Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Why I Find Easter Difficult to Write About March 29, 2013

Sunrise at the Beach, Easter 2012

Sunrise at the Beach, Easter 2012

Easter is difficult for me to write about. Partly because I can’t think of anything to say I haven’t already said.  I’d love to tell you a story about my favorite Easter as a child, but I don’t have one!  We were Christians but we didn’t celebrate Easter in our house when I was growing up. Except for one year when my uncle dropped by and surprised Jimmy and me with Easter baskets. They probably had chocolate bunnies wrapped in foil, and yellow marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans, and green plastic grass. Until then I had no idea such things existed. Maybe that was my favorite Easter….

I don’t remember Daddy ever being home at Easter, although he must have been there for my tenth birthday in April.  I know he was home for at least part of that month because his mother, Grandma Benedict, had come to stay with us while he was home recuperating from his second heart attack and she made me the first birthday cake I ever had.  I remember that well! It was angel food with strawberries in it. She served it with strawberry ice cream, and everybody sang Happy Birthday to me, and I got to blow out the candles. I had never felt so important in my life.  But since Easter is on a different date every year and not all of them are in April, I can’t be certain Daddy was home for that. If he was, we would have gone to church if he was well enough, and I might even have gotten a new dress. That would probably have been my favorite Easter. But I don’t remember.

I do remember one Easter when our children were around 5 and 3 years old. Mostly I remember because my daughter still tells me it was her favorite Easter. The Easter Bunny must have noticed that we had a new sand box in the backyard because s/he brought the candy and grass in two large plastic toy dump trucks! The children played with them long after the candy was gone.

Narcissus in the North Carolina Mountains, Spring 2013

Narcissus in the North Carolina Mountains, Spring 2013

The other reason I find it difficult to write about Easter is because not everyone who reads my blog is Christian. Moreover, I don’t want to offend those who are. Because here’s the thing. I’ve been studying Jungian psychology and my inner life for 24 years. During that time, I’ve experienced enormous growth and change. For example, I’ve gone from being terrified to look at my dreams lest they show me something that was wrong with me, or that might scare me, or heaven forbid, that might predict my imminent death, to being so excited every time I remember a dream that I can’t wait to write it down and start working on it!

So here’s my point. As I’ve changed, so have my religious ideas.  Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t lost my faith.  Far from it! I’ve never been so convinced of the reality of the Great Mystery some call God, and I’ve never felt so connected to it. But I’ve discovered that the less afraid I am of the unknown “otherness” in myself, the less afraid I am of the otherness in different people, different cultures, and different religions. Best of all, the more I forgive myself for being flawed and human, the more compassion I feel for myself and others. To me, this is what religion is supposed to be about and what Jesus meant when he said the kingdom of God is within. So I find it hard to take the ideas I was taught about original sin and our need for punishment and redemption literally any more. To me, Easter is a metaphor for two corresponding realities: the miraculous birth/death/rebirth cycles of life that recur in nature every year, and the archetypal reality of our need for psychological birth/death/rebirth from out of our old unconscious and self-centered instinctual natures into new levels of understanding, awareness and compassion.

Well, I guess this wasn’t so difficult after all. If you’d like to read more, check out last year’s post called “Easter to the Soul.”  Wishing you all a happy, hopeful spring filled with greening, budding new life within and without.

You can find my latest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.


The Art of Tending the Fire March 26, 2013

An ancient theorem of enlightenment is As within, so without. Essentially, this means that we humans project the themes and processes of our souls outward into the physical world, which then functions like a giant movie screen. If we will look at this screen through the eyes of Sophia—by which I mean with right-hemisphere mythos—we will see our inner dramas enacted everywhere and this seeing will enhance our self-awareness.

For example, the following themes of the ego’s heroic journey into consciousness are found not only in ancient rituals, scriptures, and myths, but in current books, films, songs, paintings, sculptures, and other creative works:

Separation (leaving the safety and comfort of the maternal matrix to find your identity),

Achievement (strengthening your ego by finding and proving your individuality),

Sacrifice (changing your ego’s attitude toward power),

Suffering (entering the dark abyss of the unconscious),

Surrender, Death, Descent (losing the safety and comfort of familiar assumptions and conventional formulas; submitting to an authority greater than the world’s opinions),

Receiving help from unexpected sources (befriending your shadow and feminine side),

Rebirth (acquiring self-knowledge and more consciousness; being released from the prisons of rigid belief systems; becoming empowered to make original choices),

Return (re-entering the community on your own terms as a maturing, authentic individual),

Reunion (being reunited with feminine feeling and participating in the sacred marriage in which your inner opposites are united), and

Blessing (bringing healing new consciousness to your community).

These archetypal themes are developed in such literary works as Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, John Fowles’ The Magus, and even the humorous Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins. Films include Alan Ball’s American Beauty, M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Village and Lady in the Water, and George Lucas’sStar Wars series. The songs of Kris Kristofferson and other musicians likewise address many of these issues. Ultimately, the symbols and motifs of every work of art are imaginative manifestations of the artist’s need to understand and express him/herself, evolve into greater consciousness, and share what s/he has learned with others. Some artists know this; others don’t have a clue.

Imaginatively tracking the underlying threads of psychological and spiritual meaning that we find in myth, literature, film, art, our dreams and even the everyday events of our waking lives, is soul-making work.  As Jungian analyst Monika Wikman says, “The symbolizing function alive in the imagination unites the opposites of spirit and body and brings us into experience with the third, the intermediary, realm, which is both corporeal and spiritual and also more than the sum of the parts. The star in humankind—the living imagination and its connection to the divine—mediates psyche/body dimensions and misalignments…”  Using our imagination to find personal meaning in the themes and images that speak to us heals divides that prevent us from becoming our true selves.

The alchemists understood the transforming value of imagination. They addressed it with their symbolism of tending the fire and cooking earthly elements until they were distilled into their purest essences.  The essences were lifted into the heavens to mingle with and be fertilized by what Jung called the “seeds of the stars,”  their celestial, archetypal source.  Thus renewed, they returned to purify and renew the earth. This was a metaphor for transforming the baser, earthier elements of our psyches in ways that bring us spiritual awareness,  emotional warmth and the light of consciousness.

Our transformation does not happen quickly or easily. It is, as Wikman notes,  a never-ending process of cultivating “inner attentiveness to the life of the soul, and learning how to live and work with this flame that burns within in ways that are life enhancing, rather than destructive.”  This leads us “into growing awareness and participation in new transmutations between heaven and earth, between human and divine…[wherein]…we and the guiding spirit of wisdom grow in relationship to one another.”

If wisdom is the goal we seek, tending our inner fire is the art that will take us there.


A Love Affair With Carl Jung March 22, 2013

carl-jungA few nights ago I dreamed I was Carl Jung’s mistress! His wife and I were in the big family room of his country house watching a fluffy black bear cub cavort over the carpet with two or three gray and white dogs and a cat. The bear cub was lovingly licking the faces of the other animals and they were enjoying themselves as much as s/he was. When I entered a study/library behind the main room, Jung was there with his other mistress and a few friends. He greeted me with a loving hug, then wrapped his right arm proprietarily around me. As I snuggled happily into his warmth he turned to me and said, “This is our time. It’s your turn now.”

My waking ego’s immediate reaction was to interpret this literally. Other mistress?  Wife?  My turn? I felt a bit indignant and embarrassed at the thought that I was content to “wait my turn” because he expected me to share him with two other women! But as my morning cobwebs dissipated, so did these thoughts.  I knew this dream was a metaphor for something going on in my psyche, I knew it had relevance to my waking life, and I knew it was good.

The tone of the dream reinforced this. Everything about it was suffused with love and trust. The rooms were spacious and comfortable. The bear cub and pets loved and trusted each other. Emma Jung and I loved watching their antics and weren’t concerned about being together. Everyone in the study accepted me and I accepted them. There was no hint of annoyance, judgment, guilt, furtiveness, anxiety, jealousy or shame on the part of my dream ego or anyone else as one would expect if this were a waking life situation. I didn’t know it was a dream. I didn’t know I was married. I just knew everything felt good and right. I loved being in that place with those people, and I felt loved by them.

So guess what.  This is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. I think this mood and dream were triggered by the recent news that I’ve received the Wilbur award for Healing the Sacred Divide, which is based on Jungian psychology. I think Carl Jung represents my thinker/writer/warrior/lover animus who has been working diligently for twenty-four years to help me understand myself, and for twenty-three years to help me share what I’ve learned in my writing.

I love Jungian psychology with a passion because it has changed me in so many positive ways.  For example, I think the black bear cub represents the wildness of my natural instincts that have been tamed enough to live comfortably with more domesticated beings. And the fact that the cub was so nurturing and loving?  To me this suggests my newly developing instincts (the cub was very young…Jung!) for spontaneity and play, nurturance and love.

Without Jung’s encouragement I would never have had the nerve to follow my passion for writing.  Even if I had, I wouldn’t have had anything to write about. The only thing I know much about is the inner journey to self-discovery and the practices that guide me; and writing is the only job I’m good for!  Given my serious, self-critical and perfectionist nature, it’s hard for me to imagine what I’d be like now if I hadn’t figured this out.  Dissatisfied? Disillusioned? Unfulfilled? Disappointed? Resigned to a meaningless, unlived life? Ashamed of myself for not fulfilling my potential? Surely I’d be feeling all these things. Bitter?  Probably that too.

Yes, I’m having a love affair with Carl Jung, and apparently  it really is our time and my turn to enjoy the benefits.


Children and Meditation March 19, 2013

My Latest Writing Candle

My Latest Writing Candle

Achy and tired from a one-hour morning walk on the treadmill, I sat at my computer a while ago with a single question.  What shall I write about for tomorrow’s blog post?

Before fully awakening this morning I dozed off and on in dreams about a new post. But I can’t remember a word of it now. Plus, my mind is still absorbed in the book I was reading on Kindle (The Bet, by Vivienne Tuffnell) as I walked. What I really want to do is keep reading. But one-track-minded as my ego is, it decided to defer that particular gratification until I’ve written this, with no idea what this would be.

Years of dreamwork and meditation have taught me some valuable realities. One is that my ego’s conscious thoughts and feelings are balanced by equally valid and influential unconscious material. Another is that when I experience a writer’s block it’s because an unconscious issue “wants” to be addressed. Third, my ego can gain access to this material. I have rituals for times like this, and I trust them because they never let me down.

So I lit my ever-present candle—the current one has a nostalgic scent of cinnamon and evergreens called Joie de Noel—closed my eyes, held my hands in front of me, focused on feeling the tingling in my palms and the beating of my heart, and entered the pregnant darkness (a term for the unconscious I got from the title of Jungian analyst Monika Wikman’s book.) Within seconds I was far away.  I’ve been feeling stirrings of excitement lately about the coming of spring and our annual mid-May trek to North Carolina, and this is where I immediately went.

I saw myself sitting cross-legged in the center of the tipi we erect each spring. Our grandchildren were sitting in a line facing me. I was going to teach them how to meditate. I was wondering how to start and what to say and how they would react, imagining jokes and giggles and restless stirrings, when I realized how far my mind was from my hands. Immediately I was back at my desk feeling the tinglings. Within less than two minutes, what I wanted to write about was birthed into my awareness. Or rather, what I wanted to ask you about.

Except for the few minutes of deep-breathing combined with the simple  centering mantra I teach my dream groups and use to open my workshops, I’ve never taught anyone to meditate. I have little formal training and am largely self-taught with help from books. There are many different kinds of meditation and people respond differently to different methods. The one that works for me involves following my breath and the life in my body, noticing when my mind strays away from that focus, and then bringing myself gently back to it. With almost no effort or strain,  my ego swiftly goes to the place wanting the most attention.

So here’s my question.  Have any of you ever taught children to meditate?  If so, would you do it with children between the ages of five and eleven or is that too early? If not, should I find a fun way to teach what works for me, or have you had success with a different method? Of course, all of this is predicated on the assumption they’ll be interested in learning. But I figure it won’t hurt to give it a try.  I’d love them to have a mental practice to ease the stresses they’ll be experiencing in the coming years.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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


The Risk-Taking Leap March 15, 2013

sacred-springThe risk-taking leap into the void is a theme common to many heroines who, through a whole lot of trouble, work, and grace participate in the creation of Eros [feeling] bridges between the old and the new, transforming the cosmology.  Legends and fairy tales weave these patterns of the maiden able to take the risk necessary to transform culture.” ~Jungian Analyst Monika Wikman

Whereas hero myths emphasize ascending to the heights as the proper guide to a successful life, heroine myths often employ the theme of descent. These symbolize two different ego orientations: toward the outer world of physical reality or toward the inner world of our soul’s reality.

Every young ego’s deepest desire is to prove itself worthy by attaining success in the outer world, and unless it is denied this path for some reason, this is the one it will inevitably choose. Most families encourage the outer way because it is the universally sanctioned model for the first half of life. Even the East with its five-thousand-year tradition of inner exploration knows that young egos need to find safety, develop their skills, and establish intimate relationships before they’re ready to wholeheartedly pursue the inward path. Since this is the standard, usually only the most sensitive and introverted of souls, or those with the deepest pain or strongest spiritual longing, risk leaping into the inner darkness.

It is the honing of the longing for the divine that reaches for the living water beneath the surface of our lives.  It teaches us how to tend the living spring, to differentiate and live in such a way that sweet healing water arises from within. And when the water becomes muddy and troubled, the water also can become clear and healing again as we take the directive of the spirit of the spring. Often in individuation, tremendous refinement of love is required over the course of our lives.” ~Monika Wikman

The inward path has a different set of rules and it takes time and experience to learn them. Because this way is far less well-understood in the West, and because it requires detaching from the spirit of the times, it inevitably entails confusion, conflict, self-doubt, pain and suffering. What will happen if we leave the safe familiar way?  Will we be punished?  Will anyone still love us? Yet, diving into the depths in search of We-Know-Not-What, is our hope of satisfying our spiritual yearnings.

Without a growing process of experience and differentiation, we risk lapsing into a dumb animalhood in which either the inner music of the soul may be so repressed that it seems nonexistent or a substitute may take its place in the form of regressive or sappy derivatives.  It requires tremendous patience, honesty, and cultivating an ear to hear the complexity of what is constellating. There is a time to leap and a time not to leap, and these are completely individual fates and responsibilities.” ~Monika Wikman

The risk-taking leap is a leap into Love. Eros. Feeling. Every religious tradition says this is the Sacred Mystery. And if we relentlessly pursue it, we can incarnate it in ourselves.  For the soul that yearns to transform culture, nothing else will do but learning to love ourselves, our work, others, the world, and otherness of every kind, including life itself.

Why is it usually a maiden who leaps into the void? Because our feminine sides live for relatedness and love. Without it we risk living without passion and meaning. No one can give us these gifts for they dwell in us. It’s that simple, really. We can nurture what awakens our passion, or we can wither. And we get to choose.

Quotes from Monika Wikman Pregnant Darkness:  Alchemy and the Rebirth of Consciousness.

You can find Jean Raffa’s Healing the Sacred Divide here or at Larson Publications, Inc. 


Ten Things I Love About You March 12, 2013

heart-shaped-cloudMarch 10 was the third anniversary of Matrignosis. The past three years have been among the happiest of my life and you are part of the reason. This post is my way of thanking and celebrating you for the difference you make. Here are ten of the many things I love about you.

1.I love your kindness and generosity. Each time I write a new post I worry. Should I say these things? Have I expressed what my soul really wants to say? Is it clear? Is it accurate? Will it be helpful to anyone? Will it offend?  If it does, does that mean I shouldn’t have written it?  Or do I need to develop a thicker skin: accept that I’m entitled to my opinions, understand I can’t please everyone, realize that rejections don’t mean I’m a bad person? Then I wake up on Tuesday and Friday mornings, approach my computer half anxious, half hopeful, and read your unfailingly kind-hearted and generous-spirited comments. And I feel the weight of my cheeks as the corners of my mouth lift, and, awash with pleasure, I’m emboldened to repeat the same process again.

2. I love your patience. Some of you tell me you don’t always understand what I’m saying. Yet you wade through my words, try to understand, and keep coming back. Or at least you don’t leave. Or not that I know of…

3. I love your vulnerability and trust in me.

4. I love your tolerance. In the last three years I’ve lost perhaps a dozen subscribers and been deeply pained each time it happened. I never know who has left, I just know the numbers WordPress gives me keep growing and then are suddenly diminished by one. This leaves me feeling diminished too. I always wonder, Have I offended? If so, how? Is the leaver deeply disappointed in me? Bored? Angry? I’ll never know, but it often happens that the same post that triggered a leaving brings me one or two new subscribers. This, and the fact that the rest of you stay even when you disagree with a position I’ve taken, makes me feel I’m finding my tribe: people who understand what I’m trying to do and why, who forgive me despite our differences.

5. I love the way you teach me. How you sometimes ask questions I don’t know the answers to. Which makes me do some research. Which makes me try to figure out how to answer your questions. Which makes me think. Which makes me learn.

6. I love your hunger for knowledge, especially self-knowledge. I know the courage it takes to satisfy it.

7. I love the way you’ve encouraged me to find my voice and speak my truths, simply by taking the time to share your appreciation for something I’ve said that I was afraid to say but dared to anyway.

8. I love it that you give me a reason to write, to experience the joy of it, to relish the sense that I am doing what I am meant to do and that this is enough.

9. I love the way I feel when I’m reading your comments.  I picture you reading a post with silver threads of consciousness growing out of your head and heart. Spiraling like your DNA, they tunnel your soul’s responses through the cosmic web to me where they pierce my heart until tears of gratitude well up. I love the way this piercing and welling assure me that I’m known and loved. That just being alive and able to feel is enough.

10. I love it that you flood me with gratitude. Thank you.

“It is enough that arrows fit exactly in the wounds they have made.” ~Franz Kafka

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


What’s Really Important: Naming the Holy or Experiencing It? March 8, 2013

Andrew Harvey and Matthew Fox

Andrew Harvey and Matthew Fox

Recently I received an announcement of an upcoming series of seminars featuring Matthew Fox and Andrew Harvey.  Part one is titled, “Cosmic Christ and the New Humanity.” The live event on March 8-10 will be held on the west coast whereas I’m in the east, but people can participate online using live streaming technology.  Having attended events with both of these spirit persons in the last six months, I know this will be a deeply enriching experience so I’ve signed up.

Somehow I missed Fox’s book, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance, when it first came out in 1988, so until a few weeks ago I hadn’t realized what a huge debt I and other progressive spiritual thinkers owe to the courageous work of this spiritual pioneer. If you don’t know his story, I encourage you to check it out on Wikipedia.  Ditto Andrew Harvey.

So anyway, the term “Cosmic Christ” was new to me until I met Fox last month. I’m a bit concerned that the word “Christ” might lead people to think this seminar is only for Christians. My passion is to heal divides by raising awareness of our commonalities, so I worry about language, religious or otherwise, that might sound exclusive. This is why I use mostly psychological language in this blog: It carries far less emotional baggage.

Because of my Jungian studies I know what Fox means. The Cosmic Christ is one way of referring to our innate ability to connect with sacred energies in an inner mystical, experiential, and personally meaningful way.  Jung called this psychological reality the Self, or the “religious function.”  This archetype is universal and influences us in ways often associated with deity.

It may be helpful to think of the Self as the image of God that indwells us. Others might equate the Self with the Holy Spirit or the Christ within. Regardless of the language we use, the Self is that inner force that prods and urges and nudges us to become aware of our true natures, heal our wounds, and fulfill our God-given potential as unique spiritual beings. Incarnating the Self via the faculty of perception known as nous, or creative imagination, is how we become consciously connected to our divine Source, whatever that may be.

The word Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning anointed, a translation of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The early Christians attached this word to Jesus because they believed him to be the Messiah, a king/priest who would right the world’s wrongs. Islamic sources don’t give much importance to the concepts of kings and priests. Islam’s important figures are prophets and messengers. These terms point to the primacy of knowledge and revelation as ways of  receiving much-needed messages from Allah—itself a culture-based term, like Yaweh or God—for our spiritual and moral development.

Cosmic Christ. Christ Within. Kingdom Within. Self. Diamond Body. Messiah. Philosopher’s Stone. Buddha Nature. Prophet. Messenger. Holy Spirit. Hierophant. God-Image. Religious Function. Sacred Marriage. All these names are metaphors from various ages and cultures. All refer to the same nameless, fathomless reality: the sacredness within and our yearning to consciously enjoy its presence.

So here’s my question. Does it really matter which term we use? Not to me. And not, I assure you, to Matthew Fox or Andrew Harvey. So if you’re looking to deepen your connection with Whatever You Want to Call Whatever It Is That Connects You with Whatever You Think of as Holy, I think I can safely recommend this seminar. And if you’re interested in these ideas I encourage you to check out their books.

Christ Path Seminar link

Amazon link to Andrew Harvey

Amazon link to Matthew Fox

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found on Amazon or at Larson Publications, Inc.


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