Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The 52nd Week December 28, 2012

Izzie and Bear

Izzie and Bear

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. For me it stands out from the other 51 weeks in a year like a peaceful Zen garden amidst chaos, a special oasis where I attend to soul needs that require annual closure.

During the 80’s when I was juggling parenting with college teaching there were years when I’d spend this week assembling and basting together sandwiched layers of fabric backing, cotton batting, and the quilt tops I’d been working on all year. It took another year of hand-quilting everything together before I presented them to my children the next Christmas. After they each had a quilt of their own I used my special week to start more quilts for our new mountain cabin. When these were finished we took them with us for our annual years’-end visit.

On the outside that decade was about perfecting and preserving the collective values of the times in which I was raised. But on the inside I’d been on a dark, underground journey and I was desperate to understand the conflicts that were tormenting my psyche.

In the fall of 1989 I joined a Centerpoint group based on Jungian psychology. A year later I had quit my job to write a book, attended my first Journey Into Wholeness conference, and was recording and studying my dreams. The year of 1990 was a threshold into the most life-changing, soul-satisfying and creative period of my life.

Throughout the nineties I did dreamwork every morning and wrote every afternoon. In the 52nd week of each year I reread my dream journals and summarized important themes and trends, noted new developments, and highlighted valuable insights. The annual practice of remembering and integrating my soul’s processes brought greater awareness to my daily life and provided useful data for my writing. This was my decade of finding, connecting with, and honoring the inner kingdom of the Self.

The new millennium brought new insights and year’s-end rituals. Initially, I employed “animal medicine” to address an unprecedented need to get in touch with my body and nature by fulfilling a lifelong dream to own and train my very own horse. Later, when my grandchildren began arriving, I was given a second chance to develop and indulge my maternal, care-giving instincts. This time around I was far more conscious and joyful. Since then we’ve spent the week between Christmas and New Years’ at the cabin with our children, grandchildren and dogs enjoying, yes, you guessed it, physical, outdoor, non-cerebral fun like sledding, making snow angels, and building snowmen!

Once again it’s my favorite week of the year. We arrived at the cabin last night with Izzie, my new grand-dog who’s a female version of her predecessor, Bear. Some family will arrive tonight, the rest in a few days. This morning Fred and I threw out the outdated food in the pantry and freezer. Now he’s grocery shopping while I’m writing this blog post, an endeavor that has brought me enormous pleasure for almost three years.

It’s still too early into this decade to forecast what its theme or 52nd-week ritual will be. But for today, savoring my life as I’ve been doing these last two hours has satisfied every need of my soul. May the new year bring you renewed awareness and gratitude for the times of your own one, precious life.

In closing, if you have a bit of extra time you might enjoy this radio interview I recently did for the Centerpoint Foundation about my introduction to Jungian psychology.

 

The Secret Meaning of Christmas December 25, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

The Death of Earth or the Birth of Love? December 21, 2012

2012Well, here we are. It’s December 21, 2012: Winter Solstice, shortest day and longest night of the year, and the subject of extensive speculation about history’s final events. As most of us know, rare astronomical alignments have caused this date to be regarded as the end of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Although main-stream Mayan scholars do not believe they were predicting an end to life on this planet, some people do. Others have been preparing for wide-spread natural catastrophes that would dramatically alter our lives.

The Bible’s book of Revelation is one example of our long-standing fascination with end times. I confess that during the charismatic movement in the early 70’s, I briefly considered the idea of a “rapture” that would literally spare “true believers” the worst sufferings, but I concluded that this was the wishful thinking of fearful souls. I now think that since this vision was the product of a human mind, it is also the projection of a human intuition about the eventual need for a dramatic change in collective consciousness. When I first heard about the Mayan calendar and compared its end date with escalating wars, terrorism, climate changes, and natural disasters, I lay awake more than one night worrying about the future of my grandchildren. More recently, Cormak McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic, Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road, again raised my anxiety about our shared future.

I don’t believe my sensitivity to this issue makes me that unusual. As Jung discovered, for everything we know about ourselves there is a corresponding opposite we prefer not to know. Nobody’s immune from the suffering that comes when we’re forced to face repressed material, in this case the awareness of our mortality. Who among us has not glimpsed a terrifying future in which we will not be physically present? Our egos may rush to dismiss this thought, but it lives on in our unconscious where it influences our personalities and behavior anyway. How many addictions have their roots in a desperate wish to escape our fear of death?candle

The horrific tragedy in Newtown last week is the latest in a maelstrom of catastrophes that are swamping our planet and forcing us to face our collective shadow as well as the shadow of death. Is it any wonder some are obsessing over Earth’s death? People have always done this when the chaotic spirit of the depths challenges the complacent spirit of the times to respond with increased consciousness.

For me, this year’s solstice marks such a juncture.  Call it mere coincidence if you will, but I call it synchronicity: a meaningful coincidence. Here at the end of a major astronomical cycle, humanity is receiving a massive wake-up call to evolve psychologically or die. We know we’re in serious trouble, we know our lack of consciousness and compassion have brought us to this point, and we know something has to change. This is why many of us intuit that today’s date is a metaphor for the beginning of an era of positive psycho-spiritual transformation.

In response to my last post, “The Sacred Laws of the Psyche,” blogger and author Elaine Mansfield wrote: “As Solstice nears, I feel the power of the pause when ultimate darkness has been reached and the light is about to return. May this be a sacred moment for the major transitions we need in the world. We certainly seem to have the darkness, but I’m also counting on the Law of Love and the Law of Choice.”

Me too. May this holiday season mark our loving choice to bringing more light and love to the world.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

For a different take on this issue by another Jungian, check out this article by Pythia Peay.

 

The Sacred Laws of Psyche December 18, 2012

The inner universe

The inner universe

The inner universe of the mind is, like the physical world, a living organism that functions according to natural laws.  Deciphering them has been the work of holy fools, for who can presume to understand the sacred inner workings of creation? Yet we do try to understand these autonomous patterns of energy (archetypes) in our individual minds (the psyche) and in the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness (the psychoid) because we feel their profound influence.

Our brains know two languages: logic and imagination. Separately, each has limits, but an individual who respects both can make brilliant inroads into these mysteries. Einstein was one such person. He said, “Logic will take you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell were others. Jung scientifically compared his inner life and that of his clients with the myths and symbols of various wisdom traditions. Campbell developed some of Jung’s themes. Their imaginative work shed much-needed light into the darkness of our contemporary collective unconscious. Following are some natural laws they midwifed into our awareness.

1. The Law of Correspondence: The outer universe is a reflection of the inner universe. This intuition gave rise to the ancient adages, “As above, so below,” and “As without, so within.” Humanity has expressed this in diverse symbol systems such as mythology, religion, tarot, alchemy, astrology and magic.

2. The Law of Synchronicity: Meaningful coincidences between our inner and outer universes occur more frequently with self-reflective practices like dreamwork and active imagination. Synchronicities are not products of “cause and effect,” but of an imaginative, heartfelt search for personal meaning which eventually produces what Jungian Monika Wikman calls, “a psychology of synchronicity instead of linearity.”

3. The Law of Opposites: For everything we know about ourselves (beliefs, values, attitudes, emotions), there is a corresponding unconscious opposite. In our psychological immaturity we see things dualistically, (in terms of either-or, good-bad), and automatically repress or disown that which our egos consider the less desirable option.

One Mind

One Mind

4. The Law of Oneness:  Beneath all apparent dualities lies a fundamental connectedness with All That Is.  We can tap into this One Mind by integrating pairs of opposites to create partnerships which see, think, and behave holistically.

5. The Law of Entropy: When opposites remain isolated from one another, any disorder within them remains constant or increases.

6. The Law of Change:  Energies in both universes are constantly circulating. Change toward stasis and polarization increases disorder and chaos. Change toward communication and integration increases movement toward perfection and completion.

7. The Law of Love: Love is the most powerful healing and unifying force in Life. It has its roots in the heart, i.e. honest feeling, not the head, or logic.

8. The Law of Choice: Our ego, the organizing center of our consciousness, can choose to serve or fight these laws, and our personal choices influence ours and the world’s welfare. For example, if we serve the Law of Love, we respect and integrate ours and others’ religions, making space in ourselves and the world for both. If we fight this law we are choosing love’s opposite, hatred.

We can cultivate our imagination or bury it. View ourselves as separate or as connected. Integrate otherness or fight it. Nurture love or hate. Trust or fear. How can our beloved country serve these sacred laws at this point in history?  How can you and I?

My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of the innocents whose physical lives were tragically snuffed out in Newtown. Together, may we find a solution to this senseless tragedy.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

A Life Under Construction December 14, 2012

houseunderconstructionAs I ponder what this season means to me, this time of fading light and lengthening darkness, graying skies and skeleton trees, crisp air and muffled throats, four words recycle through my thoughts: Birth. Death. Rebirth. Change. And it’s not just the seasons that are changing. It’s me too.

Once I saw life as a well-marked road with a clear destination. Or an upward trek to a distant mountain peak. One day I’d arrive at that light-filled place and be finished. Or it was a spiral whose circles would get smaller as they rose higher until only a small, still point was left. I told myself I’d keep digging until a dazzling light illuminated everything I needed to know. I’d write a book that would answer all my questions and say everything I needed to say. I’d dialogue with my loved ones until the air between us was crystal bright and sparkly with no misunderstanding, confusion, or hurt. I’d be at peace. Done. Oh, and happy all the time because no matter what happened outside, inside it would always be spring.

Jungian analyst Monika Wikman writes, “The beginning of the journey of awakening often carries the innocence and naivete’ of the fool archetype.” So I guess I’m not alone. What I failed to realize was that to live is to change. That life itself is change. How could I not have understood this?  There it is, in front of me every day. The bald cypress trees that were dense with greenery two months ago are sparse with rust-colored needle-like leaves. Our grass has patches of yellow for want of rain. Every day but Sunday our normally quiet street buzzes and bangs, chugs, hums and throbs with the saws, hammers, and generators of a neighbor’s house reconstruction. And this too will change.

Why did I think it would be any different with me? My inner house, my psyche, is under construction too. Last night I snuggled and relaxed into sleep with contentment after a day well-spent: a rainy morning of reflection and dreamwork that brought refreshing new insights after a long dry season of too much intellect; closure on more Christmas gifts; help from my son uploading the contents of my old iphone to my new one; a pleasant evening with dear friends. Yet other nights my thoughts churn and thicken with worry like cement in a rotating mixer.

goldenseatThis morning I awoke trusting there’d be time enough to answer my waiting e-mail and fit in my workout. I took it for granted that inspiration for the next blog post would come and I wouldn’t have to rush to a family Christmas party. Other days I wake up cranky from a stiff body and an uncomfortable dream, overwhelmed by a too-long to-do list, annoyed at the sudoku puzzle I thought was a snap until I bombed at the very end.

Sometimes I fight or ignore inner change. Then I lapse into a space that’s dark and narrow, like the hallways that led to the bathrooms I was looking for in two recent dreams. Then one morning I awaken from a dream of receiving a warm hug from a loved one walking behind me, holding me close, supporting me on my way, and I feel fresh appreciation for my husband’s cheerful breakfast commentary about the news, gratitude for a horoscope that sparks an idea for a blog post, pleasure at the synchronicity between an unusual word appearing in last night’s dream and this morning’s newspaper. I feel my limitations, know I will die, yet my heart surges with wonder and joy. In moments like this I sit in what Wikman calls, “the golden seat between the opposites, the incorruptible experiences of Self where we are not unduly thrown around by life changes, though we experience these changes.”

It’s true what she says: “Circulation of the psychic libido, when taken to heart, becomes…an embodied “religious” instinct…a felt experience of the divine.” ~Monika Wikman

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

Monika Wikman’s book, Pregnant Darkness, can be found at this Amazon link.

 

Alchemy and the Journey of Transformation December 11, 2012

gnosis_21Whether we know it or not, you and I are on a journey of transformation. The same is true of our species. From the moment of our conception, natural forces of growth and change we could not see or control were in operation, heating, intensifying, distilling, mixing, softening, dissolving, separating and transforming fixed aspects of our cells, minds and bodies. They still are.

Scientists devote their lives to understanding the physical aspects of these forces;  psychologists, to understanding the non-physical. Yet our knowledge of them is still rudimentary. Where does that miraculous light that shines in the eyes of every human come from?  Where does it go when our bodies die?  What is this mysterious thing we call consciousness?  Why can’t science find its location anywhere in the body, especially the brain?

Rooted in the mysteries of life and death, questions like this have always haunted humanity and inspired new directions of study including the science, or art, of alchemy. We don’t know its ancient origins but we do know alchemy was practiced in pre-Common Era China and Egypt. Mother of modern-day chemistry, Alchemy searched for the formula for the Elixir of Life and the secret to transmuting base and dense metals like lead into silver and gold.

But, as A. Cockren writes in his History of Alchemy, the accounts of the lives of those who practiced it “lead us to believe that they were concerned with things spiritual rather than with things temporal. They were inspired by a vision…of man, made perfect…freed from disease and the limitations of warring faculties both mental and physical…man made truly in the image and likeness of the One Divine Mind in its Perfection, Beauty, and Harmony.”

Early in the 20th century Carl Jung incorporated the symbolic language and images of alchemical texts into modern psychology. The base metals represented the baser parts of humanity: our unrefined instincts and raw, ungovernable emotions. The operations to purify and transform them, Calcinatio, Solutio, and Coagulatio, and the stages of change they underwent, nigredo, albedo and rubedo had their counterparts in mental and emotional processes and changes. And the longed-for results, gold and silver, were earthly versions of the heavenly perfection of the opposite energies of Sol and Luna. Finally, the holy marriage (hieros gamos) between theis King and Queen created the philosopher’s stone, a symbol of humanity’s highest accomplishment: transformation into wholeness and enlightenment.

sacredmarriageAlchemy was an attempt to understand the soul’s journey through life, and alchemists were Spirit Warriors committed to personal growth and refinement in preparation for the mystery of death and beyond. We are likewise Spirit Warriors who take our inner lives seriously enough to practice dreamwork, active imagination, astrology, tarot, I Ching, shamanism and so on. All these are symbol systems which address the language, archetypal patterns, and processes of our souls.

“Good Christian” that I was in the 1970’s, I was wary of such things.  My church considered them “occult” and dangerous. As if searching to understand ourselves and grow into our potential for relationship with the divine is the work of the devil! Yet, until very recently, this is exactly what most of the “civilized” world thought, which is why witches, alchemists, gypsies and others with inner wisdom were regularly tortured by the Church.

Whether we know it or not, you and I are on a journey of transformation. The same is true of our species. To continue to fight our natural and desirable growth is a choice to fulfill this prediction by Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

Religion From the Head: A Good Christian December 7, 2012

rome-christian-martyrs-grangerI was born into a family of “good Christians.” My mother’s great-grandparents were Calvinists from the Netherlands who immigrated to Holland, Michigan in 1848.  Within a few years they moved to Vriesland, Michigan where they lived in a tent while building themselves a log house and clearing 40 acres of land. My great-great grandfather was an elder in their new church. My grandmother wrote about her forebears, “On Sunday they regularly attended the meeting, at first in Kuslander’s house, but later built a log church, sometimes being discouraged and down-hearted during the week, but on Sun. the pastor encouraged them, and on Mon. with renewed strength, they would go to work again. They had to walk over 2 miles to church through the woods by way of a blazed trail.”

In my youth, many of my family’s elders still held strict religious views which forbade work, movies, dancing, or playing cards on Sundays, and they disapproved of people who did these things. Sundays were for church, home, family, praying, Bible study and resting. Although my parents loosened up a bit in their religious views, they, too, were good, responsible, well-meaning, church-going people. Right beliefs, good deeds, and behavior beyond reproach were what counted. “Love your neighbor as yourself” was a mental ideal and a moral duty, and most of us used our intelligence, self-discipline and will-power to act kind and loving.

The-Crusades-300x223Influenced by their examples, I believed I was a deeply spiritual person because I was fascinated by the idea of God, loved studying the Bible, prayed and attended church regularly, agreed with the preacher, volunteered for different ministries, and was nice to people. Over the years, this belief was reinforced by some powerful religious awakenings. But gradually it dawned on me that in the depth of my heart I was not experiencing marked improvement in compassion for myself and others. To the contrary, it seemed like the older I got, the sadder, more secretly cynical, disillusioned, self-critical, anxious, and angry I became. This paradoxical relationship between my idealistic thoughts and true feelings mystified me. What was I doing wrong?  I could not see that my tribe emphasized religion from the head while unwittingly de-valuing the role of the heart.

Then at 37, archetypal forces over which my ego had no control showed me that for every bit of “good” in me, there is an opposite potential for “bad.” Totally unprepared for this psycho-spiritual crisis, and utterly alone except for the old God-image with whom I wrestled daily, I descended into a Dark Night abyss where a fierce struggle between inner opposites went on for many years. When I emerged  from my baptism by fire with new eyes and a cracked-open heart, my old spiritual resources were dead to me.  Only a few Jungians I met understood what Jungian analyst Monika Wikman meant when she wrote: “A central means of traveling toward the religious function is the ability to hold the opposites, both-and instead of either-or.” My psyche had formed a new center and I had found a new tribe.

Recently I met more members of my tribe at a Jungian Journey Conference in Laurel Hill, NC. What refreshed me beyond measure was not the heady theories that Jungians can get into just like other spiritual seekers. It was the palpable presence of love and acceptance radiating from the open eyes and understanding hearts of fellow travelers who are attending to the paradoxical truths of their very flawed, very human souls. For them as for me, religion is not just about the head.  It’s primarily about the heart.

Note: While writing the above paragraph I gave in to an urge to check my Facebook page where this synchronistic video was waiting for me.  Enjoy!

My new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

 
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