Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dream Symbols of the Beloved June 29, 2012

The Self is our Beloved, the core energy in every psyche that compels us to grow into loveable, empowered, authentic, enlightened beings. Our egos often reject the Self’s guidance but it never gives up on us. In its aspect as Dream Mother it reveals itself in symbols and actions based on six basic attributes: wholeness, centrality, unity, love, pattern, and the life-giving force.

Wholeness: Jung associated this with quaternity, or four-ness, because of the way we and our world are created. There are four directions and four winds. Christianity has four evangelists, a cross has four arms, there are four cardinal virtues, and mandalas — the intricate circular sacred symbols produced by many religions — have four sections. Also, humanity has four basic ways of experiencing life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. So whenever a circular object (a coin, table, bowl, sphere, etc.) or four-ness (four people, four flowers in a vase, four walls, the numeral 4, etc.) appear in a dream, I always consider their implications for my growth into wholeness.

Centrality: The Self is our psyche’s source of energy and the point from which every psycho-spiritual event proceeds. It is often represented by things with centers; for example, the heart (a vital central organ), the circle with a dot in the center (the central hole in the Chinese jade disk opens to heaven), and ancient symbols for the center of the world, including a cosmic tree (Jung saw the vertically growing form of a palm tree as a symbol of the soul) or sacred mountain.

Unity: Since the Self’s creative energy is constantly being renewed by the ongoing tension between our masculine and feminine drives, it is often symbolized by the balanced union of opposites — i.e. pairs of things, a Couple, reciprocal actions, the Divine Androgyne (suggested by having attributes of the opposite gender), twins, crosses, two interlocking circles making a mandorla, the hexagram or double triangle, the yin-yang symbol, weddings and wedding rings, sex, and bridges — and also through images of the unity in multiplicity, i.e. a pearl necklace or mandala.

Love: Deity’s primary characteristic is love. As our god-image, the Self can be represented in dreams via depictions of people engaged in loving actions such as kissing, hugging, forgiving, helping others, gift-giving, or making sacrifices. When our dream egos feel and demonstrate love for others, or when others make us feel loved, we are being shown something about our capacity for love and the Self’s love for us. Of course, the heart is also a symbol of love.

Pattern: Since we think of God as the creator and sustainer of the underlying patterns that support life, the Self is suggested by patterned walkways, lattices, mathematical arrays, music, webs, grids, the Diamond Net of Indra, holograms, intricately patterned mandalas or jewelry, and so on.

Life-Giving Force: All symbols or acts of insemination, creativity, initiation, birth, growth (i.e. growing babies or blooming plants), transformation (the butterfly), or movement and change (a snake shedding its skin, the double-stranded DNA spiral, spinning wheels), refer to the miracle of our life and the forces that sustain it.

Next time I’ll have some suggestions about how to work with your dreams. Meanwhile, pay attention to your dreams tonight. You might just have one that features the Self. If you do, I hope you’ll let me know!

You can order my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at


Sophia’s Contribution to Mature Spirituality June 26, 2012

Our feminine drive for species-preservation compels us to establish intimate relationships based on authentic feeling. We can express this drive in healthy and/or unhealthy ways. When our behavior is motivated by an unconscious compulsion to get our way, and when we place the best interests of others secondary to this need, our relationships grow dysfunctional. When we experience and act on tender feelings and a patient willingness to respect the differences of others, our relationships heal.

The same is true of religions. When serving the ego’s needs takes precedence over people’s feelings, religions perpetuate dysfunction, but when understanding and accepting have top priority, religions heal. The thing that makes one expression of spirituality mature and the other immature is the presence or absence of benevolent feeling.  As Gregg Braden says, “The feeling is the prayer.” And God is not the only one who hears this prayer. Everyone around us soaks it up.

In Ego and Archetype Jungian Edward Edinger writes, “At a certain point in psychological development, usually after an intense alienation experience, the ego-Self axis suddenly breaks into conscious view….The ego becomes more aware, experientially, of a transpersonal center to which the ego is subordinate…. Whenever man consciously encounters a divine agency which assists, commands, or directs, we can understand it as an encounter of the ego with the Self.”

Such a breakthrough to our spiritual core is the function of a loving force that simply cannot ignore our earnest and heartfelt request.  As a mother will break through any barriers to her child, so will Sophia break through our ego’s resistance to tender feeling. It is the experience of this love and compassion, not the idea of it, that transforms us.  Rashan D’Angelo writes, “Love is a direct experience of God.”

In Jung and the Lost Gospels, Stephen Hoeller says, “When people cease to experience God, they are forced to believe in him…and belief is a commodity subject to loss. The inner sense of God is a quality of the deeper psyche and not of reason…. [T]he prevailing religious emphasis on faith over interior experience… requires ‘a sacrifice of feeling….’ Mature spirituality, it would seem, requires more than faith.” The divisiveness and separation we see all around us is not caused by any one religion or belief system.  It is caused by individuals:  by people like you and me who are so out of touch with their true needs and tenderest feelings that they can’t feel them in themselves or respect them in others!

The antidote to the cruel shadows of ourselves, our cultures, and our religions is to face our vulnerable emotions instead of pretending and acting tough. To do that, we will need to respect our feminine sides and the women onto whom we project them. Feeling does not automatically make one emotionally wise or spiritually mature, but it is a necessary beginning, for without it, religion is nothing more than meaningless verbal exercises and empty social rituals. This produces an emotionally repressed shadow characterized by a dogmatic fervor that can be machine-like in its relentless destruction of anything it sees as an enemy to belief.

What steps can you take to harmonize your true feelings with your spiritual hunger?  Your spiritual beliefs?  How might the world be different if we allowed ourselves to feel what we feel (especially our fear and hurt) and learned how to express our feelings in appropriate ways without hurting anyone? How would it be different if we taught our children to do the same?

Order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at Larson Publications.


The Dance of Partnership June 22, 2012

Just as individuals experience a painful struggle between opposites in their journey to individuation, so does every dynamic, growing relationship between two individuals contain a certain amount of stress and tension.  By its very nature, the essence of “two-ness” is conflict.  Whenever the perfect isolation and solitude of a single soul is disturbed or influenced by the presence of another, there is bound to be tension.  This is a given in every relationship.

While this might seem to be a negative thing, the tension between the opposites is actually our promise for the emergence of the “spiritual” Couple within.  We need to accept the inevitability, indeed the desirability of tension in relationships because without it, creative growth and change cannot occur.  The image of an ideal, stress-free partnership is an unrealistic fantasy;  we should be careful not to become too attached to it.

Given that every relationship has a certain amount of tension, it is only when tension becomes the dominant factor and when conflict does not result in new, creative solutions to our problems but perpetuates injustice and unforgiveness that it becomes detrimental.  The important thing to remember is this:  when we look in the mirror of our relationship and see cracks and flaws, we need not worry unduly, but should simply continue with our inner and outer work.  But if we see serious dysfunction—for example abuse, evil, the tolerance of evil, or self-destructive behavior— the course of the relationship needs to be changed, and undoubtedly will be. 

Whenever one partner recognizes the unhealthiness of the relationship and conducts the necessary inner work to develop her or his archetypal potential, the relationship will either become healthier (if both partners can tolerate the discomfort of change), or else it will end. Change in one partner always results in change in the other.  As Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” If the relationship continues to grow and change, a more mature partnership will eventually be born.  If it ends, the partner who is growing becomes capable of forming a new, healthier partnership with another person who will be healthier than the previous partner.

The soul in its infancy wants to believe that marriage—whether to a human being, God, or both—will solve all its problems;  hence, the “happily ever after” motif of fairy tales and certain religious sects and leaders.  Without such assurances, many, if not most of us, are simply too afraid of suffering to risk leaving the dark, comforting prisons of conformity and unconsciousness.  Perhaps it is better that youth cannot conceive the sacred mystery of marriage.  If it did, we would never enter into it and the family unit as we know it could perish in one generation! 

But the maturing soul intuits that marriage—by which I mean any committed relationship between two individuals, whether sanctioned by society or not—is an initiation into an entirely new set of problems.  In every truly honest and intimate relationship there are times when we feel we are on the edge of a volcano that is ready to explode;  at other times the coldness in our breasts is glacial. 

Fire and ice;  this is the mystery and the miracle of the “marriage between the opposites,” a tension-filled dance which, if consciously borne and faithfully endured, can bring psycho-spiritual maturity.

You can order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at


Three: The Number of Spiritual Wholeness June 19, 2012

Every religion is based on the fundamental belief that it is possible for coarse, common, vulgar humanity to be transformed through a mysterious, sacred process into something special, valuable, beautiful, and lasting. Thus, there is a spiritual tradition of ascribing not two, but three aspects to the process of uniting our inner opposites, including our masculine and feminine sides.  

For example, Christianity has the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and ancient matriarchal religions were based on the triple Goddess of Mother, Maiden and Crone.  In essence, the third element suggests the new entity that comes into being as a result of the hierosgamos, the Sacred Inner Marriage.

The addition of the third element recognizes the psyche’s potential to grow out of its dualistic state of “twoness” into a transcendent “threeness,” a more spiritually wise and conscious way of being.  It represents our capacity to survive our initiations so as to develop a new way of honoring the quiet inner spiritual voice (i.e. the Holy Spirit or Wise Old Man) or the confident knowing of our deep, intuitive feminine wisdom, (i.e. the Wise Old Woman or Crone).  This means that the individual has discovered the aspect of God that dwells within every archetype, and has learned to listen to it and act on it with strength and integrity in everyday life. 

The following passage written by Jungian analyst Robert Bosnak in his book, Dreaming With an Aids Patient, describes the mysterious process that leads to three-ness as it manifests in the life of an individual who is committed to inner work:

“I’m reminded…of the image of marriage in alchemy.  Alchemists imagined the fusion of different metals into an alloy, a new metal, as a divine marriage where the king and the queen dissolved together in a dark stream of images.  They were reconstituted as a new being, a man-woman, a hermaphrodite, partaking of both sun and moon, gold and silver, the ultimate alloy. 

“The process the alchemists describe shows marriage [here Bosnak is referring to the inner marriage] as an ever more intensified struggle of opposing forces held together in a painful paradox.  This warring love leads to dissolution, in which the opposing forces fall apart and get a chance to reconstitute in a new form. 

“At one point, when the marital struggle has reached a point of frenzy—when the full force of the joint family neurosis has hit like a bomb—all that remains is the sense of burned-outness and death.  From all this darkness a new capacity for relationship emerges, hardened like a metal that has been switched time and again back and forth between the fire and the ice-cold water.  No living happily ever after for the alchemists.”

In other words, our ego’s determination to resolve the conflict between our conscious personality and a considerably intensified shadow which lives in a world of darkness can lead us to the depths, not only of cold depression, but of our lifeless souls. This same intolerable conflict is the catalyst that pushes us to find a way in which the two can live together; and if we can tolerate the fiery tension that comes with this search, it will launch us onto the path toward spiritual wholeness. 

“As within, so without.”  This is the same process that can transform an outer-world couple relationship, the topic of my next post.

You can order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at


Two: The Number of Creative Tension June 15, 2012

So many natural phenomena support a bipolar view of life that the number two has come to symbolize a very important reality:  the opposition and conflict that initiates all development and leads to equilibrium.  The creative tension of two-ness pertains to both the outer and inner life.  When applied to the inner life, two-ness prevails at many levels. For example, not only does each masculine archetype have its feminine partner, and vice versa, but bipolarity is also the essence of each individual archetype as it stands alone.

Every archetype is bipolar in at least three ways.  First, at any given moment in the life of the psyche, each archetype has both an unconscious and a conscious aspect. The ego is simply not strong enough to contain the full reality of the archetypes for very long.  Even if it were, it would be impossible for us ever to know an archetype in its totality. Regardless of how aware we are of some aspects of an archetype at certain times, the remaining aspects are always submerged in the unconscious. Thus, with every archetype, the potential for unconsciousness and consciousness always exists.

Second, as the psyche grows and changes developmentally, so, apparently do the archetypes.  Or at least they appear to us to change. Probably, as basic forces of Nature, they do not change at all but merely “unfold,” presenting new faces to us during our different phases of development. Probably it is only the ego which evolves.  Be that as it may, we can safely say that each archetype appears to have an immature and a mature aspect.  In between these two poles there is always a third, intermediate space wherein transitions take place.

While a given archetype might seem quite mature—i.e. highly activated and well-integrated into consciousness—our ego always has the potential to backslide into habitual unreflectiveness, in which case the archetypes will appear to have regressed to their immature states.  This is why we need regular practices like meditation, journaling, and dreamwork which aim at training the ego to become mindful for longer periods of time. This ceaseless movement between the two poles of unconsciousness and consciousness, immaturity and maturity, provides the necessary mental energy that keeps us alert and growing.  Without this growth the soul is essentially dead.

Finally, each archetype has both positive and negative potential.  For example, whereas the positive King is a nurturing and morally noble sovereign who is concerned about the abuse of power and uses clear, discriminating thinking to find fair and just ways to apportion it, the negative King is a rigid, rule-oriented, dominating and uncaring dictator.  Likewise, the positive Queen is a caring and forgiving nurturer of culture, but the negative Queen can be a dangerous, manipulative witch.

Two-ness is the natural condition of the human psyche, especially during our youth.  Thus, Carl Jung suggested that there are two basic aspects or roles inherent to the Masculine Principle, i.e. the Father and the Son, and two to the Feminine Principle: i.e., the Mother and the Maiden.   Yet, the psyche is made in such a way that three-ness is also a possibility.  Under certain conditions, three-ness can even replace two-ness as the ruling dynamic of the psyche.  More about this next time.

Order my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide at


Dream Interview Part IV: How My Dreams Influence My Writing June 8, 2012

Here’s the final question Shirley Showalter asked me at our recent interview.

Question #4:  If you were writing a memoir, especially one about childhood, would you expect to write overtly about your own remembered dream about the Lone Ranger or would you use the dream work as a covert influence helping you to sort detail, which stories to tell, etc.?

My Answer:  This is a very insightful question. As I mentioned in response to your first question, my last three books were all memoirs, and in them I took both of the routes you’ve mentioned. The Bridge to Wholeness started out with my earliest memory of being lost and alone at the age of three on the shore of Lake Michigan because both parents had gone back up to the cottage, each thinking the other had taken me with them. That experience was so traumatic that I never forgot it. It very much had the quality of a dream and when I wrote about it I automatically approached it that way.

In other words, I looked for the emotions I had felt, (a lot of fear and questioning and imagining the direction my life might take), and examined the symbols (it was night, I was lost and alone, and I was determinedly walking toward a small light in the distance) and then looked for the metaphorical meaning.  I was surrounded by darkness (the unconscious) and the only direction I knew to take was toward the light, i.e. toward consciousness and enlightenment.

There could not be a more apt metaphor for the essence of my personality and purpose. Looking for personal meaning in the emotions and symbols that show up in waking life, is, to me, an extremely valuable way of making sense of our lives. So yes, even when I wasn’t writing about my dreams, my experience with dreamwork definitely covertly influenced my writing.

After treating a few other big early memories the same way, I arrived at the age of ten when I had my really Big Lone Ranger dream. Since it was the only dream I remembered from my childhood, and since it, too, was so traumatic, it felt necessary to write about it, so I did it overtly. By that time I had found my voice, and the rest of the book continued in the same way:  writing about important events of my waking life the way I write about my dreams, and occasionally sharing an important dream that helped me make sense of my waking life.

Then one day when I was most of the way through, I had a sort of waking dream in front of my makeup mirror in which I spontaneously made up a fairy tale. (I love the symbolism of a mirror as a medium for engaging the instinct for reflection!) I was so used to paying attention to my inner life that I knew this had value and meaning too. Sure enough. Once I had written it down I realized it was the story of my life up to that point, and it became the central metaphor for the entire book.

In sum, trusting my dreams and imagination has allowed me to discover my creativity and fulfill my purpose in life. This is why I say, “My dreams are my life, and my life is a dream.” This concludes my interview with Shirley. I hope those of you who are writers or are considering writing have found it helpful.

As many of you know, I’ve been at the Book Expo America in New York for the past three days and had a wonderful time introducing my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide. Advance copies are now available at  The picture above was taken just before my book signing.  I’ll tell you more about  it soon.


Dream Interview Part III: Big Dreams June 5, 2012

Here’s Part III of my interview with memoir writer, Shirley Showalter.

Question #3:  I can only consciously remember one dream from childhood.  How might I explore its depths of meaning beyond the rather obvious ones? You remembered one dream also. From it, you constructed much of your life’s work. Is it possible that a dream about finding a television set (something I longed for but could not have) in the basement of our farmhouse could hold larger meaning? The dream was so real that I actually went down to the basement to look for the TV.

My Answer:  Dreams that stand out from childhood are very often Big dreams.  A Big dream may contain one or more of four characteristics.  First, it makes a powerful emotional impact on us that is impossible to ignore. Second, a Big dream may have a numinous or sacred quality about it, filling us with awe and making us feel it might contain a special message from God. Third, in a Big dream the dream ego is usually actively involved in the events instead of passively watching or waiting for something to happen.  Finally, especially with childhood dreams, it can prefigure the essential issues and direction of our lives.

Your dream definitely meets the first and third criteria, so to start with, I’d ask myself when I’ve felt the same emotions of longing and deep satisfaction in waking life. Then I’d ask: In the big picture of my life, what might my childhood longing for a television set represent?  The first answer that pops up in my mind is that since I grew up in a rural farmhouse which probably didn’t have a lot of modern amenities, it might symbolize my longing for an expanded knowledge about life, a wish to see the big world and live a more civilized, educated, accomplished and sophisticated lifestyle.

To me that, combined with the fact that I find the television in the basement, (a symbol of the unconscious), suggests a strong unconscious wish to move from a more primitive, more instinctual form of consciousness (farms almost have animals on them) into greater self-knowledge and wisdom. You don’t say how old you were when you had this dream but I would suspect it would be between the ages of 10 and 12, a time when most children acquire greater self-awareness, and with it, self-consciousness and the growing recognition of internal conflicts.

So could this dream have a deeper meaning?  Most certainly.  Could it prefigure the essential issues and direction of your life?  Well, only you can answer that question by looking at your ambitions and the inner motivations for your later behaviors and goals. Could this dream, in fact, be a sort of “message” from the sacred within, the archetype of the Self that inspires us to find the sacred meaning of our lives?  Again, only you can say; however, if your life has, in fact, been marked by a powerful desire for self-understanding, purpose, and fulfillment of your potential, I would expect it very well might be.

After reading the above, Shirley wrote, “You guessed correctly that the dream dates to age 10-12. Likely about age 10. ….I’m excited about the possibilities this dream holds for shaping the memoir. I would never have thought of it, except in passing, without you!”

Wish me luck, friends.  I’m off to New York for the BookExpo America. I’ll be doing a video podcast Tuesday afternoon and signing my new book Wednesday morning at the Javits Center from 9:30 to 10:30. If you want to see the podcast it will be available on the BEA Web site and distributed on a special feed ( to iTunes and across the Web through BookExpoCast.

You can order Healing the Sacred Divide from

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