Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Three Billboards: The Myth and the Message February 20, 2018

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Dark, quirky, clever, and controversial, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been nominated for seven academy awards this year. Like “The Shape of Water,” nominated for a whopping 13, its protagonist is a powerless, justice-seeking female up against an unsympathetic patriarchal system. In this case, the villain is not the U.S. military, but a small town, good-old-boy police force. Both plots are driven by the archetypal hero/ine vs. villain theme punctuated with racism, violence, and abuse of power.

Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother whose teen-aged daughter was raped then set afire. Angry at local authorities who haven’t solved the murder, she rents three unused billboards and puts up an accusatory message to sheriff Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson. In the face of animosity and threats from several fellow citizens, especially the racist, mama’s-boy police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), she persists in calling attention to her cause. As tension and emotions ramp up in a series of unexpected events, viewers discover that in this battle between good and evil, the lines aren’t as clearly drawn as we might prefer.

Original as this film is, at bottom, its theme is archetypal. Consider the ancient Greek myth about the Earth Mother goddess Demeter and her beloved young daughter, Persephone. Carol S. Pearson’s latest book, Persephone Rising, contains an insightful explanation of the same psychological forces which continue to influence us and our culture today.

In the myth, innocent Persephone gathers flowers in a field when Hades erupts through a cleft in the earth and abducts (and some say rapes) her. When Demeter realizes her beloved daughter is gone, she is overwhelmed with grief. After getting no help from the gods who, fearing retribution from Zeus, refuse to tell her what happened to her daughter, she sets aside her responsibilities for making the crops grow and searches the earth tirelessly. While Demeter grieves, all growth on earth ceases, then dies. As Dr. Pearson notes, Demeter’s recognition that her needs matter too result in the “first ever recorded sit-down strike.”

Zeus — the Father/King of the gods and prototype of patriarchy’s top dog whose power trumps everyone else’s — is not happy about this.  It was he, Persephone’s father, who had given Hades permission to take her to the underworld in the first place. But if the famine kills the humans, who will build his temples? Who will worship him with gifts and offerings? So this macho, uncompromising thunder God relents and demands Persephone’s release. Demeter’s non-violent protest works.

But will Mildred’s protest work? Will it stay non-violent? Our dualistic mindsets want a hero to celebrate, a scapegoat to blame, a heretic to crucify. But these people are not polar opposites like virtuous princes and wicked witches. They are complex, multi-faceted human beings grappling with complex issues and powerful emotions that aren’t easy to reconcile.

The gods and goddesses represent amoral, instinctual forces in all of us. At bottom, this is who we are. You and I contain every emotion they feel, and we are capable of being gripped by them to commit every act they do, good and bad. The only difference between them and us is that we humans want to be virtuous so we make rules for ourselves, try to keep them, and disown our shadow sides that want to break them. But sometimes they show up anyway.

Mildred’s daughter has been taken from her and she deserves justice, but can we condone her increasingly questionable tactics? We might likewise ask, how can Demeter, supposedly an endlessly loving and forgiving Mother goddess, let humanity starve to death just to get her daughter back? Does her grief justify her means?

Seeing unsuspected sides of Sheriff Willoughby and officer Dixon is equally unsettling. Why isn’t Willoughby putting more effort into pursuing the culprit? Is he indifferent to Mildred’s suffering? Why does he let Dixon — one of those ignorant Warrior bullies we love to hate — get away with his senseless cruelty toward a man less powerful than he? Are these people redeemable?

Demeter gets her daughter back from the underworld, at least for part of every year. But though Mildred has some admirable goddess qualities, she is not a goddess, and no matter how much she acts like one her daughter will never return. Is there a human force strong enough to reconcile her fierce Demeter hunger for justice? Dixon, like Zeus and Ares, the God of War, savagely punishes people he hates. Will Mildred become like him? And if she does, will this cancel out any vestiges of human goodness left in her?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark, disturbing film, but I loved it for highlighting human complexity and prompting these and other difficult questions. It is the function of artists and art to raise a culture’s awareness. To challenge our either-or morality. To explore the gray realm between opposites in which a creative third force can emerge to reconcile our divisiveness. I love it that this film is being honored for rising to this challenge.

But I loved the dreamy, fairy-tale quality of The Shape of Water too. This leaves me with another question. Which one do I want to win the Oscar for best picture? This is a complex issue I haven’t reconciled yet.

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.


The Shape of Water: The Shape of Change? January 30, 2018

Filmgoers may have laughingly dismissed Godzilla, the Teenage Werewolf, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the 1950’s, but nobody laughs at the real-life monsters we see on television every day in the form of terrorists, genocidal dictators, and political leaders who incite divisiveness and spout nuclear threats. We get it. Dystopia is us. Our problems are caused by humanity’s psychological and spiritual ignorance, and they will not be resolved until enough individuals acquire more mature and humane ways of thinking and behaving. What used to be the role of deities and religious authorities has now become everyone’s job.

Fortunately, there are seers among us to show us the way. They are the courageous and gifted artists who create books and films depicting ordinary people who evolve into heroic individuals. The Star Wars series, Avatar, Arrival, and The Shape of Water are examples. Their mythic themes and archetypal characters limn the shape of our own souls. Everyone enjoys a good story. But do we realize these stories are about us? Do we understand their metaphors and decipher their symbols? Do we apply their lessons to our own lives?

Each of us contains a possible hero like Luke Skywalker, an indomitable Amazon heroine like Princess Leia, a Wise Man like Yoda, a menacing Warrior like Darth Vader. You may relate to Avatar’s Jake Sully, a vulnerable wounded Warrior with the potential to be healed by love, but his counterpart—the dark side’s ruthless, power-hungry Colonel Miles Quaritch—also lives in you. Regardless of your gender you can activate the healing of an Earth Mother like the Na’vi’s Mo’at, a beautiful Beloved like princess Neytiri, or a benevolent Wise Woman like Dr. Grace Augustine. Archetypes are latent patterns of energy in everyone’s soul. They teach and empower us when we listen.

Consider Arrival’s gentle Louse Banks, a linguist who’s tormented by intuitions and visions which fill her with confusion and dread. She’s the image of a person in whom the Mediatrix archetype is activated. When the U.S. Army recruits her to communicate with alien life forms hovering over the earth, she breaks the rules to gain their trust. In a blog post titled “Arrival:  How the Feminine Saves the World,” depth psychology expert Carol S. Pearson notes this “reveals how traditional elements of the Lover archetype are morphing to meet new challenges.” The world leaders see the aliens as dangerous threats and are preparing to make war on them. But because Louise is motivated by love, not fear, she sees them as wondrous life forms to communicate with and befriend. This prompts us to ask ourselves:  Do I respect people and species different from me? Do I listen to the subtle messages of my body? Do I befriend my thoughts and emotions or try to ignore them?

In The Shape of Water, an even more vulnerable heroine saves the life of an amphibious monster. The year is 1962. Elisa is a mute, mousy janitor on the night shift of a top-secret government research lab desperate to get one-up on the Russians. One night a promising “asset” arrives in a portable tank in the form of a scaly green creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon lookalike from a Brazilian rainforest where he was worshiped as a god. Deeply drawn to this equally voiceless and powerless creature, Elisa initiates a fairy-tale romance with him by playing Benny Goodman on her portable record player, placing hard-boiled eggs on the lip of the tank in which he’s confined, and teaching him sign language when he emerges from the water to eat them.

As it turns out, the real monster in this story is Richard Strickland, a sadistic, square-jawed military officer who tortures the green man, sexually harasses Elisa, and makes racist comments to Zelda, her co-worker. Overhearing the scientists’ plans to kill and dissect her beloved in the name of science, a frantic and determined Elisa enlists the help of Zelda and her gay neighbor, Giles, to rescue him. The remainder of the film builds the tension amid a dreamy, watery green ambiance before reconciling it in a surprise ending that leaves us wondering: What just happened? Is he what he seems? Do I have it in me to do what she did? Does love really have a god-like power? How strong is my Lover archetype? Do I truly know how to love?

The characters in these films play out their roles against a backdrop of mythic themes:

  • the destructiveness of our shadow Warriors

  • the crises and suffering necessary for the making of a hero/ine

  • the need to respect, communicate with, and accept help from other people and species

  • love’s victory over ignorance and hatred

But here’s a not-so subtle difference. It used to be that only men got to be heroes, but we’re seeing more heroines now. Although the first Star Wars film to appear centers primarily on Luke Skywalker, it is his heroic sister, Princess Leia, who turns him into a hero. The same is true of Avatar’s Jake Sully whose heroism is inspired by the equally heroic Princess Neytiri.

The most recent of these—Arrival, The Shape of Water, and The Last Jedi—convey a theme new to our time which resonates with many souls today: the feminine as savior. Louise, Elisa, and Rey are not fantasy superheroines like Wonder Woman and Aquagirl. And they’re not sidekicks who help the main character accomplish his goals. They are ordinary women who initiate change and accomplish it with the respect and cooperation of healthy, caring men. Louise’s heroism is aided by Ian, a scientist. Giles helps Elisa save the green man. And in the newest Star Wars episode, Rey becomes the last Jedi with the help of Luke Skywalker. The main protagonists are females.

This shift in the spirit of our times is reflected in recent statistics. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reports that of the top 100 films in 2014, only 12% featured female protagonists. But then something happened. In 2015 the figure was 22% and in 2016 it jumped to 29%.

Although the data are not in for 2017, we appear to be seeing the beginning of a trend. Water, like earth, has always been considered a feminine element, and in dreams, water and earth symbolize the unconscious self. Societies have unconscious selves too. Like the ocean, our collective unconscious contains monsters, but it also holds overlooked hidden treasures. Is the feminine as savior of the world the shape of change? Are you and I the shape of change?

Note:  For more posts like this, please check out the blog of noted author Carol S. Pearson, where this post first appeared.

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.


Books: The Perfect Holiday Gift December 18, 2017

Holiday Greetings to all. It’s a week before Christmas, so there’s still time to order books for the readers on your list. In case you’re looking for ideas, here are some of my recent favorites. They’re all wonderful.  Enjoy.

Regina Aguilar, Alchemy of the Heart: The Sacred Marriage of Dionysos and Ariadne. Chiron Publications. November 7, 2017.

Manipulated by mythologies which legitimate the authority of those who use them for economic and political advantage, we are increasingly estranged from our Source, our environment, one another and ourselves. We need stories that describe the soul’s healing, bring reverence for life, and connect us to an inner authority based on experiential knowing. Alchemy of the Heart—an in-depth Jungian analysis of the myth of Dionysos and Ariadne—is such a story. Dionysos exemplifies the destruction and restoration of wild, virile, passionate masculinity in deep rapport with the earth and femininity. Ariadne symbolizes innocent, trusting, devoted, but deeply wounded femininity in patriarchy. When a woman’s romantic illusions are shattered by masculine betrayal, the experience of feeling her supportive inner masculine brings renewed vitality and a mystical sense of oneness with life. The story and eventual union between the masculine Lover and feminine Beloved in the alchemical sacred marriage described in this myth is a metaphor for the inner path of integration and individuation available to you.

HeatherAsh Amara, The Warrior Goddess Way:  Claiming the Woman You Are Destined to Be, Hierophant Publishing, October 24, 2016.

Written for women, The Warrior Goddess Way is filled with wise principles and insights from which anyone seeking greater power, passion, and freedom can benefit. Amara describes a pathway of presence, baby steps, and practice—a road to reclaim all of you, including your darkest fears and most precious gifts. It asks you to recognize how you have been trained to think and behave, to witness your mind instead of believing everything it tells you, and to embrace yourself in your entirety. Most of all it asks you to stop resisting things beyond your control and learn to love it all. To say Yes! to every situation in your life and ultimately, Yes! to death. Befriending death frees you to be more fully engaged with life. Examples and activities demonstrate the value of such qualities as presence, forgiveness, apology, authenticity, respect, listening, stillness, and awareness.

Lewis Howes, The Mask of Masculinity, Rodale, October 31, 2017.

“Regardless of gender, the key to success in life is creating meaningful relationships.” With this line, the reader is ushered into a bold new territory where successful men care more about connecting and being real than wearing macho masks. In today’s world, authenticity and other qualities this two-sport All-American athlete now associates with greatness—like empathy, insight, honesty, vulnerability, compassion, acting for the good of others, and the ability to heal from one’s own wounds—are traditionally associated with femininity. Howes hopes to change this one-sided and outdated stereotype by describing nine toxic masks men wear which, when discarded, enable them to accept their vulnerability and evolve into a modern-day masculine archetype of benevolent and compassionate power, courage, inner peace and happiness.

Ira Israel, How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening, New World Library, November 7, 2017.

Western culture’s beliefs in capitalism, science, and religion taught you to value the wrong things like productivity, consumerism, and romantic love. Your futile struggles to find happiness and unconditional love via these beliefs created resentments and judgments about the past. As an adult you still dwell on these beliefs and ignore your present pain to stave off future pain. In How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult, psychotherapist Ira Israel deconstructs common dysfunctional mindsets and encourages you to accept and own the reality of your life. Suggestions to raise and reorient your consciousness include seeking a new definition of authenticity—encompassing the psychological principles of attachment, atonement, attunement, presence, and congruence—and practicing Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path and Three Jewels. Your practices will alleviate suffering, promote loving relationships, and help you live with authenticity and love.

Winifred M. Reilly, It Takes One to Tango: How I Rescued My Marriage with (Almost) No Help from My Spouse—and How You Can, Too, Touchstone, April 4, 2017.

Written by marriage and family therapist Winifred M. Reilly, this wise and practical book addresses unrealistic expectations and dysfunctional interactions which damage love relationships. With examples from clients and her own marriage, Reilly takes the reader through five developmental stages of partnerships. She concludes the key for positive change is for one partner to name the basic issues that create conflicts, accept personal responsibility for their role in them, learn how to manage their anxiety, and take risks to respond in new ways. This weakens habitual patterns and transforms the relationship into a more forgiving and loving partnership.

Tosha Silver, Outrageous Openness:  Letting the Divine Take the Lead, Atria (Reprint Edition), July 12, 2016.

Doctrinaire religions can leave you spiritually alienated because they focus on external observances instead of internal realities. Tosha Silver suggests you align with the Divine by asking for what it wishes for you instead of insisting on your ego’s preferred outcomes. When you offer your problems to the Divine and invite it to take the lead, then symbols and synchronicities tell you when to act. Your openness and trust in a divine order of love and abundance frees you from worry and allows the perfect solution to any problem to arrive at the right time. Silver shares a fascinating and entertaining collection of brief stories which illustrate these principles at work in her life and the lives of others.

Sara Avant Stover, The Book of She: Your Heroine’s Journey into the Heart of Feminine Power, New World Library, October 13, 2015.  

Building on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1973) and Maureen Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey (1990), yoga and meditation instructor Sara Avant Stover’s The Book of She describes how women can reclaim their feminine power. Combining personal stories, examples from wisdom traditions, and advice from noted psychological and spiritual teachers, Stover highlights 13 stages of the feminine journey. These are organized into five parts: Preparing for the Journey, The Descent, The Initiation, The Ascent, and The Homecoming. Readers are encouraged to explore and heal their inner and outer lives with numerous activities, rituals and guided meditations within a framework of guiding principles—cultivating an ongoing practice, welcoming silence and prayer, clarifying your priorities, taking responsibility for your life, exploring dualities, and facing your shadow.

Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, Whitaker House, October 4, 2016.

“Bad theology is like pornography—the imagination of a real relationship without the risk of one.” This sums up the theme of The Divine Dance—a repudiation of Empire and a celebration of Relationship. Central to this celebration is your willingness to actively change what you let into your heart and consciously participate in the divine dance of loving and being loved. Trinity is a foundational principle of perennial philosophy—the core beliefs common to every religion. Some call it the Third Force. It is also a living reality—a circular flow of love in you and the universe that mirrors the orderly spinning dance of subatomic particles which birth and sustain life. The 67 essays in this book depict God as absolute relatedness. They affirm that your participation in the dance can transform your illusion of separation into a spiritual experience of radical relatedness with yourself, your life, and the Divine.

I think of you often as I work on my next book and will stay in touch in the New Year. I wish you the happiest of holidays. As the nights grow longer and darker, may your inner light grow stronger and brighter.

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.



What Do Our Relationships Have to Do with Our Spirituality? February 7, 2017

Like you and me, an iceberg has a part we can see and a part we can't.

Like you and me, an iceberg has a part we can see and a part we can’t.

The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious [two opposing halves of one psyche] is called the ‘transcendent function’…. This function progressively unites the opposites. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.

In my January 4th post, “What Is Enlightenment?” I wrote,  “…even though we think of enlightenment as a strictly spiritual pursuit, it… is not solely a function of any one aspect of human nature, but of the whole package.” I went on to describe what I consider to be the fundamental psychological components of enlightenment. They consist of four archetypal couples—each consisting of a ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ form of energy—and a final androgynous archetype, The Couple, which evolves as we work to create reciprocal relationships between the other four pairs.

One reader made the following observation:

So, the Couple archetype may be just a beginning place, with the potential for infinite expansion and evolution. Any two energies, when they come together, exponentially increase the potential of each partner and create a new whole that radiates outward to impact an infinite number of other inter-related individuals. The Couple is not completion, it is only the point where “self” and “other” become one… and then become infinite. The “transcendence” occurs beyond self and other, beyond masculine and feminine. Kirsten Backstrom

I agree with Kirsten’s comment that the Couple is not completion. As I see it, it is a conscious, expanding, integrating way of thinking, being and living which aims for perfection and completion. In this respect it is a portal to transcendence. I’d like to expand on that idea here.

Last weekend I attended a talk by Father Rohr in which he made two profound statements:

“Organized religion has not taught high-level consciousness.” 

“Unless your religion is transforming your consciousness, it’s junk religion.” ~Richard Rohr, Speech in Winter Park, FL, Jan 28, 2017.

This from a Catholic priest.  How refreshing is that? Here’s the point I want to make: We are much more than we think we are, and reality is much more than we think it is. The thoughts and feelings of which we are aware are the tip of a massive iceberg, and we will never experience spiritual transformation (non-dualistic, high-level consciousness) until we admit the data of the unconscious, i.e. what lies below, into our awareness.

Two opposing hemispheres in intimate relationships make a third sacred entity: a child, your brain, the world, a new work of art.

Two opposing hemispheres in intimate relationships make a third sacred entity: a child, your brain, the world, a new work of art.

And how do we do that? As Richard Rohr says, “the relationship is the vehicle” that will take us there.

“God is absolute relatedness.  I would name salvation as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship.” Richard Rohr. Divine Dance, p. 46.

This is a truly profound statement. Once again, to quote Rohr,

“…the principle of one is lonely;  the principle of two is opp0sitional and moves you toward preference;  the principle of three is inherently moving, dynamic, and generative.”  Richard Rohr. The Divine Dance, p. 42.

Three. Trinity. The foundation of Christian theology. Any relationship between two opposing parts of ourselves, or between two individuals, is by nature oppositional. However, a long-lasting, committed relationship between any two entities is a sacred crucible in which two souls (or two opposing parts of one soul) can hope to attain psychological and spiritual maturity. This is why I’ve written:

I see the Couple as integrating the other four archetype pairs in a sacred marriage of fully individuated and fully related opposites.  This union activates the creative instinct and brings us into the spiritual domain and Epoch III integrated consciousness. ~Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 203.

Epoch III thinking is neither perfect nor complete. But at this point in human evolution, it is a step forward:  a portal to further growth. Moreover, as Kirsten noted, and as I write in Matrignosis and my books, the genders of the human partners whose interactions usher us into this domain is not an issue. Here’s Kirsten’s take on why:

“There are good reasons why “Two Spirit” people in many indigenous cultures have a significant role in spirituality, because they (we) literally transcend the human tendency to create dualistic models of relationships (both internal and external) that are actually intricate, reflective, webs of interdependence—more like Indra’s net than like pairs of complementary opposites….

“With gay relationships, we’ve got to experiment with going beyond the duality and open up the possibilities… because we don’t just fit the mold. In my own 29 year relationship, we’re constantly exploring new ways of balancing, responding, creating, and dancing with each other… I hope that’s true in any healthy relationship!”  ~Kirsten Backstrom

Ancient pagan and modern Christian symbolism: Androgyny.

Ancient pagan and modern Christian symbolism: Androgyny.

I find Kirsten’s thinking on this issue to be profound. I believe with my whole being that it is possible for partners in any couple relationship to relate in such a way that the creative instinct within each is activated. This enriches both their individual selves and their relationship such that each partner creates an original work of art of his/her own soul as well as of the relationship itself.

Moreover, their creative interaction in the space in-between activates a third entity, sometimes called the Holy Spirit, or God’s indwelling presence. This three-in-one relationship is a spiritually transformative love, a divine presence which transcends religious dogma, gender stereotypes, and dualism. Thus can we evolve into high-level consciousness and high-level spirituality.

“We…are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in an absolute relatedness.  We call this love.”  ~Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance, p. 47.

What do our relationships have to do with our spirituality?  Everything!


Thank you, Kirsten Backstrom, for inspiring this post.

Image credits:  Iceberg, Wikimedia Commons.  The brain’s hemispheres, Google Images. Androgyny, Wikimedia Commons.

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.


The Couple: A New God-Image January 17, 2017

gerard_francoispascalsimon-cupid_psyche_endIt is my belief that the problem of opposites…should be made the basis for a critical psychology. A critique of this sort would be of the utmost value not only in the narrower field of psychology, but also in the wider field of the cultural sciences in general. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, par. 260.

In my last post, “What is Enlightenment” I introduced the Couple archetype. One reader responded with some thoughtful observations about same-sex couples, and I look forward to exploring this rich topic in future posts. But first, I’d like to lay the psychological and spiritual foundation for the Couple archetype. The following material comes from my manuscript, The Soul’s Twins.

According to Dr. Lawrence Odermatt of the Jung Institute in Zurich, the Couple holds profound spiritual meaning for many people in today’s world. Dr. Odermatt’s research has convinced him that the Couple is, in fact, emerging from the collective unconscious as a symbol of the Self. By this he means that people today expect things from the couple relationship that were formerly expected from their God-images, or ideas about The All, and from the religions created around these images.

Dr. Odermatt cites the following as some examples of the spiritual expectations people have about relationships today. People expect the couple relationship to provide a space or place of relaxation and regeneration from the stress of work and economic pressures. This is exactly what people in the past expected from places of worship, sacred rituals, and sacred festivals and days like Beltane, Christmas and the Sabbath.

People want their couple relationship to bring emotional security and satisfaction. This has not always been true. In the past, when marriages only took place between men and women and were primarily for social and political power and financial security, people rarely hoped to be emotionally fulfilled by their marriage partners;  they did, however, expect it from their spiritual lives and practices.

People today also want their couple relationships to be containers for their spiritual and intellectual development, for their deepest yearnings and newest insights. They want the couple relationship to nurture their creativity and unique potential, to provide meaning for their lives. These functions too, have traditionally been associated with religion.

Finally, and to me, this is the most telling and pertinent expectation of all, Dr. Odermatt says that today people want partners who will confirm and accept them as unique individuals while at the same time providing them with an opportunity to merge with another so as to experience oneness, togetherness, wholeness. In other words, today the couple relationship is becoming a symbol for the creative union between humanity’s two basic drives, the two halves of the Self:

1. The drive for self-preservation is our compulsion to express our individuality. The need to find, develop and manifest our unique skills and passions in meaningful work has traditionally only been associated with and assigned to males and denied to females. In some parts of the world it still is. Nonetheless, it is inherent in all of us, regardless of gender.

2. The drive for species-preservation is our compulsion to experience oneness with another in caring, intimate relationships which nurture our creativity and bless our community with new life, whether physical, cultural, psychological, spiritual or all four. This drive has traditionally been associated with and assigned to females, and some families and cultures still discourage its expression in males in any outlet other than sexuality.


Humanity is evolving and here, in our time, our collective God-image is undergoing a dramatic transformation. We are imagining God as something far more balanced and complex than a superior masculine spiritual authority who is fascinated by the feminine other—whether the world of physical matter (L.mater or mother), the Mother Church, or women—while remaining separate and aloof from her. In a development prefigured two millennia ago in the beautiful myth of Psyche and Eros, we are imagining God as an inner reality: our potential for a sacred intimate union, a loving partnership between our masculine and feminine sides. This new God-image honors the masculine and feminine principles equally and in all of us as a spiritual reality. In other words, each of us is in and of God.

This way of imagining God has already had thrilling, far-reaching effects. In the social and political arena it has allowed us to consider granting people ultimate authority over what they do with their own bodies and offering full and equal opportunities to everyone regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, or sexual preferences. Such a God-image also gives contemporary religious institutions far more freedom than their predecessors had to encourage individuality and celebrate mutually meaningful relationships free from fear-based prohibitions and prejudices. And it gives religious groups permission to offer instruction on world religions, mythology, psychology, dreams, meditation techniques, and the newest scientific advances in medicine and physics because of a growing awareness that this knowledge liberates people from debilitating fears and helps them live more purposeful, meaningful lives.

The internal union between our masculine and feminine sides was anticipated by the practice of alchemy in the Middle Ages and the great wisdom traditions throughout the world before that. It was brought to our attention by Carl Jung, who likewise used the over-arching metaphors of masculine and feminine to represent every pair of opposites. Conducting our own magnum opus of uniting our inner opposites into our conscious awareness is our hope for wholeness, individuation and enlightenment.

The coniunctio in alchemy is a union of the masculine and feminine, of the spiritual and material principles, from which a perfect body arises, the glorified body after the Last Judgment, the resurrection body. This means an eternal body, or the subtle body, which is designated in alchemy as the philosopher’s stone, the lapis aethereus or invisibilis. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 158-167.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.  Psyche and Amor, also known as Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard: a symbolic butterfly hovers over Psyche in a moment of innocence poised before sexual awakening. 

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.


What Is Enlightenment? January 10, 2017

mahavira_enlightenmentWhy am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Am I doing it? How can I know? Will I ever know? Is there an underlying pattern to it all?

These are some of the Big questions that philosophers, Spirit Persons, and ordinary seekers are compelled to ask and answer. Some rely solely on intellectual methods: following teachers, reading, studying, getting degrees, writing books. Some seek answers in traditional religions and ‘religious’ practices. Some experiment with various forms of self-reflection aimed at self-discovery, self-knowledge and consciousness. Some try combinations of these plus alternative practices like body work, mind-altering drugs and artistic pursuits.

As I noted in my last post, our hunger for answers to these questions is motivated by the ‘transcendent function,’ a form of archetypal energy we all inherit just by being human. As a reminder, here’s Jung’s definition:

The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the ‘transcendent function’…. This function progressively unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.

In other words, even though we think of enlightenment as a strictly spiritual pursuit, it also has psychological (mental/ emotional/intellectual) components. Further, I would argue that it has physical components. In fact, I have come to believe that enlightenment is not solely a function of any one aspect of human nature, but of the whole package.

Buddhism expresses this idea through four “Aims” or goals of human life. As I see it, each goal is met within a particular domain of human functioning. Each domain is fueled by a physical instinct and represented by a masculine and feminine archetype. These stand at either end of the pole of energy in which that instinct specializes.

To be fully functioning spirit persons, we need to awaken, activate, and heal our fullest potential—masculine and feminine—in each of these four areas. ~Jean Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 203.

Here’s my summary of these relationships:

(1) The aim of Lawful Order and Moral Virtue takes place in The Social Domain. Our social lives receive energy from our physical Instinct for Nurturance.  Psychologically, this instinct is symbolized by the King and Queen archetypes, our inner authority figures who govern our social behavior for the benefit of all.

(2) We accomplish our aim for Power and success in The Physical Domain. This goal is primarily accomplished through our Instinct for Activity. We cannot just think or will our way to success. Our bodies have to be engaged in studied, committed, goal-oriented and self-disciplined practices. For me, the Warrior and Mother archetypes represent the opposite poles of physical energy available to us in pursuit of our goals in the material world.

(3) Release from Delusion:  The Mental Domain. Our search for truth and enlightenment relies on our cognitive functioning, or intellect, which matures as we consciously activate our Instinct for Reflection and its archetypal representatives, the Scholar/Magician and Wisewoman.

(4) Love and pleasure:  The Emotional Domain.  To find emotional satisfaction in life, we need to activate our Instinct for Sex and its psychological equivalents, the Lover and Beloved archetypes. This does not necessarily require our participation in physical sex, but the aspect of our libido which specializes in this kind of energy does need to be activated. In other words, we need to experience passion, and being loved and loving in return.

Since Jung believed we have five instincts, and in keeping with his insight that the transcendent function progressively unites the opposites, I respectfully offer a fifth domain which is equally essential to enlightenment.

(5)  Perfection and Completion: The Spiritual Domain.  In my experience, spiritual growth is fueled primarily by our Instinct for Creativity: our capacity to imagine and find meaning in the inner forces which influence our journeys through life. Our creativity is symbolized by the Couple archetype, or Self, which gradually manifests in every area of our lives via the transcendent function.

I see the Couple as integrating the other four archetype pairs in a sacred marriage of fully individuated and fully related opposites.  This union activates the creative instinct and brings us into the spiritual domain and Epoch III integrated consciousness. ~Raffa, HSD, p. 203.

british_museum_room_1_enlightenmentAs you can see, the search for enlightenment cannot be compartmentalized into one domain, but requires cooperation between every part of us in every domain in which we function. I stress this point to dispel the common misconception that putting all our spiritual eggs into one basket—traditional religious participation and belief—is the only way to attain enlightenment. This obsession with using only intellect and emotion to connect with a loving God not only dismisses the sacredness of the physical body, but it ignores the fact that our actual words and behaviors can be decidedly unspiritual. Moreover, it can lead to a dangerous split between mind and body, spirit and soul.

In conclusion I would like to note that despite all the thought and energy I’ve given to the pursuit of enlightenment, I cannot say for certain what it is. As I wrote in response to a comment after last week’s post:

“I wish I knew what enlightenment is. If it’s a conscious, consistent, ongoing process of trying to understand, individuate, love, realize our true selves, and appreciate the miracle of our lives, then, perhaps all of us who do this kind of work could be considered such. I mean, we know we’re part of a process, and we’re consciously involved in it. But if enlightenment is not a process, but an end-product, then I know I’m not “there.” I keep re-hashing old stuff and coming up with new stuff to process, so in this definition, I’m only as ‘enlightened’ as my thoughts, behavior, and motivations are in this very moment!” ~Jean Raffa

Image Credits: Enlightenment: Wikimedia Commons.  

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.


Message To America From a White Horse November 7, 2016

lone_ranger_and_tonto_with_silver_1960I’ve always been proud of my country. As a child, I thought the Lone Ranger, Tonto and Silver symbolized everything good about the U.S.A.: respect for human rights, individuality and diversity, strength of character, integrity, commitment to our civic responsibility to protect the weak, the helpless, the innocent and poor. But if there were any vestiges of that naïveté left in me before this presidential race, they’re gone now.

Never have I ever felt so disillusioned about America. Never have I, like award-winning novelist Barbara Kingsolver, taken a political race so personally. The constant reminders of our collective shadow have been monumentally toxic and I’m sick of it. But I didn’t realize how sick until last week’s dream of a white horse.

Dream #4792:  I’m in a house (my psyche) where several people (inner characters) are attending a retreat. Two persistent and annoying women (parts of my shadow) want my attention and feel sorry for themselves when I don’t give it.  An elder white-haired man summons me outdoors where I’m given responsibility for a white horse (powerful unconscious emotions). Its owner (aspect of my animus) is in the house. He has neglected it so badly that it’s ill. The old man leaves the horse with me. Annoyed at the owner’s negligence, worried and sad about the horse’s condition, I caress it lovingly. When I turn my back on it to go and notify the owner, it crumples behind me and lies there, pitiful, sad, and listless.

That morning the sad feelings lingered so I searched Google and found this blog post from 2009.

Jung & Horse

Mark Wallinger's White Horse Sculpture

Mark Wallinger’s White Horse Sculpture

“There has been a massive outpouring of love for Mark Wallinger’s white horse, the 165 foot sculpture which will be placed at the new International Rail Terminal at Ebbsfleet, Kent. This is interesting for many reasons, not least because public art isn’t usually enjoyed by the lay person, ironic and upside down as that may sound. The iconic white horse has captured something in the collective consciousness, something primal and English to its core. Today, I stumbled upon this piece of an essay by equine behaviourist Chris Irwin:

“Clearly, some link between horses and the human psyche was surfacing. I’ve since learned that there is a branch of psychoanalysis, pioneered by Carl Jung, that tries to weave a balance between the outer world of action and events and the inner world of dream, fantasy and symbolism. A distinguishing feature of Jungian analysis is the concept of archetypes, symbols rising from the dark, deep psychic pool of the collective unconscious where humanity’s common experience is stored.

“Archetypes express a complex of images and emotions that surround the defining experiences of human life. Examples include the Hero, the Divine Child, the Great Mother, Transformation, Death and Rebirth. They are the same for us all, no matter who we are or where we come from. It’s as if they are built into the wiring of our brains. And one of the most commonly recurring archetypes is – you guessed it – the Horse.

Some of my horse books.

Some of my horse books.

“The Horse archetype throughout the ages has been closely linked with our instinctive, primal drives. Jung thought the Horse’s appearance could signify instincts out of control. The horse evokes intense feelings and unbridled passion instead of cool, collected thought.

“In many different situations and in many different ways, horses were enabling people to make contact with feelings they’d buried deep inside their shadow. There didn’t seem to be any doubt that equine-assisted therapy worked. The question was, why?

“Horses, by embodying one of the deepest archetypes in our consciousness, most definitely stir us up. All those things that are buried away or girdled safely up start swirling around in our psyches. Horses can be a direct connection into the unconscious. When we look at a horse, and especially when there’s a horse strutting across the pen in front of us, we see the flesh-and-blood incarnation of powerful forces bottled up within us that we wish we had the guts to saddle and ride.

More horse books.

More of my horse books.

“These are the forces that Jung called the shadow self. We know those forces could take us to our dreams and turn us into our best selves. We also know those forces could destroy us. That’s why we bottle them up in the first place. And when feelings are stirred-up and agitated, that’s when we have the chance to work with them and learn to control them. Horses give us this opportunity. They do this to us whether we’re aware of it or not. But what a powerful tool to be able to use consciously!

“Carl Jung also talked a lot about life’s paradox, and how important the embrace of seeming contradictions is as we travel the never-ending journey towards becoming fully human. Horses, which can both free us or hurt us, embody this paradox. How we handle this paradox in the arena becomes a metaphor for how we handle it everywhere. Only in this case, it’s such a potent and direct metaphor, that we can use it to change our reality. Horses force us to face our shadow selves. Once we do that, we discover much greater freedom, exhilaration and inspiration as we go forward in life.” ~Chris Irwin, author of Horses Don’t Lie

14358643_1430859230264226_4748031632577132298_nDream Mother gave me the perfect image to get my attention. My white horse was suffering the consequences of intense bottled up feelings:  grief, empathy, agitation, worry and self-pity, plus concerns about my recent diminishment of life energy, my neglected need for self-love and care, and my country’s neglected need for self-love and care.

As I write this it’s the day before the election. If Hillary is elected, I’ll celebrate. Either way I’ll be facing my shadow as I get on with my life. I hope Uncle Sam will too. I won’t turn my back on either of us.

A final note: I’ve just read an extraordinary article by award-winning author Barbara Kingsolver on why Trump has not been called out for the horror show he’s put our country through.  If you’re still sitting on the fence about this election, I urge you to read it.

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.

Image Credits: The Lone Ranger, Tonto, and Silver; Mark Wallinger White Horse Sculpture, Wikimedia Commons.  Uncle Sam Cartoon, Facebook.


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