Dreams As Spiritual Guides October 11, 2016
When you are in the darkness you take the next thing, and that is a dream. And you can be sure that the dream is your nearest friend; the dream is the friend of those who are not guided any more by the traditional truth and in consequence are isolated. ~Carl Jung, the Symbolic Life, CW 18, Para 674
And if you lose yourself in the crowd, in the whole of humanity, you also never arrive at yourself; just as you can get lost in your isolation, you can also get lost in utter abandonment to the crowd. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 1020
For 27 years, my spiritual practice has been dreamwork. Dreams aren’t commonly thought of as spiritual aids but they absolutely are. Carl Jung demonstrated this in The Red Book in which he recorded what he learned about himself from visions and dreams over a three year period. This formed the material and inspiration for his groundbreaking insights into the true nature of the psyche, and for his belief that acquiring self-knowledge and becoming who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.
I wish I had understood this during the middle of my life. Throughout the 1980’s I functioned well in the outer world, juggling a home and family with college teaching. But inside I was struggling through a “dark night of the soul” crisis in which I was increasingly dissatisfied with my religion, my work, my relationships and myself.
Near the end of that decade I joined a Jungian study group. When I learned that dreams show us unknown aspects of ourselves in a visual, metaphorical, symbolic language, I began to record and work with mine. By the time I had this Big dream, I knew that taking my nocturnal dramas seriously was vital to my wellbeing.
Dream #155: “Going Against the Current.”
I’m walking downstream in a rushing river beside a rocky bank. People are shooting by on rafts and I wonder how they keep from bashing themselves against the rocks. I turn around and laboriously make my way back upstream in water up to my chin. The bottom is rough and rocky. I reach up and hold onto some thin, flimsy branches sticking out over the water. This helps, but soon there are no more and I have to go on unaided.
At the last turn I come up against thousands of people heading downstream. Friendly people press in on every side as I struggle against the current toward the place I’m supposed to be—my base camp. Sometimes I touch a head or shoulder to propel myself forward. When I reach the mouth of the river I put my palms together and gently part the people; this reminds them of Moses parting the Red Sea and they smile indulgently.
Then I’m far out in the ocean in deep water, tired and afraid. Will I make it? A younger, blond-haired woman appears, only her head showing above the water. “That was smart of you,” she says. I know she’s strong and rested and will support me if I need to float for a while. Together we head slowly to my base far away on the left shore, a place I’ve never been but know to be my destination.
In exquisitely beautiful imagery, this dream told the story of my psycho-spiritual development. It said that when I began my journey (walking) through the unconscious (water) I was still aligned with the collective (going with the flow downstream). But I had become aware of the passing of time (river) and the danger of continuing to rush mindlessly along on the path of least resistance (downstream) while ignoring my undeveloped self and unfulfilled yearnings.
Redirecting my focus to my inner world was making my journey more difficult (going upstream). The form of spiritual support (branches) I had always clung to—the heavenly spirituality of the Sky God that requires conformity to dogma—was of no further help to me (the branches disappear) and I had to continue alone.
Like the children of Israel when they crossed the Red Sea, I was leaving my slavish allegiance to the collective (crowd of people) behind, and entering the unknown: my frightening and dangerous (deep water) unconscious self (the sea). There I caught a glimpse of my anima or soul (the blond woman), the feminine half of the Self which, in Jungian language, is partner to the masculine animus or spirit. Together they form our central archetype, our God-image, symbol-maker, and connection to the Sacred. The message of this dream was that assuming my own authority and trusting myself would bring me to my true self (base camp).
Until I discovered dreamwork, no books or scriptures, no religious beliefs or sacrifices or regular church attendance, none of my ego’s hard work or good behavior, no well-intentioned thoughts or knowledge or cleverness, no psychological expert or religious authority—nothing in my life had any lasting transforming or healing power for me. But this dream from the Self did. The Self knew me. It spoke to me in the symbols of this dream which it fashioned solely for me when it knew I was ready to listen.
My Beloved knew where I’d been, what I sought, where I was going. It knew I was turning my life around before I did. It reassured me that replacing my old life of passionless conformity with the great adventure of exploring my unconscious self was the right choice for me. Above all, it convinced me I could trust it to tell me the truth and guide me in the direction of my heart’s desire. Eventually this knowing emboldened me to leave work for which I was ill-suited to follow my passions for writing and self-knowledge. That choice has made all the difference between a false life of meaninglessness, dissatisfaction and confusion, and the real life of increasing clarity, trust, meaning and peace I’m living now.
Contrary to popular belief, discovering and being true to who you are beneath the mask you wear, and doing it for the sake of love, is the authentic spiritual journey. What did you dream last night? What did you learn about yourself?
Photo Credit: “Going Against the Current,”Luo Quingzhen, Google Images. Salmon going upstream: unknown, Wikimedia Commons. “Danube Salmon Swimming Against the Current,” unknown, Wikimedia Commons.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
Join the Epoch III Ego Evolution Revolution June 14, 2016
“People must know they are in conflict. They must be able to carry the conflict. That is consciousness.” Carl Jung, as told to M.I. Rix Weaver, J.E.T., Pages 90-95.
Leaving our Epoch II ego consciousness behind is daunting and painful because the ego is suffering the trauma of dying to “the world’s” opinions. As Dr. Michael Washburn notes (Transpersonal Psychology in Psychoanalytic Perspective, pp. 183-216), symptoms of the ego’s death throes include a lack of psychic energy, a sense of alienation from the world, unstable relationships, mood shifts, depression, extreme anxiety, impulsiveness, potentially self-damaging behaviors, intense and inappropriate anger, emptiness, boredom, identity disturbances, and so on.
These common symptoms point to the Epoch II ego’s dis-ease and its need for purging and opening before new psycho-spiritual life can be born. This process often starts with a painful crisis that forces us to acknowledge our shadow and the undeveloped masculine and feminine forces of our psyche. Help can be found in various forms of mental training that explore the unconscious. Some people use spiritual practices—prayer, meditation, contemplation and mindfulness—to observe their thinking. Psychological practices like dreamwork, psychotherapy and active imagination likewise help us retrieve repressed material and identify and control toxic mental events and emotions.
“…this work brings many benefits, including affirming self-knowledge, deeply satisfying personal meaning, freedom from the compulsion to please or impress, the joy of clearly seeing the underlying patterns of our lives from a cosmic perspective, a sense of connectedness to nature and all of life, and benevolent thoughts and actions guided by a conscious immersion in the Divine Unity.” J.B. Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 73.
Jung noted that this work leads
“to the union of opposites in the archetypal form of the hierosgamos or ‘chymical wedding.’ Here the supreme opposites, male and female . . . are melted into a unity purified of all opposition and therefore incorruptible.” C.G. Jung, CW xii, para 37.
The alchemists called this the sacred marriage of the King and Queen. Psychologists call it individuation and wholeness. Spirit persons refer to it as enlightenment. All are names for Epoch III Integrated Consciousness. As the famed ‘pearl of great price’ it is highly sought; however, the way is closed to even the most intelligent and pious Epoch II ego until it is brought low enough to face its powerlessness and ask for help. Richard Rohr quotes Bill Wilson, Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“How privileged we are to understand so well the divine paradox that strength rises from weakness, that humiliation goes before resurrection; that pain is not only the price but the very touchstone of spiritual rebirth.” –Bill Wilson (Cited in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, June 10, 2016).
Every living thing is compelled to evolve into an improved form. As individuals find healing and rebirth, society follows. But pain, weakness and humiliation do not go down well in patriarchy and at present we can expect little help from that front. In writing about the rash of mass shootings in the U.S. over the last several decades, Mary Harrell, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist, points to the need to incorporate qualities associated with the feminine principle into societal institutions. Harrell asks
“How can our nation’s boys effectively manage hate and rage when they live in a society that splits all aspects of the human condition into good and evil?” Mary Harrell, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life, p. 79.
“Unfortunately, it is our schools—reflections of the larger culture—that have marginalized the archetypal feminine, the Goddess. Because she has been cast into the dark place of repression and denial, she can’t transform excesses of rage and hate.” Harrell, p. 82.
Harrell notre that transforming educational systems
“…requires conversations, and especially direct initiatives aimed at inclusiveness and effective response to cultural wounding. Valuing the Goddess calls for consideration of issues of war and peace within a frame of death and life, rather than through a sole masculine expression of “higher values” like nationalism, and freedom, thereby bloating an expanded military agenda….These goddess perspectives need to balance the patriarchal attitude, which defines the school curriculum, usually by overvaluing science, math, and technology (intending that the nation will stay ahead in a competitive—masculine—rather than a collaborative—feminine—process).” Harrell, pp. 83-4.
I wrote the above last week. As I conclude this post two days before its scheduled publication, I am struck by a bizarre synchronicity. This morning a rage-filled young man killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in my home town of Orlando. Mourning this outrage, I still remain hopeful of positive change.
1. Notice and reflect on what’s happening in your inner and outer life.
2. See your conflicts and crises as meaningful messages from your inner feminine who wants to awaken deep feeling, humility, willingness and surrender.
3. Help her express herself creatively through art, poetry, writing, dreamwork, ritual, etc.
4. Unless you are in an abusive situation, tolerate the tension as long as possible without doing anything rash. Trust that healing and balance will come if you stay with your struggle.
5. Share your earned wisdom in your own unique way.
Together, we can make a difference. If a critical mass of individuals frees their dragons from their psychological prisons, future generations will see us as heroic pioneers who led humanity into the “Epoch III Ego Evolution Revolution.”
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” ~Jung CW 9i, Page 32, Para 66.
Image Credits: Google Images
Jean’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon as well as Kobo, Barnes And Noble, and Smashwords.
Following Our Symbols: Healing Our Souls March 15, 2016
“There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man…[that] still makes up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.”~C.G. Jung
Last weekend, Elaine Mansfield and I presented a Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop to the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota about the lessons to be learned from loss and grief. A major theme was how our culture’s one-sided emphasis on the brain’s left-hemisphere logos thinking has severely crippled the fullest development of our souls. Like Carl Jung, we believe that ignorance of right-hemisphere mythos, a way of thinking which employs imagination and symbol, undermines our hope of finding healing and meaning in our suffering.
Through sharing, writing, examples, and interactive experiences, we demonstrated how to use mythos to find meaning in the symbols from our dreams and myths. Dreams are personal myths. They come to bring healing and wholeness. Cultural myths do the same thing. If we know their language, both can guide us on our soul’s journey through and after life. As Jung noted, using this language to develop a harmonious relationship with our symbols is the first step toward wisdom.
“First we must learn to think mythologically. Powerful things happen when we touch the thinking which myths, fairy tales, and our own dreams bring to us.” ~Robert Johnson
I began studying mythos in my late forties. Every night I recorded my dreams. When I had time for reflection I consulted good symbol books for possible meanings. Occasionally I used active imagination with compelling symbols. Among these were bears. Today Bear is one of my most valued healers and guides.
Bears, in their simple willingness to shake off their unconscious sleeps, abandon the dark caves of their births and hibernations, and make their solitary ways into the forest, are associated with endings and new beginnings. They demonstrate that transitions from known to unknown are not to be feared as obstacles or punishments, but embraced as thresholds to enriched living. This lesson from my dream bears brings me peace and trust during times of change.
During hibernation bears fall into a sleep so deep that they appear to be dead; yet, wonder of wonders, they emerge from their caves in spring as if they have been resurrected, often with a new cub or two. In terms of our soul’s journey, this pertains to experiences of transformation and rebirth that awaken us to new insights about the unconscious world beneath our ordinary awareness.
It was only natural that Bear would become a cherished symbol when I was compelled by unconscious forces to embark on a painful spiritual quest. Although initially devastating, my encounter with the Self within eventually brought far greater rewards than the familiar comforts I left behind. Like Bear, I too am now at home in the unknown where I love to roam the wilderness and fish for nourishment in dark, deep waters.
Many Native Americans associate bears with spiritual introspection. So do I. Bear emerged during a phase of massive psycho-spiritual house-cleaning and remodeling. I was attending weekly classes on Jungian psychology, studying books, recording my dreams, and writing down meaningful insights in my first book about psycho-spiritual development. For reasons I did not fully understand, a golden bear became a prominent symbol in that book. Just as Bear spends long periods of time in inward-focused hibernation each year, so was I thoroughly immersed in my inner world.
Some years ago a new theme, return to nature, began to demand my attention. It manifested in ways unusual for me then: a decreased motivation to write, restlessness, attraction to the outdoors, and an alien itch for more physical activity. I recognized another threshold, another opportunity to follow Bear.
As large animals that are so human-like at the same time they are so strangely other, bears generate an awareness of, and reverence for, the instinctual life of the body and soul. In a culture such as ours, based as it is on a centuries-old tradition of valuing mind over matter and repressing the instincts, Bear reminds us that we ourselves are animals, and that, in the soul-stirring words of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver,
“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
Once the golden bear called me out of unconsciousness and into awareness of the sacred place within. Now it calls me out of myself. You’ve hibernated long enough, my bears say. Come out here and find us! It’s time to explore your senses and immerse yourself in your body and nature, the final sacred place for pilgrims such as you.
What symbols have appeared in your dreams? How have they brought healing meaning to your life’s journey?
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Kobo, Barnes And Noble, and Smashwords.
Coming Home to the Self December 29, 2015
Here in the mountains it’s a gray winter day. We arrived for our annual holiday visit the day after Christmas hoping for snow, but the weather’s so mild that the windows are open. Over the roar of the creek, swollen from a solid week of rain, a single crow caws somewhere nearby. Welcome home, she says. Downstairs the grown-ups are finishing a jigsaw puzzle we’ve been working on since summer. The grandchildren are playing a video game. I’m upstairs writing this, tomorrow’s post, my heart warm with the comforts of home, family, and love.
This place, this now, this beauty. These tears of wonder and gratitude. For this sacred moment, this simple awareness of being at one with my Self, life and love…this is all I want or need. This is the grace and blessing of the Self, a moment that needs no words. Yet now I am searching for words to fill this page. I don’t fight it. After all, part of the Self—my sacred core and circumference—is a writer and another part is a teacher. And these parts still want to share what they know.
Listen to me! the crow caws insistently. I hear you. I answer. You, too are part of me, part of the Self. I look out the window in its direction, past the skeletons of maples and buckeyes, the fluttering rhododendron leaves on the mountainside glistening with droplets of rain. It’s all alive. All sacred. What words could possibly be a clearer statement of the sacredness of life than this?
I haven’t always had this awareness. My soul has expanded very slowly through the years. First I had to want to know the truth about the puzzle of myself more than I wanted to protect myself. Then I had to let down some of my ego’s boundaries. Had to stop saying no and start saying yes. Had to admit I can be wrong. Could be hurt. Could need somebody. Could be showing the world a false self. Could be afraid. Angry. Selfish. All that took a while.
Eventually I liked the awareness so much that I searched for a practice to keep me more aware. Discovering dreamwork felt like striking gold. Metaphorically, that’s exactly what it was. That vein of gold led to more veins: the gold of self-validation and self-affirmation, the gold of insights, passion, revitalization, synchronicity, adventure. Some veins led to my dark shadow, others to my light shadow. Some led to my anima and animus. A few have gone deep enough to encircle my Self.
A soul needs time and reflection to expand. I’ve practiced dreamwork for 26 years with no end in sight. Which is good, because I never want it to end….even though lately I’ve been dreaming of my critical bully: a bossy chef, a menacing sniper, a criminal holding people hostage with a gun and a baseball bat, a rude and haughty boy. The craziness of the holidays can do that to a person! Last night I lay awake counting the number of people I’ve hurt over the years, sometimes out of self-righteousness, sometimes thoughtlessness. I was appalled at their number.
Yet on Christmas night and the next two nights I dreamed about a large Christmas tree ornament, a sparkling diamond and gold ball that was being clarified and perfected and completed, and so were my understanding of it and my words about it. And I was it and it was me.
Circles are images of the Self. So are diamonds and gold. Soul-making has infinite rewards. Every day I see my self-criticism backing off, my frustrations softening. Trust has pretty much replaced worry and grace flows through more often, revealing the sacred river of life and love that runs beneath and through it all.
A bad internet connection made my computer so sluggish a while ago that I took a break and went downstairs. I was aware of the river when I had lunch with my family. When Robyn and I emptied the dishwasher. When everyone went out to enjoy a brief dry spell before the rain returned. When I savored a slice of caramel cake. It was still there when I returned to my desk and found my internet connection working normally again. Another tiny reminder that, in the words of anchorite Mother Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
And now it’s time to finish this and rejoin my family downstairs. Fred’s got a fire going and my favorite new book of poetry, Coming Home by Jamie K. Reaser, awaits me on the chair in front of it. Thanks to her I’m learning how to talk to crows. It’s the perfect book to feed the fire growing inside me and keep the river flowing.
May the New Year bring us all more awareness of coming home to the Self.
Please enjoy this final video, “Theatre of the Self,” from my new YouTube series, Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery. You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page), on my website , and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.
Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.
Anima/Animus: The Archetype of Contrasexuality December 22, 2015
Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung. “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335
So far in this series about the five major players in every psyche, I’ve written about the ego, our center of consciousness; the persona, our social mask; and the shadow, our disowned qualities. The remaining players are buried much deeper in our unconscious, and can only be accessed after we’ve learned about, and come to terms with, the very real and potentially toxic powers of our shadows. Until this happens, we will not reach the fourth level of the psyche or mature self-knowledge.
To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle. Carl Jung. “Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959). In CW 10. Civilization in Transition. P.872
Getting in the middle is good! Seeing ourselves from two sides—i.e. conscious and unconscious, good and evil—frees us to discover our full individuality. We do this by meeting and coming to terms with the anima/animus archetype of contrasexuality. This pair represents the two fundamental energies of the psyche.
Jung said the anima is the unconscious feminine. He believed she is a particularly potent force in the psyche of a man, but today it might be more appropriate to say of a person whose ego identifies primarily with maleness. Historically thought of as soul, Jung associated our unconscious feminine sides with Eros, the principle of feeling and relationship.
Conversely, the animus is the unconscious masculine, a unusually powerful force in one whose ego identifies primarily with femaleness. Historically thought of as spirit, Jung associated our unconscious masculine sides with Logos, the principle of rationality.
Until very recently, humanity has not understood that everyone contains all the qualities associated with both energies, and so has made the mistake of assigning specific and limiting roles to the genders. Even Jung tended to be confusing when writing about this issue, as he believed that every woman’s psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, and every male’s on the principle of Logos. But might he have been influenced by gender stereotypes which were so strongly imposed in his time? For in organizing the personality types into the two opposites of Logos thinking and Eros feeling, he acknowledged that both potentials exist in every psyche. So why assign each to a gender? In other words, even this great psychological pioneer had difficulty being clear about this issue.
I think Erich Neumann said it best when wrote in The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton University Press, 1954) xxii n. 7:
“…we use the terms “masculine” and “feminine” throughout the book, not as personal sex-linked characteristics, but as symbolic expressions. . . . The symbolism of “masculine” and “feminine” is archetypal and therefore transpersonal; in the various cultures concerned, it is erroneously projected upon persons as though they carried its qualities. In reality every individual is a psychological hybrid.”
There is no final word on this issue as yet, either in the Jungian community or the general public. The stereotypes about gender that have prevailed throughout the patriarchal era (about 5,000 + years) have confused and severely constrained the psychological development of all of us. However, we are beginning to understand that the creation and evolution of every form of life, both physical and psychic, only occurs when these two complementary forms of energy merge in a reciprocal partnership. Neither form is superior or inferior to the other and nothing new can be created by either one alone.
The anima/animus archetype manifests as new potentials that most of us will only consciously develop after we’ve fulfilled the basic tasks of the first half of life: getting an education, developing our interests and skills, proving ourselves in jobs, finding love partners, and establishing a home and family. In our dreams, our anima/animus qualities appear as unusually fascinating and influential women and men who compel us to challenge and change outmoded attitudes, thoughts and emotions. Opening our minds and reflecting on these changes spurs healthy growth; rejecting them out of fear or stereotypical thinking stunts further growth into mature consciousness.
As I write this, it’s Dec. 21, 2015, Winter Solstice Eve, the darkest night of the year. In the following video I share my very first recorded dream. It’s very fitting that it featured my animus as an attractive, seductive man who wanted to enlighten me about love. Fortunately, I was ready to push past my fear and learn what he wanted to teach me. Please enjoy my holiday offering to you: The Dream Theatre of the Anima/Animus. This dream brought more light into my psyche. May it do the same for you.