Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Seeing Through the Mist August 25, 2015

I spent the first half of my life in a mist, blind to all that is truly sacred. A spiritual seeker from the age of 17, I had plenty of ideas about what was sacred, but they came from other people. Only very rarely did I actually experience the sacred for myself. Then I discovered the symbolic meaning in dreams and myths.

Myths are cultural expressions of humanity’s relationship to the gods. While not necessarily literally true on the outside, myths are always true on the inside because they address the truths of the soul. Dreams are personal myths. Imaginatively exploring the symbols and themes of our dreams to gain insights into our personal issues, then seeing how they are addressed and resolved in cultural myths, can help us grow our spirits and recover our souls.

In A History of God, former nun Karen Armstrong says, “The only way we can conceive of God, who remains imperceptible to the senses and to logical proof, is by means of symbols, which it is the chief function of the imaginative mind to interpret.” And in The Holy Longing, Jungian analyst Connie Zweig writes, “In effect, the life of the imagination is the spiritual life.”

Three months after I began to practice regular dreamwork I was staying at the beach when I had dream #46. I called it “Temple in the Wilderness.”

I walk through woods on a path cut through the earth. I’m seeking a stream I know to be at the bottom end of the path. I find it where it spills into the sea and follow it to a mist-shrouded garden. In it are ruins of a Greek temple; one column remains upright. In awe, I kneel to examine some creamy-white flowers. Near the bottom of the plant is a pyramid-shaped arrangement of four glowing, waxy white horses facing the four directions. Surrounding them are blossoms so beautiful I can hardly take them in. A puppy named Prince playfully grabs my hand, inviting me to follow him. A young woman asks his name and is pleased to hear it. Two other people bring food for the puppy. After seeing a couple walking hand-in-hand through the distant mist I awaken.

This dream fascinated me so I worked through the plot by exploring my associations for the symbols: path, woods, stream, sea, garden, Greek temple, column, mist, kneeling, white flowers, glowing horses, the four directions, the puppy Prince who wants to guide me somewhere, the people who feed him, and the couple walking through the mist.  Then I explored cultural and archetypal associations for the symbols I wanted more information about.

The final result was a mythical narrative with an underlying theme of compassion and love. Deeply moved, I felt as if a cold, hard place in my heart was softening, melting down, and warming up.

The body remembers. To honor this feeling so I would never forget it I made a ritual that morning of walking down to the beach with an ice cube in my hand. Kneeling in the sand, I held it in the warm salty water until it melted.

After that I deepened my study of symbolism and myths. Two years later I redesigned my dining room to remind me of the misty temple in the woods, resigned from my job, and began writing a manuscript which became The Bridge to Wholeness. That first book about the inner life opens with an original myth that is a metaphor for my spiritual journey.

As author and spirit warrior William Horden has said, “to those of us attuned to the one psyche, no one can fool us into thinking we are just indulging in our ‘imagination’. We have had a taste of the ever-new bubbling fountain of creation…from that point on, for the intoxicated soul thirsty for more of the gods’ nectar, there is only the creative act…the ‘making’ that reveals the artist within each of us.”

This is holy work. With each creative act we make to honor the truths bubbling up from our source, we re-myth our lives and enter the sacred realm that has always awaited us beyond the mist.

Image credit:  Google Free Images

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Artemis and Demeter’s Legacy August 18, 2015

A perfect moment in the hammock...

A perfect moment in the hammock…

Our children and grandchildren have left now and I’m alone except for Izzy, my son’s golden retriever. She keeps me company when Fred has to be away for a few days. At the moment she’s sleeping contentedly on the bed while I’m writing at my desk.  It gives me enormous pleasure to have her and my family here.

The source of my pleasure goes way back and deep within. I spent my early years as a horse- and woods-loving Artemis, the Greek virgin goddess of the wilderness and the hunt…who was usually accompanied by a dog.  But Artemis stepped aside during my young adulthood to make room for Athena, daughter of patriarchy and Goddess of wisdom, who helped me with my education, teaching, and soul-searching; and for Demeter, goddess of motherhood and fertility, who showed up when I gave birth to my children.

Like all gods and goddesses of myth, these favorites of mine are humanity’s projections of archetypal energies in every psyche. Nobody activates them all, however. We each have our own preferences that may emerge at different times in our lives…or not at all.

For example, after serving Demeter and Athena faithfully during my young adulthood and middle years, I invited Artemis back. Her desire to expose our children (and, we hoped, grandchildren) to nature motivated our decision in the early 80’s to buy this land in the Smoky Mountains from Fred’s parents and build a cabin on it. Years later she inspired me to buy a horse and add a small pasture and stable where Shadow could live in the summers.

A main feature of the original cabin was an open loft with a bedroom on either side of a bathroom for our teen-aged daughter and son.  To our great joy, grandchildren eventually came along.  Now our son’s bedroom contains 3 twin beds plus a bunk for the five grandchildren, while our daughter’s old room is an enclosed guest room which her teen-aged daughter recently claimed.

The cabin and land continually evolve with new projects almost every year, always with the family in mind. For a while we entertained the idea of building a tree house for the kids in a stand of giant hemlocks at the top of the mountain.  That idea was squashed when the hemlocks were infested with the wooly adelgid parasite. As the dead trees fell we found other uses for them.  Most of the wood was chopped into firewood to warm our and our neighbors’ cabins in winter.

Our hemlock table with bird lights above

Our hemlock table with bird lights above

Then a few years ago Algie, our friend, neighbor and a gifted builder, used the most promising fallen wood to make a table that would seat the eleven of us. He’d never built furniture from hemlock before. No one around here does because the wood tends to be too soft and twisty and it cracks and warps easily.

But after some experimentation he crafted a beauty.  As you can see, despite year-round exposure to the changeable weather, it’s holding up well on the screened porch beside the creek. So are the lights we bought in Mexico to hang over it:  eleven rusted metal birds, each with its own Edison bulb…for the light in each of us.

When my family’s here, Demeter’s a proud mother hen keeping an eye on her chicks (and grandchicks) as they enjoy the property and local attractions. The best time is when we return to the nest each evening for a family dinner that everyone contributes to and shares around our special, hand-made table.

Last winter’s project was a new foot trail that branches off the main one into the remote parts of the property. A few places are piled high with dead hemlocks. The rest is dense with poplars, oaks, maples, and tangled masses of wild rhododendron. Until our yard man got hold of it, it was largely unexplored. Now, after a winter of clearing, digging, fortifying and general magic-making, it’s done, and hiking it with Izzy and the grandchildren has become a major pleasure.

On this summer’s visit our nine-year old granddaughter and seven-year old grandson decided to build a playhouse on a levelish space above the waterfall. Initially, it was their secret. Our granddaughter made a detailed design complete with elevations and measurements, (she may have inherited her father’s architect genes…or maybe it’s her mother’s interior designer genes), and they cleared a trail and leveled the space. It wasn’t long before the older three demanded to know what was going on and started helping.  Soon, the fathers and Grandpa/Boppy were involved too.

By the end of the week they had constructed an 8 X 10 wood plank floor supported by four 4 X 4 posts.  Our son and his sons stayed up late Saturday night to finish the floor, and Fred drove in the last nails Sunday morning after they left. It was the archetypal childhood “build a tree-house with Dad” experience with the added twist of being a waterfall house that is satisfyingly hidden by tree branches all around. They plan to finish it on subsequent visits.

Our cabin in the early days

Our cabin in the early days

At bedtime the night before they left, our seven-year old grandson wistfully told his mother, “I wish my arms were long enough to wrap all the way around the cabin.” My Artemis and Demeter are still doing a happy dance! Seeds have been sown, and I can rest easy knowing my love for family, nature, and wilderness is a legacy my grandchildren will carry on.

For more on the goddess archetypes, check out Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s wonderful books, especially Goddesses in Everywoman.  I just finished and enjoyed her latest:  Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Everywoman.

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Meeting the Mistress of the Forest August 11, 2015

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 concerns about the judgment of others and habitual assumptions about what we think we should be thinking and doing are not easy to recognize or change. 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.

The promptings that come from this inner being are so faintly heard at first, however strong on their own plane, that we tend to disregard them as trivial. This is the tragedy of man. The voices that so often mislead him into pain-bringing courses–his passion, his ego, and blind intellect–are loud and clamant. The whisper that guides him aright and to God is timid and soft. Paul Brunton (22-1-201)

Her voice is very soft; her call, though compelling, is quiet. She speaks to us in urges, needs, wishes, emotions, feelings, yearnings, questions about the meaning and purpose of our life, attractions to people, ideas and activities, synchronicities, 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, enjoy your pleasures, 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, (Animus and Anima, in Jungian terms), 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 you different from that old horse?

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

Image credits:  Google Free Images

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Dream Symbols of the Beloved August 4, 2015

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.

More next time.  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!

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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