divine presence of God”), Hokhma is associated with light, another feminine quality.

“Wisdom is the Holy Spirit. She is one and yet She is many…She permeates all with her ethereal essence…She is the brightness that comes forth from the eternal light, and…it is She who continually renews all, as Her power spans the universe and Her kindly orders are always fulfilled…”

The Egyptian Maat, whose name was based on the verb “to see,” was the original All-Seeing Eye and Mother of Truth. In The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, Barbara Walker says that the Sumerian Eye Goddess also represented the spirit of truth and law. “Hers were the All-Seeing Eyes from which no crime could be hidden.” Likewise, Sulis, the name for the Gaelic Sun Goddess, came from suil, an eye. And according to the Hindus, the Great Goddess “created and destroyed universes just by opening or closing her eyes.”

The Greek philosopher Plotinus also associated the eye with wisdom and light, reasoning that the eye would not be able to see the sun if it were not itself a kind of sun. Since the sun is the source of light, and light symbolizes the intelligence and the spirit, the process of seeing represents the spiritual act of understanding. The Herder Symbol Dictionary agrees, adding that since two eyes convey physical normality and its spiritual equivalent, the third eye is symbolic of the superhuman or divine. Because it is closely associated with light and spirit, the third eye “symbolizes spiritual and mental perception, but it is also — as the ‘mirror’ of the soul — the organ of spiritual and mental expression.”

Psychologically, the activation of the third eye means that we are perceiving and expressing the enlightened presence and wisdom of God the Mother, the feminine half of the Self whose specialty is right-brained mythos — the subjective inner wisdom of symbols, images, imagination, instinct, an understanding heart, intuition and meaning. When her worship was banished by patriarchal religions her mythos way of perceiving was replaced by the masculine God’s logos:  objective linear thinking and judging with logic, words, theories and creeds. Unfortunately, this religious one-sidedness has created an unholy imbalance in human affairs, both sacred and secular.

But there is hope. Through the centuries the symbol of the third eye has reminded all who care to see that opening our eyes and minds to God the Mother’s presence within us and the world can connect us to the fullest wisdom available to human beings.

 

The Perils and Pleasures of High School Reunions November 25, 2011

Our high school reunion last month began with a school tour. We pulled into the same parking lot I used mmffffeennttey (excuse me, my hand slipped) years ago when, as a senior, I finally got to drive my mother’s ffflllimmerrrtty-fraammph (Oops! There it goes again!) Chevy to school. I was unprepared for the rush of memories: of friends who rode with me, a boy who occasionally thumbed a ride home, the Home-Ec room where I learned to make the dresses, blouses and skirts I wore to school from then on…. Okay, that dates me! Girls didn’t wear pants to school in those days.

We walked past a new building that occupies part of the once-expansive front lawn and there was the elegant old red-brick facade with its gracefully arched doors and mullioned windows, some of which were stained glass. I marveled that as a teen-ager I had never appreciated its beauty.

Then we noticed the group standing around the flagpole. Who were all those old people? Were they really our classmates? At first our greetings were awkward because everyone was pretending we weren’t trying to read each others’ name tags, but eventually we gave up and just introduced ourselves. Once we got over the initial shock, familiar features began to emerge from the masses of wrinkles and gray hair. This was both reassuring and bemusing. Okay, it was great they were still alive and all, but really? Did we look this old to them? At 10:00 a.m. sharp a young man approached our group. I assumed he was a senior assigned to be our guide. I saw more than one incredulous look when he introduced himself as the principal! You get the idea. High school reunions are not for the faint of heart. But we all survived to enjoy the tour.

One highlight was stepping into the auditorium and being assailed with a wave of deja vu. There in front of me was a recurring image from my dreams! The same thing happened in the corridor outside the cafeteria. I hadn’t remembered what either place looked like, yet they inspired all the auditoriums and cafeterias that have shown up in my dreams since high school. How many of our issues originate in adolescent experiences we’ve completely forgotten? Quite a few, I suspect.

We had a great time. It was especially fun reconnecting with my old girlfriends. Since Linda’s husband went to school in Mississippi he didn’t come, so Sylvia and Rita decided not to bring theirs either. Sylvia said that at the previous night’s football game her husband (who was in a different class) acted like the reunion was all about him so she wouldn’t let him attend the rest of it. Rita said her husband (also in a different class) “tends to talk a lot” and she didn’t want him stealing her thunder so she told him he couldn’t come either! I love it. We’ve come a long way from the days when bolstering the male ego was part of every teen-aged girl’s job description.

The weather was predicted to be cold that weekend so in the midst of packing Fred came out of the closet with his old football letter jacket! Delighted to find he could still snap the waistband, he wore it to the outdoor buffet the first night. In my eyes he was the hit of the party. He says I was. I think that’s sweet. I’ve decided old love is better than young love. How lucky are we to still be together after all these years? Forget it. I’m not telling you how many!

If you want to feel better about your age, I highly recommend turning off the TV shows in which everyone looks 18 and going to your high school reunion. Blessedly, no one there will be younger than you! (Unless the principal leads the tour.) By the way, now that I’ve reconnected with all these lovely people with whom I share so many warm memories, I’ve decided we’ve aged every bit as well as our beloved old school.

 

Why Vampires? Why Now? November 18, 2011

When an archetype of which we’ve been unaware makes its way into collective consciousness its shadow often emerges first. The more strongly it’s been repressed the more negatively its shadow will express itself. The Androgyne is no exception.  If the healthy Androgyne gives equal respect to the masculine and feminine drives which are the psyche’s two basic forms of life-energy,  the unhealthy Androgyne disowns one or both.

Imagine a man who obsesses over his masculine side and completely represses his feminine side. In his outer life this shows up in rigid role stereotypes and extreme, sometimes violent, prejudice against women. Patriarchal societies still provide plenty of examples of this kind of one-sidedness.

An apt image of the shadow Androgyne entered collective consciousness in the early 18th century with the introduction of the vampire. In those days vampires were almost always macho males who victimized females, but now they have markedly androgynous characteristics. Why? Because we are becoming more aware of the Androgyne archetype and realizing that if healthy Androgynes honor both drives, shadow Androgynes — vampires — kill both.

Life is generated by the interaction between opposites. Without tension between the north and south poles there would be no electromagnetic field and life would not exist on Earth. Likewise, tension between pairs of psychological opposites creates our psyche’s life-energy. If we cannot tolerate this tension and if we take extreme measures to escape it, the result can be addictions which sap our life-energy. Then we are like the living dead, lethargically sucking the energy out of those who love us with deceit, blame, and irresponsible behavior.

During the day vampires sleep in coffins because sunlight will kill them. People with severely repressed life-energy are the same. Failure to develop one or both drives destroys our creativity and hope of enlightenment. Repression leads to depression. In the dark nights of our souls we function as though dead, unable to experience the sunny warmth of meaningful work or the pleasure of living, loving, being.

And a final example: In the novels of Anne Rice the flesh of vampires becomes harder and colder over time. Interestingly, Dr. Alexander Lowen, founder of bioenergetics, says in The Spirituality of the Body that stiffness and rigidity characterize the bodies of people who lack psychological integration.

Why are we so obsessed with vampires? Because our souls know the Androgyne archetype is re-awakening but our egos are having a very tough time accepting it. Why are we experiencing an epidemic of lethargy, depression, hopelessness and meaninglessness? Because our resistence to our inner opposites is wearing us down. Where’s the societal polarization, religious fanaticism, and political mean-spiritedness coming from? Society’s ignorance of its shadow and unconscious need to project it onto others.

Why can’t we get enough of vampires? Because focusing on their flaws takes the heat off us. Because we hope that if we can understand them, maybe we can understand ourselves.

 

The Androgyne Archetype and Global Change in the Digital Age November 15, 2011

In response to my post, Angels and E.T’s: The Androgyne Archetype, Skip Conover wrote a comment which adds so much to this discussion that I asked him if I could republish it here. Skip is the founder of the Archetype in Action Organization. He says his first thought was to teach about Jungian Archetype, but he soon realized that *we* are the archetypes. Here’s Skip’s take on how the combined effect of the dawn of the Digital Age and the rebirth of the Androgyne archetype is creating an unprecedented cosmic awareness in human consciousness. He will happily respond to your comments.

How lucky we all are to live as we do at the Dawn of the Digital Age! This concept of the Androgyne archetype can today be seen to go well beyond the mere dichotomy of female and male. What the digital age has allowed us is the ability to see that we are all not so different after all. If I consider a few of my own possible categories, I see that I am essentially the same as every human being on the planet: living being, human being, man, husband, father and grandfather, American, Christian/Buddhist/Agnostic, etc.

As a living being I know I exist, and in that sense I am a bit luckier, because most of the life forms we know simply are, but as a Buddhist I respect all living creatures while accepting the fact that some of them must die so that I may continue. All life lives on other life. Still, I can contemplate the fact that in order for me to live out my three score and ten, I must leave behind a carnage of flocks of chickens, herds of cattle, lambs, and hogs, and remnants of screaming tomatoes.

As a human being I am thrilled with my life as one of the luckiest creatures that ever lived. I can know that I exist and understand my place in this place we call the universe. In the context of that space, our differences are truly trivial, and evaporating by the second in the Digital Age.

We live at a time when we can see back to 500,000 years after the Big Bang, when the first stars in the universe switched on, and down to the smallest particles. We can know that we are alone, both safe from aliens who could be no closer than 24 trillion miles from us but also quarantined from them. I can know that we as a species are truly alone. Science tells us that the fastest object ever created by man is the Voyager spacecraft, which was launched in 1976. It travels at 11 miles per second through deep space, but even at that speed it would take 350,000 years to reach our nearest stellar neighbor. We can know that we can conjure the speed of light, but we will never be photons, which can actually travel at that speed.

As a man, I am not so different from any other human being on the planet. Yes, I have a different gender from women, but that difference only has relevance at the time of procreation and in the privacy of our bedrooms. The marginal differences in hormones we all possess do not create such big differences, unless we conjure them ourselves, and those differences are being minimized by the Digital Age. As a husband, father and grandfather, my roles are not so very different from any other spouse, parent or grandparent throughout the world.

I had the luck to be born an American, which meant I live in a society that mostly allowed human beings to live up to their potential. But, it is not the only model for success. We see many races and religions living together successfully in many other societies, including Singapore, Malaysia, and India to name just a few notable examples. The Digital Age has opened up this type of amalgam even further. The Arab Spring is partially about young Arabs wanting to find an equilibrium; we could call it an Androgyne society. Few of them would want to leave their native land or change their religion, but they now see clearly that others have a better quality of life, and they want to push their societies toward that goal.

In 2002, a Saudi friend said to me, “You know, Skip. In 20 years Saudi Arabia will be like the States.” As I looked around me that evening, and had within view several McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Starbucks, and thousands of Chevys and Fords, I almost thought that it was like that then, but surely that view told me that he was, in a sense, right. Of course, the powers that be will resist the change, but one force they cannot slow down is the Androgyne Archetype, as you describe it.

As a spiritual person, I do not claim any strong persuasion, but my general observation is that the religions of the world, and some philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism, are really not so very different. When Muslim crazies wanted to execute someone for converting to Christianity, as is ordered in the Qu’ran, I found a mirroring passage in Deuteronomy, which many Christians think is the infallible word of God. Powerful people in control of religions have often used them to hype up their political base, and accuse followers of a different faith of being “the Other,” but the Digital Age is in the process of proving them liars too.

I could go on at great length on this topic of the Androgyne Archetype, but my point is that what we see across the world as societal upheaval is really the multifaceted distinctions we have built up over millions of years finding their level and their commonality. What primitive humans saw as the primary differences, between genders, will ultimately be subsumed by the recognition that we are all human beings on a very tiny planet, isolated by the vastness of space, and facing extinction in 4 billion years when the sun burns out. In that sense, I am cheered by the knowledge that we will have no choice but to give the Androgyne Archetype its due.

 

Are We Really Growing Up At Last? November 11, 2011

Last time I said the Androgyne archetype is emerging into our awareness and influencing things like gender stereotypes, the sexual double standard, clothing and hairstyles. I noted that it’s responsible for our fascination with angels and space aliens and concluded by asking my readers for other examples of how this archetype is manifesting in today’s world. Bette responded, “…while I found your post on androgyny informative and intriguing, I’m coming up empty on this one — except aren’t children before puberty rather androgynous?” As I began my reply to her I soon realized there was more I wanted to say about this topic.

Yes, children before puberty are in the so called “latent” period during which they are essentially androgynous, both physically and mentally. Then the hormones kick in. Different hormone levels do different things to different kids, but what is common to all is that as their bodies mature they begin to consciously explore identity issues. Whether they realize it or not, the basic questions adolescents everywhere struggle to answer are things like, “Who am I beneath the accommodations I’ve made to gain the approval of my group?” and “Do I have the courage to pursue interests and behaviors that are important to me but frowned on by my elders?”

It’s easy to see how physical changes influence the way we think and feel. But it can be difficult to recognize the historical evolution of the human psyche, and harder still to accept the changes this is making in our world. What I was looking for after the last post were more correlations between the constellation of the Androgyne archetype and healthy societal change.

I remember when the majority of whites in the south thought it was okay for blacks to sit in the back of the bus. When I observed this at the age of seven and asked my parents about it, the response of these good and intelligent people was that this was just the way things were. I’m ashamed to report that like most everyone else, I soon stopped wondering and questioning.

These social inequities went unchallenged for a long time in America because most people assumed like I did that either those in charge must have good reasons, or there was nothing we could do about it. Of course there were no good reasons for segregation and there were many things we could have done about it, but it took us a long time to see the cancer that was destroying the health of our nation and even longer to overcome our lethargy enough to so something about it.

The civil rights movement came about in the 1950’s and 60’s because the Androgyne archetype, which presses us to integrate our inner opposites, is closing the gap between races.  A historic bridge had already been built between the genders in 1920 when the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote.  At that time only a few women were able to receive legal education because courts were reluctant to admit them and employment opportunities were very limited; but by 1991, 43% of students starting law school were women. A more current example is the elimination of legal discrimination against consensual same-gender sex.

The activation of the Androgyne archetype is a hopeful sign for our species. Can you think of other examples that indicate we may be growing up and coming together at last?

 

Angels and E.T.’s: The Androgyne Archetype November 7, 2011

The concept of androgyny has appeared in every culture.  Joseph Campbell tells us that the mythologies of both the Orient and Occident share an image of the first being, “who was originally one but became two.” With the cementing of patriarchy and the onset of Christianity, this concept became buried deep in the unconscious. As Jungian analyst June Singer has noted, “The Androgyne has been nearly totally expunged from the Judeo-Christian tradition, for it apparently threatens the idea of a patriarchal God-image.”

But with the increase in psychological awareness in today’s world, this is changing. Today we realize with Singer that, “Androgyny is an archetype inherent in the human psyche….[which] refers to a specific way of joining the “masculine” and “feminine” aspects of a single human being.” One has only to observe the rapid dissolution of gender role stereotypes and the sexual double standard, compare the clothing and hair styles of young people with those of our parents’ generation, or observe how gender-blind young people are in their choice of friends to see that this archetype is making a dramatic reappearance in Western society.

Angels are a  particularly intriguing manifestation of the Androgyne archetype. We see them everywhere: on television, in books and movies, on clothing, and in personal narratives.  According to most accounts angels are genderless messengers who come to point us in healing new directions. They exemplify the very best aspects of psychological and spiritual androgyny.

A projection of the Androgyne which has captured the imagination of the entire planet is space aliens. Whereas those who come to conquer and destroy represent our worst fears, the positive ones —  E.T. and the kindly light-filled beings in films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Cocoon — fill us with awe and hope. Whether space aliens derive from the universe without or the universe within, there can be little doubt that they signal the onset of a massive evolutionary transformation in human consciousness.

Psycho-spiritual androgyny is not about sexuality or gender, but about valuing our inner world. It emerges as we unite the disowned aspects of our masculine drive for self-preservation (developing our individuality) and feminine drive for species-preservation (developing loving relationships). If there were such a thing as pure masculinity and pure femininity, and if we could draw a line between these complementary opposites, every soul would occupy its own unique position on the continuum. Since each soul is unique, all would manifest their creativity differently. Moreover, a person with a fully activated Androgyne would radiate enormous power because consciously integrated masculinity and femininity, both at the top of their energy, is the ultimate power of which humanity is capable.

Leaving stereotypes behind frees us to become what we were created to be and relate openly and honestly to others. Thus, the Androgyne represents our potential to experience heaven on Earth: peace and loving oneness with ourselves, others, and the Mystery of Life.

Can you think of other examples of how the Androgyne is manifesting in today’s world?

 

Taming the Beast with Inner Work November 4, 2011

A reader asks, “When you are talking about “inner work” does that suggest that I should go see a vampire or horror movie? Throughout my life I have avoided such things because I had the idea that I didn’t need to put any of that in my mind. But, as I think about your various dicta on ‘inner work,’ and knowing that movies do constellate archetypes in the subconscious, would someone be better off to actually see such films as a means of working with the shadow? Since I’ve never had any formal Jungian training, and certainly none as an analyst, this is a fundamental question for me. In other words, does this perhaps explain the popularity of the genre?”

Do we all have an inner vampire we’d like to know more about? What a great question!  I’ve avoided horror movies since my first when I was 12. It terrified me and I never wanted to feel that way again. Avoiding violence in the media is not the same as avoiding our shadow: it’s healthy self-protection. Asking ourselves what scares us and why is a productive form of inner work, but regularly exposing ourselves to gruesome, anxiety-creating material can be more harmful than helpful. We shouldn’t put our heads in the sand about the horrific cruelty of which the human species is capable;  but neither should we obsess over humanity’s inhumanity to the point of living in a near-constant state of agitation. Our fascination with the horror genre does speak to our curiosity about our shadows, but if our curiosity doesn’t lead to self-reflection it’s not inner work.

Inner work is anything that clarifies the disconnect between our persona (what we show the world) and the reality beneath the mask. Everyone has ugly thoughts and violent emotions, and yes, we all contain the potential symbolized by the vampire, zombie, witch, wolf, devil, Hitler, and Quaddafi. But at the same time, we all have an inner hero/ine, savior, trusty steed, angel, wise woman, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. Acknowledging our whole selves humbles us, puts an end to finger-pointing, and generates self-forgiveness. The human animal can be very destructive, but an enlightened mind can tame it.

Here, in no particular order, are the practices that help me tame my personal beast:

  • Therapy. I consulted with a Jungian therapist for a year. She helped me see negative thought-patterns and positive qualities I might never have recognized on my own.
  • Honest communication with my husband. Seriously! Our intimate partners are mirrors that show us our shadows. Gazing into the mirror means accepting the truth in what they say about us. This doesn’t mean they’re always right; it’s just that they see us very differently from how we see ourselves. The more we understand each others’ perspectives the less defensive and more forgiving we are.
  • Reading. Anything that creates more self-knowledge; books about Jungian psychology have been the most helpful.
  • Dreamwork.  I write out my dreams, explore my associations with the symbols and emotions, and connect them to recent waking life events.
  • Writing. More than any other form of self-reflection, writing makes my unconscious conscious. It clarifies confused thoughts, highlights hidden emotions, and keeps new insights within plain sight.
  • Meditation. Quieting the chatter of monkey-mind allows the ego to hear the soul’s whispers. Conscious cooperation between ego and soul is the ultimate goal of inner work.

At first, taming our beasts with these and other practices requires the self-discipline of a warrior. But over time inner work gentles down into joyful inner play. May it be so for you.

 

 
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