Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Enlightenment in New Mexico July 31, 2012

It’s such an honor to present today’s post. It’s a review of my new book written by guest blogger, N.M. Freeman. It first appeared last week on her blog. Here’s the link. Natasha is the author of the award-nominated The Story of Q. (inspired by actual events). This book blew me away! You can read what I wrote about it in January of this year in a post titled Questioning Religion. The Story of Q contains historical facts about the origins of the Christian scriptures found in the New Testament of the Holy Bible and is recognized for contributing to the growth, further education and enlightenment of humanity. I hope you’ll check it out! And now, Natasha’s post, which she titled Enlightenment in New Mexico:

As promised, here’s my review of Dr. Jean Benedict Raffa’s stunning new book: Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other and the World. Brilliantly executed, this book is a thought provoking pleasure to read – never mind that it can, for some, be life changing. Highly, highly recommended. This review can be found in full in the Summer 2012 edition of Radical Grace (a publication for the center for action and contemplation based in Albuquerque, New Mexico). The theme of the summer edition is Unitive Consciousness.

Dr. Jean Benedict Raffa’s new book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World looks at the difference between religion and God through the lens of Jungian psychology, and speaks to the deepest spiritual seekings of the human heart.

The power in this book lies not in its ability to reveal a recognizable truth, but in the way it communicates this truth. Through memory, psychology, emotion, and the powerfully secret relevance of our dreams.

With gentle brilliance, Raffa walks us through the first 3 Epochs of psycho-spiritual development in accordance with Jungian psychology. Incredibly, each Epoch is so identifiable that we immediately recognize our own space on the development scale. This type of self-reflection is, as Raffa iterates, crucial to our ever coming to know the wholeness of God as we are born to know it.

Refreshingly, Healing the Sacred Divide tackles topics often left to the university classroom in such a way that makes them generously accessible to the mind as well as the soul. Engaging a powerful conversation about the evolution of our God-image (where it comes from and how it came to be what it is today), Raffa reveals the dysfunctions associated with the image, the how and why it often feels incomplete when presented through the orthodox and especially the fundamental religious lens. In this sense, as we learn more about ourselves, we also become powerfully privy to the truth and effect behind the reality that our patriarchal God view is as much constructed as our gender divisions – both resulting in an inability to experience wholeness on the human journey or, in a spiritual sense, as children of God.

With beautiful, bravely intelligent prose, Raffa loosens the divisions between masculine and feminine thought and reveals them for what they are: 2 realities that apart leave a disjointed experience (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually) but together make a whole. It is in the union of these two spheres or rather divisions of thought, that a sacred space is created within which spiritual growth can occur in abundance. This fascinating expose challenges us to transcend dangerous divisions of thought that can distract from our spiritual relationship with ourselves, each other, and the world, but most of all God.

Eloquently and far from overwhelmingly Raffa explores these topics within the context of our own experiences. In anecdotal form, she lays the foundation from which to explore the topics of self, ego, and even the shadow parts of our personalities (which we might not want to admit we have).

Ultimately, Healing the Sacred Divide shows us how we are already in a relationship with God – born whole – with only our fears, ego based religions, and desire or fear to conform to societal norms standing in the way. Better yet, the text invites us to not only heal, but to bridge that divide.

The psychological speak has the potential to become tedious but it never does. Raffa has woven ourselves through the text so that you spend the book understanding, reflecting, recognizing, feeling love, wisdom, and the comfort of knowing healing the sacred divide is realistic, possible. Here. Now.

On a personal note, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so moved by a book and the truth it proclaims, which is purely identifiable in and by the human experience. (And I have read many a book on this topic.)

An extremely important book, Raffa’s work/insight is the very mandorla of which she speaks.

For all, from every background and every religion, this is easily one of the most important books of 2012…and the future.

 

Circle of Dreamers July 27, 2012

Sometimes my responses to your comments are so packed with new information that I wish I’d saved them for another blog post so readers who don’t subscribe to my comments won’t miss them. This happened when I stayed up very late the other night to reply to Therese’s comments about the dream in my last post, A Solitary Dance. So I’ve decided to share my reply here instead.  She wrote as if this were her dream and these were her symbols, which is how the members of my dream groups respond to each others’ dreams. I’ve writtten this in the form of a dialogue because I want you to see the value of working on your dreams with another person or group.

Therese:  I just want to mention that I was curious about the difference between the feeling in the dream (“comforting, I wonder, I am impressed… grateful…”)  and the emotional pain evoked reflecting and associating while conscious (bone-deep, abiding pain…burden, responsibility, lonely, misunderstandings, critical, bored, solitary.”)

Me: Great insight! I hadn’t noticed the stark contrast between the feelings of my dreaming and waking selves!  A waking life event had left me feeling hurt and misunderstood the day before I had this dream, and when I wrote it down the next day the same feelings arose again.  The fact that my dream ego feels sorry for the gray man’s pain is a hint that I’m feeling sorry for myself (the gray man symbolizes the Scholar/Writer aspect of my animus); however my dream ego also feels curious,  grateful, and comforted by the presence of these inner characters in whom she places complete trust.

This is an example of how dreams compensate for waking life attitudes by presenting other perspectives. This dream was reminding me that beneath my temporary emotional reactions to day-to-day events there is a rock-bottom layer of unswerving support, comfort and trust. This is Dream Mother’s way of pointing me to a healing alternative:  I can choose to release my self-pity and move back into that place of gratitude and trust.

Therese: The setting of my living room seems significant, as does the gray robed man’s extreme stiffness.  Pain has been associated with his condition.  What else could this stiffness and pain be a symptom (symbol) for, in me?

Me: Yes, the living room setting suggests this was where I was living (psychologically) when I had the dream. And you’ve triggered the insight that the gray man’s stiffness speaks to a mental attitude I had adopted toward someone who had caused me distress.

Therese: And the pulling from his robes of a long pen, which he seemingly uses as a brace/reinforcement.  Could it also be an instrument to draw our attention (point) to an area of malaise, kidneys perhaps? something serving the function of filtering? or do I need to stretch? my backbone? structural support?  (Wow, I’ve just noticed MY lower back has begun to ache…)  My dream ego “feels sorry for” while my blonde animus feels “compassion and understanding.”  You dream an understanding of, “He knows.”  What is it that “he knows”?

Me: You’re so good at noticing dream references to the physical body. This rarely occurs to me. I do get lower back pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders sometimes. My chiropractor says they’re the result of a misalignment of the atlas, the top bone of the spine, which he corrects with gentle pressure on a spot behind my ear.  I wish it were as easy to correct my stiff-necked attitudes!  No kidney problems I know of, but the idea of strengthening my psychological filters resonates. And yes, I sit way too long at my computer and should get up and stretch more often. My dream ego feels sorry for the gray man just as my waking ego sometimes feels sorry for myself. The blonde man knows how the gray man feels without having to ask. He’s deeply intuitive because he’s suffered himself and knows how it looks and feels. This knowing is where his compassion comes from.

Therese: At the end of your associations you mention “he and I are not alone.”  What is it to be “not alone?”

Me: Two things: In the big picture I’m not alone because there’s a rapidly expanding mass of people, including yourself, Therese, whose search for self-knowledge is changing their ideas about religion as it connects them with the “kingdom of God” within. I’m also not alone as an individual because I have the company of a cast of inner archetypal characters I’ve met in my dreams whose energies are very real and present to me. Spending time with them in dreamwork,  active imagination and writing feels like coming home. So when I’m lost in anxiety, sorrow, or loneliness, recognizing these feelings reminds me who they’re coming from and takes me back “home.”

If Therese hadn’t responded to my dream with her associations I would have missed many of its nuances. Thank you, Therese, for carrying this dream around with you all day! Your comments have made me dig deeper and provided promising new areas for exploration.  And now to sleep, perchance to dream!

Photograph: Circle of Dreamers (Olmec Room, Mexico City National Anthropological Museum)

You can purchase my new book and see my video interview at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

A Solitary Dance July 24, 2012

Dream #4360:  A Solitary Dance

I’m in a large room that feels like a living room or study in an old house.  Three men around my age are in here with me. They are somehow familiar and it feels comforting that they’re here. They’re doing a slow, solitary dance around the room, each in his own way, in a counter-clockwise circle.  One man passes in front of me wearing a dark gray robe with a sash and a hood or floppy hat.  He’s holding an open manuscript in his hands and seems to be reading it as he glides gracefully by.

He makes a slow turn and I see that he’s extremely stiff. He pulls something out of his robes that looks like a long pen and tucks it vertically behind the sash, as if to brace his spine.  I feel sorry for him and turn to the blonde-haired man on my right to say, “He’s in pain!” but realize he’s looking at the man in gray with compassion and understanding. He knows. So does the silent man I sense behind me.

I wonder why these men are doing this. It’s like a ritual or contest they’ve been involved in for a long time and still feel they must do. Why, especially, does the man in gray keep doing it if it causes him such pain?  How important could this be if he is risking injury?  He approaches the silent man and they confer about their training and strategy for an upcoming event. I am impressed by their dedication and somehow grateful that they intend to pursue their goal, as if their continuing is important to me, will somehow be in my best interest.

Associations:

Oh, my. I almost didn’t write this snippet down this morning as it seemed so unimportant, but now I find it deeply moving. The clothing of the man in gray (the color I almost always wear to honor the overlap of black and white), the fact that he carries a manuscript, and the pen he uses to brace his spine, all point to my writer animus: my WiseMan/Warrior/Magician/Scholar! The fact that he’s in this slow dance, always moving to the left, counterclockwise, points to committed inner work.

What is so puzzling and unexpected is that he’s obviously in pain, yet he persists as if it hasn’t occurred to him to quit. He will see the dance through no matter the cost. Yes, he is like that. A Warrior, for sure. Oh, how I love him, yet I feel very sad for him too, as if he’s making the utmost sacrifice for his cause. It gives me comfort to know he has faithful companions to give him help and encouragement. Even more comforting is the knowledge they’re doing this for me.

But why this dance? What is their goal? What’s the pain about?  How does this dream pertain to me and where I am now? Tears spill onto my cheeks as I write this. They are my body’s evidence of a bone-deep, abiding pain which my ego usually prefers to ignore. I know the costs of going within, of carrying the burden of a strong sense of responsibility to my cause. It is a lonely way. I sense the misunderstanding and barely disguised boredom, feel the silent criticism and rejection in the shoulder shrugs and exasperated sighs of strangers or casual acquaintances, sometimes even friends. These come with the territory.

But the man in the gray robe does not let this deter him, nor will I. The way of individuation may be a solitary dance, but he and I are not alone.

You can order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at www.larsonpublications.com

 

Puppy Love July 20, 2012

Recently I shared a dream from many years ago (Seeing Through the Mist) of a sacred garden where a puppy playfully grabbed my hand as if inviting me to follow him. Who was this puppy named Prince? What was he doing in my dream? Where did he want to take me? In those days I had only a vague inkling of what this sweet symbol had to do with me. But the sweetness has spread a hundred-fold since then and I thought you might be interested in knowing why.

Animals in dreams usually represent our physical, animal natures. In Jungian psychology dogs are often seen as psychopomps, i.e. spiritual initiators and guides who direct the transformation of souls. For example, in Greek mythology, Cerberus is the three-headed dog who guards the river Styx, the place of transition between physical life and the underworld afterlife.  Psychologically, the upper world represents our conscious selves and the underworld represents the unconscious: our unknown depths. 

So how did this symbol relate to the transformation occurring in my soul? I found a clue in the writing of Thomas Moore. In his book, Care of the Soul, he says that during the Middle Ages, many wise people considered the body to be a physical manifestation of the soulDeepak Chopra addresses the same theme in Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul.  Both write about the loss of soul that comes from neglecting the sacred life in our bodies.

Was I attuned to the sacredness of the life in my physical body?  Did I treat it like a spiritual vessel for my soul? Did I respect the messages it sent me through emotions and physical sensations? Absolutely not. And here’s why. At the age of 11 I learned the most devastating lesson anyone can have:  the reality and inevitability of death.  When my father died, my unconscious response was to escape physical vulnerability and pain by strengthening my mind and spirit.

From then on, I was a stoic little Warrior.  I refused novacaine when the dentist drilled my teeth.  If my eyes filled with tears, I simply wiped them away and pressed on. If I felt physically drained, instead of noticing what was sapping my energy I criticized myself for wimping out. If someone said something cruel or nobody asked me to dance at the Jr. High cotillion, I refused to feel hurt.  So for the grown-up me, the puppy represented an inner soul guide whose appearance signaled my readiness to become better acquainted with my physical, instinctual, emotional self.

What about his name: Prince? Did that mean something too? Of course it did. Everything in our dreams has meaning for us. Consider this association for “prince” from The Herder Symbol Dictionary: “Psychoanalytically he can be understood as the representative of victorious ego powers.” This innocuous little puppy symbolized a profound spiritual truth: The success of our journey is a function of our (our ego’s) willingness to acquire as much reverence for the unconscious life in our bodies as we have for the conscious life of the mind.

That this puppy was a Prince and not a fully adult King suggested I had a lot of growing up to do. But the fact that he was being fed by unconscious aspects of my psyche (the unknown people in the dream who gave him food) was enormously reassuring because it said parts of me were beginning to heed this wisdom so beautifully expressed by Jungian analyst, Dr. Cara Barker: “Take the time to feed what is hungry in your soul, and rest what is weary in your heart.”  Today I realize that receiving Prince’s affirmation from the sacred depths was when I stopped trying to escape my life and started falling back in love with it.

Click here to see a video of my first interview for my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide.

 

Exciting News: Watch My First Interview About Healing the Sacred Divide! July 17, 2012

Hello my dear friends.  This post is  going to be different from the others.  Instead of using the written word to share my passions with you, I have a video for you to watch.  It’s the interview about my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which was conducted on June 6th at the Book Expo America. It’s just come online and you are among the first to see it. Yaaay!  I hope you like it, and I hope you’ll pass it along to others who might be interested.  When you’re ready to watch it, click on the UTube link above.

Coincidentally, the online version of Publishers Weekly has just published a review of Healing the Sacred Divide in its Religion section.  I’m absolutely thrilled to say they’ve given it a “Thumbs Up!”  Another Yay!!  Here’s the link: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-936012-60-2

Things are getting very exciting now.  In another week I’ll begin doing book signings, lectures, and workshops.  If you’re interested in knowing when and where I’ll be appearing, you can check out my website from time to time.  And, of course, if you’re interested in having me make a presentation for your group, you can contact me through there too.

Also, to my loyal friends who are reading or have already read advance copies and offered to post reviews on Amazon, my publisher says the time has come.  So have at it!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to do this for me!  I’m told there’s a magic number of reviews — somewhere around 20 — which will attract major interest and cause an important boost in sales.  I know your kind words will make a huge difference.  While you’re there, I hope you’ll check out the wonderful review Skip Conover has already posted. 

Of course, to anyone who feels so inclined, I’d be extremely grateful if you’d add your own thoughts to Amazon! And if you don’t have a copy yet, please don’t be daunted by the fact that they only have one left!  They’ve almost sold out of the advance copies they had, but after July 30 they’ll have lots more.  Meanwhile, you can get one right away from my publisher, Larson Publications, Inc. at their web site: www.Larsonpublications.com.  Plus, you’ll find several reviews and lots of other very cool information about Healing the Sacred Divide there.

My heart is very full as I write this. I’m humbled and deeply grateful for your interest in my work, and I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you are following this blog.  Matrignosis and Healing the Sacred Divide are my gifts to you and the world, and you, my dear friends, are the world’s miraculous gifts to me!

Namaste.

 

Flexing Our Mythos Muscles July 13, 2012

The imaginative and symbolic way I perceive dreams and ordinary life is somewhat different from the way we are normally taught to think in school. I assure you this is not just sloppy thinking, but a conscious choice I’ve made to use more of my brain’s potential.

Plato was the first great thinker in Western history to define the two modes of thinking that are the specialties of the two hemispheres of the brain. He called them logos and mimesis. Following the lead of psychologist Gisela Labouvie-Vief I call the latter mythos. It is generally accepted that while there is some overlap, the left hemisphere of the brain is primarily oriented to logos and the right, to mythos.

Mythos thinking is symbolic, metaphoric, instinctive, imaginative, visual, intuitive, emotional, and subjective. Receptive to chaos, mystery, newness, and change, mythos is a compass that points us to the eternal and the universal. Mythos is the mother of original thinking, self-discovery, spiritual growth, and personal meaning. It is the basis for all forms of creative expression and every form of inner work that leads to self-knowledge.

Although Plato loved mimesis/mythos and was himself very imaginative, inner-directed and spiritually oriented, he considered reason to be a more advanced and mature form of knowing. He preferred logos to mythos for two reasons: because of mythos’s appeal to the emotions — which, of course, can be dangerous and uncontrollable when they are not made conscious — and because he thought logos was fostered by written language, which he considered an advancement and refinement over oral language. Following Plato’s example, the writer of the Gospel of John proposed that logos is cosmic reason and the self-revealing thought and will of God.

Plato passed this bias on to Aristotle, Aristotle passed it on to us. Due to the enormous influence of these men on Western philosophical thought, today virtually everyone but writers, artists and mystics vastly underrates the potential of one half of our brains. I find it very bizarre that we still haven’t overcome this prejudice against inherent qualities of our own minds! Certainly there was a time in the history of our species when it was essential to hone our left-hemisphere qualities if we were to continue to evolve beyond our earlier, right-brained orientation, but we’ve had this bias for the past 5,000 years now, and expanding our consciousness has never been more crucial.

Why? Because we’re killing ourselves, each other, and our beloved planet. In his book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, vascular surgeon Leonard Shlain writes about the brain’s role in the evolution of our species. His research suggests that historically there has been a cause-and-effect relationship between an obsessive left-hemisphere orientation and the ascendency of the separate, abstract, male Sky God, the dominator mode of governance, and the repression of women and minorities. If Shlain is correct, the root cause of many of the world’s current problems is the intolerance the left hemisphere of our brains has for right-brained otherness!

In short, we’ve been projecting our fear and hatred of vital parts of ourselves onto others and now we’re suffering the consequences. Isn’t it time we started flexing our mythos muscles?

 

Meeting the Mistress of the Forest July 10, 2012

Once I read about a horse that lived in the same pasture for over 30 years, eating the same old tired grass, trying to find shade in the noonday heat under the same scrawny tree. After many years of neglect, the fence that separated this pasture from a lush, grassy meadow studded with beautiful leafy trees crumbled and eventually fell. Stepping over the fallen wood would have been a very simple matter for the horse, yet it stood at the border where it had always stood, looking longingly over at the grass as it had always looked.

I feel so sorry for that horse. It had become so accustomed to its old boundaries that it never noticed when they were outworn. I wish someone from the other side had called it over so it could have spent its final years grazing in a greener, fresher, infinitely more satisfying space.

Many of us have felt our spirits quicken through glimpses of something ineffable in the mist beyond normal awareness and longed to pursue it. But habitual assumptions are not easy to overcome. Moreover, the daily demands of life are so compelling that we usually defer our journey into the deeply alluring recesses of the forest until another day.

What are we to do if we do not want to end up like that horse? Luckily we humans have a special someone who beckons to us from beyond our outworn boundaries: she is the wisdom of the Deep Feminine traditionally called Sophia. But to hear her call we need to turn off the constant flow of words and listen with our hearts and bodies.

Her voice is very soft; her call, though compelling, is quiet. She speaks to us in urges, needs, wishes, emotions, feelings, synchronicities, yearnings, physical symptoms, accidents, instincts, nature, meaningful insights, joyful experiences, bursts of unexpected pleasure, creative ideas, images, symbols, dreams: all the things we have learned to ignore so we can perform with utmost efficiency in the rat race of daily life.

The message in her communiques seems so subversive that we have learned to ignore it too. Do not fear the unknown, she says when we are tempted to risk exploring the wilderness of our souls. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be content with the half life that comes from avoiding your fears. Feel your fears, follow your passions, experience your life with all your being. Open yourself and go deeper, for great treasures lie buried in your depths.

Following Sophia does not result in a quick fix, but if we will go boldly and persevere, the mansion doors to the eternal sacred that lies within will open unto us. The inhabitant of that mansion is the Self, our inner Beloved. Made of equal parts masculine and feminine energy, the Self is often symbolized by the King and Queen. Here in the West we project our King onto the distant Sky God and remain relatively ignorant of his feminine partner, Sophia, the Mistress of the Forest who is as close to us as our own breath and blood. Thus do we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from her wisdom and cross over into her sacred space.

So how, exactly, are we different from that old horse?

How has the Mistress of the Forest been speaking to you lately? What is she saying?

 

 
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