Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Avatar and Cultural Transformation November 10, 2015

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet to come to birth.  The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.  Carl Jung

Culture is created by the human psyche.  Intended or not, there is a psychological dimension to every art form. This is nowhere more evident than in James Cameron’s 2009 epic science-fiction film Avatar, a personal favorite.

Avatar’s characters, symbols and themes are updated versions of archetypes featured in stories from every nation, generation, and religion throughout history. Its symbols of interconnectedness—the wormy squirmy tentacled pony tails that bond with similar anatomical appendages of bizarre beasts, and the electrochemical connections between tree roots—are imaginatively resonant of ancient Hinduism’s Diamond Net of Indra, Jung’s collective unconscious, and quantum physics’ holographic universe. And its themes of self-discovery, initiation, revolution, transformation, and redemption have been with us since the first story ever told around a fire.

This lush film eloquently depicts the transformation occurring in humanity’s heroic journey into wholeness and consciousness. It does so by contrasting an ego that succeeds by opening to otherness and change with one that fails because it refuses to grow. Indulge me for a moment as I engage in a bit of imaginative word play to illustrate my point.

The time is the mid-22nd century. The place is Pandora, (mythically, the Greek goddess whose curiosity unleashed all the evils onto the world but whose ultimate legacy was hope). Pandora is a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system that is being colonized to mine a rare mineral. The plot revolves around the expansion of the mining colony which is threatening the existence of the local tribe of natives known as Na’vi.

Corporal Jake (Biblically, Jacob was Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson who overcame adversity to become the patriarch of the Israelites) Sully is a soldier whose body is bound to a wheel chair and whose soul has been sullied—i.e. contaminated and made impure—by bitterness, self-pity, and the aggressive mind-set of his dominator culture. Yet, by the end of the story, he is transformed into a heroic Warrior and passionate Lover.

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.  Carl Jung

After undergoing training to be an avatar, Jake’s crippled body rests in a remote location while his mind inhabits a genetically engineered Na’vi body that interacts with the natives.  His bravery, his respect for princess Neytiri (who says”nay” to tyranny and is Sully’s equal, savior, and Beloved), and his receptivity to the foreign ways of her culture all lead to his redemption and the salvation of the Na’vi.

And what might the name Na’vi symbolize? This tribe has long navigated safely through a difficult world by honoring the sacred underlying patterns of life. But because the people will not capitulate to the dominator ego mentality which has destroyed Earth, their culture is in danger of extinction.

Other archetypal themes are represented by the Na’vi’s spiritual leader Mo’at, (an abbreviation of Mother Earth?) who is a blend of the Jungian archetypes of Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman, and Beloved. Her earth-based values and connections to Nature are the glue that have enabled the Na’vi to flourish thus far.  Then there’s Jake’s mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine (a saintly name if ever there was one), who symbolizes the archetypal Queen’s regard for shared authority and individual differences and the Wisewoman’s intuitive intelligence and pursuit of truth.

Finally we have a plot with the necessary obstacles every hero must overcome: the self-absorbed and self-serving ego symbolized by Selfridge, corporate administrator of the mining program; and the obsessive Warrior mentality of the head of security, Colonel Miles Quaritch (from quarantine, a place of detention? Or quarrel, an angry dispute? Or quartz, a hard rock?). Cameron’s soulless dark invader, like Lucas’s Darth Vader, has miles to go in his own journey because of his rock-hard rigidity and unrelenting itch to maintain his power regardless of the cost to anyone or anything.

So here we have a story about a brave, heroic ego vs. a rigid, fearful ego. Earthly and cosmic connectedness vs. personal self-interest.  Accepting our shadows. Opening to otherness. Learning from feminine wisdom and nature. Moving toward balance. Uniting opposites with respect and love. Using our Warrior energy to protect and empower the vulnerable. Overcoming crippling disadvantages to become a force for positive change.

This haunting story is more than just another movie.  It is a mythic reflection of us at our worst and best. Of our blind ego with its rigid and self-righteous attitudes. Of our dysfunctional dark shadow that clings to old habits and blindly fouls our planetary nest. Of our power-hungry Warrior who continues to dominate families, neighborhoods and societies.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.  Carl Jung

Our hope lies with Jake who represents the resilience, creative imagination, and heroic potential of every ego, no matter how much suffering it endures, to overcome its lethargy and choose consciousness:  consciousness of our light shadow with its unique gifts and ideals and sensitivity and care. Consciousness of our healthy Warrior with the courage to say no to ingrained attitudes and practices that produce chaos, pollution and destruction. Consciousness of the love waiting to blossom between healthy femininity and masculinity.

Image Credit:  Google 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.


The Soul’s Twins April 3, 2014

Have you ever felt like more than one person? I’m not talking about a psychotic split, but about how we can feel and behave differently in different situations or seasons. How sometimes we want to be with people and sometimes need to be alone. How we can be passionate about something today and indifferent tomorrow. How we occasionally feel separated from our true selves. If you’ve ever wondered about things like this, you, too, have pondered Life’s Big Question: “Who the heck am I anyway?”

I used to ask myself this during long summers at our vacation home in the Smoky Mountains. There I can spend hours on the porch contemplating hummingbird hostilities, listening to birds define their territories, scanning the sky for soaring hawks and gray clouds, conversing with the gurgling creek, and absorbing the rhythms of the day. I care for animals, feed fish, hike, garden. If we’re having a drought I spend hours driving around the property in my green John Deere Gator with the big water tank labeled WEEKEND WARRIOR lovingly spraying water on every growing thing in sight. I thrive on being alone. I love going nowhere, listening, feeling, sweating, getting dirty. I can’t get enough of the solitude or outdoors.

Do I want to be outdoors in Florida? Are you kidding me? It’s HOT out there! And why would I want to water plants? If they don’t get enough moisture from the dripping humidity and afternoon thunderstorms they’re on their own! In Florida I rarely think about fish or watch clouds or tend to plants. I don’t care if it rains. I want to be with my family, socialize with friends, write.

So who am I? In Florida I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, supporter of the arts, social person. In North Carolina I’m a loner, gardener, observer of nature, enjoyer of solitude. In Florida I side with Apollo, god of the sun, civilization, the cerebral life and culture; in North Carolina I honor Artemis, goddess of the moon, wilderness, the instinctual life and nature.

Did you know these two Greek deities were twins? Which is the real me? The answer, of course, is both. Carl Jung said, “Within each one of us there is another whom we do not know. S/He speaks to us in dreams…” This Another is our unconscious, an inner soup of unknown characters, complexes, untapped interests and disowned emotions. At an early age our ego adapted to the life into which we were born by incorporating the tastiest of these tidbits into our conscious personality and neglecting the rest. We may not normally be aware of the rejected ones, but they are still part of us. Since most are not crucial to our soul’s purpose they don’t mind being ignored. But there are always a critical few we have wrongly disowned. Until we befriend them they show up in our dreams and erupt into waking life in problematic ways.

Splitting my time between two homes in separate and very different settings has actually helped me heal what was once a split between my soul’s twins. For many years my ego favored Apollo’s high ideals, intellectual pursuits and cultured sensibilities, but no more.   Now Artemis leads me through the wild, dark unconscious and Apollo helps me write about what she shows me. Because I love them both as much as I love my twin grandsons, there’s no sibling rivalry, no need for them to vie for my ego’s attention. Life is so much richer and more peaceful this way.

Connor and Jake, this one’s for you. Thank you for enriching my life.

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 Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 


The Soul’s Never-Ending Journey March 18, 2014

vesica_piscisLast weekend I presented a Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop on Healing the Sacred Divide for the CG Jung Society of Sarasota.  The material for both presentations came from 25 years of ongoing inner work.

With my 1989 discovery of Jungian psychology and the healing value of dreamwork, I started paying attention to images and symbols that felt important.  Over the next five years of intense study I recorded and worked on hundreds of dreams and wrote two books.  Both featured meaningful symbols that were helping me make sense of my life.

As I continued to write and teach at the Winter Park Jung Center throughout the 90’s,  I devised and tested what I called The Partnership Profile. This is an assessment tool to help people understand where they lie on a continuum between the opposites of masculine and feminine archetypal energies.  According to Jung, we all contain both, and wholeness is a function of valuing and integrating both into our awareness so we can live with balance. The symbol I chose for The Partnership Profile was two interlocking circles with the unifying mandorla in the middle.  I used it again on my first website,  then on my newly revised website, and most recently on the cover of Healing the Sacred Divide.

Why this symbol and not another?  Why am I so drawn to it?  I finally found the answer last weekend.

I began my Friday evening lecture with the Big dream I had at the age of ten.  In it I was walking along a railroad track toward a point on the distant horizon when Tonto took me to see the Lone Ranger who was standing below the left side of the tracks. As I waited to hear what my hero wanted to tell me, he shot me. When I woke up screaming I vowed I would never forget this devastating dream of betrayal.

Fast forward to Saturday’s workshop. My last topic for the day was “The 9th Gift of an Integrated God-image:  Mandorla Consciousness.”  This is when we begin to travel the psycho-spiritual path which Lao-Tsu, father of Taoism, called the Middle Way of mindful thinking and living.

In our discussion about whether or not this is enlightenment, I shared a huge awakening experience I had at the age of 27 when I was suffering a crisis of faith.  After a leader in our church prayed for me I had a vision of a pillar of vibrating blue light that stood between me and the altar for over a minute.  Not only did this convince me of the reality of the Sacred Mystery, but it made me wonder if I had reached enlightenment!  After all, it was a blue “light!”

I hadn’t of course!  But that’s a subject for another post. I’m telling you this now because when one of the workshop participants asked me what shape the pillar was, I stood up to demonstrate with my hands.  “Well, it was a tall pillar, about this size and shape…..”  “Oh,” said the woman.  “It was a mandorla.”

It took a moment to sink in. The train tracks in my Lone Ranger dream represented my spiritual journey. I would strive for the rest of my life to walk in that middle, mandorla-like space between two opposite but  interconnected rails.  Seventeen years after that dream my first powerful awakening also featured a mandorla.  And I didn’t see either one of them until last Saturday!

What does this tell me about the Soul’s journey?  That becoming fully conscious takes a very, very long time. So long, in fact, that it may continue into eternity like those tracks in my dream.  As it’s taken thousands of years for humanity to evolve to our present level of awareness—which anyone with eyes can see is far from complete—so may each individual soul need eons to evolve into its fullest potential. If what physicists say is true—that energy is never lost—than that includes soul energy.

I find it very reassuring that my journey is far from over, and I look forward to the next leg, whenever and wherever it may take place.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncEbook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon, and at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 


The Feminine Symbolism of Vessels February 12, 2014

Our relationships with nature and matter are closely connected to our relationships with our bodies. In certain orthodox religious circles, love for God as remote masculine spirit has gone hand in hand with physical self-loathing. For example, Moses Maimonides, the greatest Jewish medieval philosopher, was merely stating a commonly held belief when he said that “all philosophers are agreed that the inferior world, of earthly corruption and degeneration, is ruled by the natural virtues and influences of the more refined celestial spheres.” Likewise, St. Augustine considered his body to be the major source of his spiritual problems and sufferings.

This attitude is an obstacle to the fullest development of our spirituality. In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes:”Spiritual life does not truly advance by being separated either from the soul or from its intimacy with life. God, as well as man, is fulfilled when God humbles himself to take on human flesh. The theological doctrine of incarnation suggests that God validates human imperfection as having mysterious…value. Our depressions, jealousies, narcissism, and failures are not at odds with the spiritual life. Indeed, they are essential to it….The ultimate marriage of spirit and soul, animus and anima, is the wedding of heaven and earth…”

Vessels are classic symbols of feminine matter. Of the many vessels symbolizing feminine containment, one that is particularly dear to Christians is the chalice or grail, the highest level of spiritual development and heavenly and earthly happiness. The female body is a vessel which receives sperm and produces eggs. A womb is a vessel within a vessel, the cradle of life that receives, holds, nurtures, and protects a growing embryo. A breast is a vessel which creates and dispenses milk. A skull is a vessel containing the brain, itself a vessel teeming with creative potential. In Christianity, Mary is a vessel for new spiritual life.

Another vessel-like symbol is the tower. A tower’s elevated position links it to heaven; its impenetrability to virginity; its vertical aspect to the human figure; its roundness to the womb; its containment to creative new life. Hence, towers that are closed and windowless were once emblematic of the Virgin Mary. In early Christian times a tower was often used to suggest the sacred walled city, another feminine symbol. The Herder Symbol Dictionary notes that a tower with a light is a lighthouse, which has long been a symbol “of the eternal goal toward which the ship of life [is] steered across the waves of this existence.” Its light suggests Sophia, the divine spark of life within us.

For Jung, too, the tower was a feminine symbol with sacred meaning. In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he describes the stone tower he built at Bollingen, a small town on the upper shores of Lake Zurich, and writes that it “represented for me the maternal hearth.” He wrote, “From the beginning I felt the Tower as in some way a place of maturation — a maternal womb or a maternal figure in which I could become what I was, what I am and will be. It gave me a feeling as if I were being reborn in stone.”

Vessels accept, contain, protect and preserve the birth/death/rebirth cycle of life at both the physical and metaphysical levels. Our planet Earth is a living vessel whose life cycles mirror the soul-making processes of psychological and spiritual transformation. The matter (L. mater) of which our bodies are composed is our mother, teacher, partner and guide on the spiritual journey. For that, it deserves our everlasting gratitude. How do you honor and thank your mother/body for nurturing the life of your soul?

Photo Credit:  “Chalice” by Barbara Sorensen

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, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 


2013 in review December 31, 2013

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 56,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 21 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Insights From Ireland: Healing Our Divides in The Enchanted Forest May 28, 2013

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest

This is my final insight from Ireland: My dream was precognitive. The first night of the conference I was shown themes and symbols that would reappear many times throughout the week. So much so that at our final dinner, Diana Rubin, trip organizer for the New York Center for Jungian Studies, led a conga line through the room in which we danced to the beat of “E-`LEC-tric-`BLUE…`POS-sum-`EX-cre-ment!”  Monika laughingly said, “You’re going to write about this in your blog, aren’t you?  It was the theme of the whole conference!”

We had come because we’ve found direction in Jungian psychology. We want to pierce the veils of self-delusion. We want to know where our greening has been stunted by the spirit of the times. We want to end our obsession with logic and objectivity; thwart our conformity to conventional wisdom and collective values. We understand that the spirit of our time is the critical masculine and the spirit of the depths is the creative feminine, and we see the most profound and obvious truth Nature has to teach: that life would not exist without an egalitarian partnership between both. We respect the non-rational (not “irrational”) and emotional feminine within and seek ways to integrate her into our waking lives.

Like Jung, we do this by accessing our creative imagination. Creative imagination is a third world between spirit and matter, a holy place where all divides are healed. Ireland is one of the few countries in the Western world that takes this human faculty seriously. Consider her fascination with leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, lucky four-leafed clovers and fairies. Consider Celtic mythology in which Euisneach is the navel of the physical world and the third-world home of the goddess Eriu. Consider that Eriu is a symbol of Ireland and the divine feminine, the central uniting force of life. With her, in the subtle body just beneath the surface of things, live all the kings who have chosen to embrace her instead of killing her.

enchantedforest1The Irish respect the spirit in all things and the mysteries of everyday existence. Poet John O’Donohue says it best in these lines from Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, which Noirin read to us on Wednesday:  “Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence. Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. Respond to the call of your own gift and have the courage to follow it. When you have the experience, don’t miss the meaning. Allow your divine nature and divine appetite to become one.”

Ireland teaches that opening to mystery is what it means to be human and that each stone inviting our attention on the path through the enchanted forest is a gift of meaning. Because I find meaning beyond rational reason, measurable time, and visible space, Queen Maeve’s birthday gift to me was a dream that shattered these illusions with foreshadows of things to come. Why credit her with this gift? Because my creative imagination compels me to notice that the dream came when I was sleeping in Knocknarea Room, named after the hill site of her tomb.

On Friday a few of us walked to Labby Rock, a megalithic tomb behind Cromleach Lodge. Yes, we can lose our way in the enchanted forest, just as I led four others astray on the way back to the lodge. Sometimes we’ll stumble, err, feel angry or afraid. But if our hearts and minds are open to all that we are, we will be met by the magic of Maeve, The Intoxicated One, whose world is as close as our dreams and creative imagination.

My deepest thanks to all who have accompanied me on this inner adventure, especially you who brought the gifts of your comments. Perhaps you’ve noticed your influence in these posts. You’ve helped more than you can know.

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


Animal Medicine: Acquiring Power and Success April 30, 2013

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my horse Shadow related to the healthy development of my attitudes toward power and success. I love it that when the time came for me to address these issues, without any conscious awareness of the full import of what I was doing, I chose the animal whose essence is power to be my teacher.

Horses have the physical energy and motivation necessary to acquire worldly power, but they are also symbols of soul power. Jung asserted that horses express the magic side of Man, ‘the mother within us’, or intuitive understanding; and native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that “In shamanic practices throughout the world, Horse enables shamans to fly through the air and reach heaven.” Every power issue involves both of these dimensions, for it is by meeting and overcoming challenges in the physical world that we empower our souls; conversely, the achievement of soul power leads to successful living.

In most herds of horses one can observe both kinds of power. Explosive as lightning and disruptive as hurricanes, some horses use their physical power aggressively to dominate and get their way. Through kicking, biting, and harassing any horses in the vicinity, they protect their chosen territory and ensure that they are always first in line for water, hay, grain, or the choicest new grass. But there are other horses that use their power in calmer, wiser ways. Without making a big deal of things, they simply go after what they want as peacefully, consistently, and relentlessly as a gently flowing stream. Mark Rashid, author of Horses Never Lie, calls these horses passive leaders and reports seeing one who was new to the herd decide to eat at a feed trough where the most dominant horse and two of his cronies were eating.

In a tremendous display of energy, the dominant horse tore after the new horse with ears laid back and teeth bared, chasing it fifty feet or so away from the trough. The new horse trotted away quietly and then, when the dominant horse resumed eating, came right back to the trough to try again. After half an hour of this behavior, the dominant horse was so exhausted he finally gave up and the new one walked right up and started eating from his trough, something few other members of the herd had ever dared to do. Rashid reports that in no time at all several horses began to follow the new horse around in acknowledgment of its unusual power.

When I bought Shadow I had no idea I had power issues, but he showed me just how shrouded in shadows this area of my soul was. Through him I saw my confusion about the positive and negative aspects of power and discovered a strong tendency to surrender my power to avoid conflict and keep peace. Shadow made it very clear to me that this was not a good thing. If I could not assert myself through means that gained his trust and respect, I was giving him tacit permission to test his power in ways that could become increasingly dangerous to me and detrimental to our relationship. This lesson was particularly difficult for me, but over time I learned that 1) there are positive and negative ways to satisfy the natural drive for power and success, 2) it’s okay to stand up for myself honestly, 3) it’s healthy to ask for and go after what I need, and 4) a calm, quiet, and persistent approach will eventually produce positive results.

Who knew what power lurks in Our Lady of the Beasts? Who knows how sweet and gentle power and success can be?  The Shadow knows!

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



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