Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Law of Choice March 17, 2020

You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices. ~Deepak Chopra

We need to teach the next generation of children from day one that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind’s greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear. ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

8.The Law of Choice: There are many choices you do not have the power to make. You cannot choose when, where, or to whom you were born. You did not choose your family, genetic inheritance, race, body type, or the early blessings and traumatic experiences that shaped your mind, emotions, and fundamental personality. You cannot choose to avoid suffering, or change the natural aging processes of your life.

But you do have the power to choose what to do with what life gives you. You can choose to confront your challenges with courage, confidence, and trust.  You can choose the values you want to serve, the friends you want to keep, the partner you want to spend your life with. You can set goals and act on them, or procrastinate lest you make a mistake. You can settle for a job or lifestyle that does not fulfill you, or design a path of your own. You can accept responsibility for your choices or blame someone else. You can cultivate your imagination or bury it. View yourself as separate or as connected. Integrate or fight otherness. Nurture love or hate. Trust or fear. Your choices will shape your life and influence yours and the world’s welfare.

The difficulty in life is the choice. George Moore, The Bending of the Bough, 1900, Act IV.

But the big choices that can permanently alter the course of your life are very difficult. How then do you decide? In my life I’ve found that impulsive decisions are rarely the answer. Most really big choices require a great deal of soul-searching, self-knowledge, and time before the gates open and the path becomes clear. You need to examine your motives — not the surface, idealistic ones your ego flatters itself with, but the ones deep in your unconscious that you struggle to disown, like those based on pride, hunger for power, fear, selfishness, hatred, the need to impress, or the desire for revenge.

It is not I who create myself, rather I happen to myself. (The Collected Works of Carl Jung, Vol. 11, Para 391)

Unknown forces in your psyche influence you every day: instincts, archetypes, typologies, complexes, emotions, attitudes, and memories. You can choose to ignore them. You can blame them on people and circumstances. Or you can choose to be mindful of them. You can ask yourself why you just behaved the way you did; look for alternative ways to respond next time. You can pay attention to the dramas that are enacted in the dream theaters of your soul every night.

Once you understand your psychological patterns and the negative affect these patterns have on your life, you can now make better life choices. This is a breakthrough! Those patterns have kept you stuck from living the life you have imagined. Of course, your experiences and the way you coped with them will never disappear. They are part of your spiritual development. However, the coping mechanisms and false beliefs are no longer dictating who you become, your authentic self is, the self that wants purpose and meaning in life. ~www.virtuesforlife.com

You must recognize, embrace, and be honest about what is real for you today and allow that understanding to inform the choices you make. Only then will you be able to build the future of your dreams. ~Suze Orman

We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves. ~Thomas Merton

At a crossroads

Honest choices that enable you to fulfill the deepest capacities of your Self are motivated by the Law of Love. Choices made from love change your life and the lives of those around you. They bridge opposites instead of creating divides. They bring hope, trust, and freedom. They nourish compassion and healing, dispel fear and despair.

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. ~Nelson Mandela

What choices motivated by self-knowledge, truth, and love can your country make as it prepares for the mounting crisis of the coronavirus pandemic? What choices can you make?

Image credit:  Doors, Pixabay

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. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched in October of this year.

 

Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Law of Love, Part I March 4, 2020

The language of religion defines God as “love,” there is always the great danger of confusing the love which works in man with the workings of God. ~Carl Jung; CW 5, Para. 98.

I don’t think we can separate love from overall human dignity and hope. ~Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978

7. Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Law of Love: Love is the most powerful healing and unifying force in life. It has its roots in the heart — honest feeling, valuing, and respect, not in the head — ideas, words, theories, logic, and reason.

According to the ancient Greeks, there are seven types of love.

  • Eros: Love of the body. Eros was the Greek God of love and sexual desire. Romantic love.

  • Philia: Love of the mind. Philosophy means “love of Sophia,” the spark of life and wisdom in us.  Philia also refers to love between good friends.

  • Ludus: Playful love between partners and friends.

  • Pragma: longstanding, practical, systematic, business-like love of work.

  • Agape: Love of the soul. Charity, the love of human for human, and the love of God for humans and humans for God. The highest form of love.

  • Philautia: Love of the self.  To have regard for your own happiness or advantage. A basic human necessity, many see it as a moral flaw akin to vanity, selfishness, and egotism.

  • Storge: Love of the child. Natural or instinctual affection; family love,

Of these, I’d like to address four that seem most misunderstood and needed in today’s world:  Eros and Philia in this post, and Agape, and Philautia in Part II.

EROS

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us. ~Adrienne Rich

American women rule the home because the American men have not yet learned to love them. ~Carl Jung, NY Times, 1912.

Whoever is in love is a full and overflowing vessel, and awaits the giving. Whoever is in fore thinking is deep and hollow and awaits fulfillment. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 253.

Fred and I married when I was 21. When I saw the above picture my brother recently digitalized from a slide taken in those days, I was surprised and saddened by how naive and unconscious I was.  I was wary, detached, and scattered. Self-conscious, anxious to please, and focused on looking good on the outside. A school-smart, church-religious, idealistic conformist, I thought I was a loving person, but had no conception of who I was or what love is.

Since then, I’ve learned that an intimate relationship is the perfect school for love. When both partners can tolerate the tension of self-discovery and change, they can experience a revitalizing new birth. As the light of consciousness emerges in us, so does love. We’re going on 56 years together now, and so far it seems to be working.

PHILIA

The ancients called the saving word the Logos, an expression of divine reason. So much unreason was in man that he needed reason to be saved. If one waits long enough, one sees how the Gods all change into serpents and underworld dragons in the end. This is also the fate of the Logos in the end it poisons us all. In time, we were all poisoned, but unknowingly we kept the One, the Powerful One, the eternal wanderer in us away from the poison. We spread poison and paralysis around us in that we want to educate all the world around us into reason. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 280.

Until now it has not truly and fundamentally been noted that our time, despite the prevalence of irreligiosity, is so to speak congenitally charged with the attainment of the Christian epoch, namely with the supremacy of the word, that Logos which the central figure of Christian faith represents. The word has literally become our God and has remained so” ~Carl Jung, CW 10, §554.

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” ~Carl Jung

An alchemical text says: “The mind should learn compassionate love for the body.” ~Carl Jung, Jung-Ostrowski, Page 25.

I love ideas. I love connecting my thoughts in a network that explains the big picture of life. But it’s taken most of my life to take my body, emotions, or relationships as seriously as my mind.

Today, too many people  scoff at subjective inner experiences that can’t be proven. Some even scoff at love. Humanity is paying a big price for our obsession with divine reason.

We’ve lost awe and respect for the miracles of nature, our bodies, our imagination, our myths, our emotions, the search for personal meaning, and our fullest potential. In so doing we’ve lost touch with love. If we destroy ourselves it will be because of one-sided thinking, complacency, psychological ignorance, and the inability to love.

I like this picture better. I see maturity and love in these eyes.

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. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched in October of this year.

 

Sacred Laws of Psyche: Circles of Change February 18, 2020

My last post was about how resisting growth and change perpetuates disorder and chaos. The result is entropy, the inevitable decline of life and civilization. Here I’d like to explore how conscious individuals can reverse this trend and support forward movement. It can happen if we understand The Law of Change.

5. The Law of Change: Energies in both universes (inner and outer) are constantly circulating. Change toward stasis and polarization increases disorder and chaos. Change toward communication and integration increases movement toward perfection and completion.

Your psyche is a universe of unimaginable potential. Like the outer universe in which moons circle planets, planets circle stars, and stars circulate around each other in galaxies, so the energies of your inner universe interact constantly. Nothing remains fixed. The ongoing cooperation between all Mother Nature’s elements creates changes in your psyche and the world.

You see it in your outer life every day. Neighborhoods decay, houses are torn down. Condominiums, parking lots, and strip malls fill the empty spaces. Nations and governments rise and fall. Toxic leaders are voted out and new ones replace them. All life is in constant flux. It’s a basic law of nature.

You can observe this flow in yourself. Your emotions and moods constantly change. One moment you’re exuding hope and energy, the next you’re sinking under the shame of something somebody said, a painful memory, or bad news. Your opinions and values change depending on your education, health, relationships, and current events. Your family system changes: children are born and grow up, adults fall ill and die, couples marry, new babies are born.

Overall, your ego is aware of only a very small portion of your psyche. Most of your potential sleeps in the darkness Jung called the unconscious. You notice a few changes now and then, ignore others. Approve of some, fight others. Sometimes you fight changes that conflict with your values. Sometimes unfamiliar people and challenging ideas make you uncomfortable. Sometimes you fight change out of habit, or because you fear the unknown.

Psychological change doesn’t end when your ego switches off the light of awareness and sinks into sleep. Your unconscious is a dark and vast ocean beneath your ego awareness. Like the earth’s oceans, its elements move with the winds and tides of change. Since they are nature and therefore not subject to your ego’s will, some elements come unbidden to you in dreams where they appear and disappear at will, morph into expected and sometimes terrifying forms, behave in unpredictable ways, and perform beautiful, shocking and mystifying acts. Like all natural events, some dreams are easily forgotten. Others leave lingering effects. Occasionally an unusually powerful dream influences change in your thoughts and behavior.

Whether or not your ego is aware of this oceanic change, there are forces in your unconscious that resist and fight it. Some are instinctual and archetypal, some are functions of your DNA, and some are aspects of your personality which was shaped by physical trauma and family and social experiences. You can reduce the toxic effects of these forces by noting their consequences. You can accept their presence in you and everyone. You can remove yourself from situations in which they are apt to create problems that are not in anyone’s best interest.

Regardless of where your resistance originates, it takes enormous energy to maintain it. In fact, you can waste so much libido —  psychological energy — by fighting change, that you have little left to explore and enjoy your life, your fuller potential, and your loved ones. Your resistance makes your waking life more problematic and your dreams reflect your struggles in terrifying and depressing nightmares. When this happens, you need to get proactive if you want to save your soul. Because it’s telling you it’s time for change.

You can refresh your soul and retrieve libido when you step toward positive change. For example, you might take your dreams seriously enough to study them. You might seek advice from your partner or friends. You might watch a different news channel to see what the opposite political party is saying and seek intersections of agreement. You might see a therapist, body worker, health practitioner, or spiritual guide. None of these things will kill you, and all of them will open your mind to healthy change.

Here are five guidelines for moving forward:

  • engage in open and honest dialogue with others

  • listen closely to inner and outer realities you have rejected

  • challenge habitual responses and consider healthier new options

  • free your libido to integrate the opposite, yes/no, either/or opinions that have ruled your life into a middle space of dialogue they can share

  • step toward experiences and values that have the potential to perfect and complete you

You can do it. Our survival depends on it.

For an oasis of inspiration, listen to Circle Game, Joni Mitchell’s extraordinary song about change, as covered by Ian and Sylvia in 1967.

Image credits:  Google free images:  Cornerstoneccs.com, Michael Nichols; The Wheel of Change, Michael Goldsmith, visual, http://www.discoveryinaction.com.du; Change, Managements Models, lucid chart.com.   

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. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched later this year.

 

Caryatids and Queens September 17, 2019

Femininity is universally associated with beauty, softness, tenderness, receptivity, relationship, and caring. While some equate these qualities with weakness, Spirit Warriors know they make us stronger than we ever imagined possible. Of the many symbols suggesting this kind of strength, none speaks as strongly to me as the caryatid.

Caryatids are gigantic columns or pillars in the form of beautiful, fully draped females. A very old architectural device, they were originally used to support immense entablatures in sacred public buildings. In ancient times it was said that seven priestesses founded major oracle shrines. These priestesses had different names in various parts of the world. In the Middle East they were known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, hence their common usage as columns holding up temple roofs. These same pillars are referred to in Proverbs 9:1: “Wisdom [Sophia] hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” On the Acropolis at Athens, caryatids are associated with the strong and independent goddess, Artemis Caryatis, from whom they get their name.

My first glimpse of caryatids at the British Museum filled me with awe and wonder. In them I saw feminine beauty, gentleness, independence, spirituality and mystery blended with majestic, connected, sense of community, and the immovable strength and indomitable will to take a stand for social responsibility. I was looking at the Queen archetype.

A defining characteristic of the caryatid’s strength is her queenly way of serving society. She is strong enough to support huge public buildings in which many activities take place every day, but never takes on more than she can handle, never gets crushed under the weight of her responsibilities.

Nor does she claim godlike perfection and omnipotence for herself: no savior complex for her! She simply receives what she is strong enough to receive; contains what she is large enough to contain; gives what is hers to give. Her strength is not based on compulsions to prove anything or pretend to be something she is not, but on a clear understanding of the nature of her gifts, dimensions of her interior space, and limits of her strength and authority.

Like caryatids, mature Queens have a strong need to nurture their communities. They are pillars of society who are always there to listen and understand; share in pain or joy; defend the innocent, weak, vulnerable and disenfranchised; and advance culture. They have a quiet, grounded strength that does not belittle, gossip, or betray confidences. They accept without rejecting differing opinions and protect without exploiting weakness. They do not relinquish softness; rather theirs is the softness of the lioness, not the lamb. Although receptive, they are never doormats. They nurture but never smother. Theirs is the warm and life-giving receptivity of the womb, not the cold hardness of the tomb.

Caryatids and Queens stand tall and firm with eyes wide open. With steadfast devotion and resolve they support institutions and endeavors which are in everyone’s best interest. We emulate their strength when we subordinate our ego’s will to the greater good and work for the betterment of all without betraying our personal standpoints.

Historically, the feminine principle in all of us–and the women onto whom patriarchy projects it–has endured thousands of years of negative stereotypes and repression. We are fortunate to live in a time when women are finally taking positions of leadership in the mainstream of society. Some of them are very angry. Can you blame them? I, for one, cannot.

Everyone, male or female, who has ever been repressed, abused, dismissed, taken for granted, or struggled to be taken seriously and heard with respect goes through a rage stage before they grow wise enough to take responsibility for their angry shadow and attain their full wisdom and power. History shows that for people of strong character and good will, given enough time and experience, their anger over the injustices they have suffered eventually dissolves and is replaced with an ethic of care, compassion, justice, and social responsibility.

This is true both of individuals and the civilizations we produce. After all, wasn’t it the rage of our forebears at the injustices they suffered in other countries that brought most of them to America? Didn’t that rage give rise to the wisdom that drove the writing of the Declaration of Independence? Didn’t it fuel the Revolutionary War and secure the ratification of the U.S. Constitution?

Underneath our wounds, deep in our unconscious selves, every one of us contains the capacity to develop the Queen’s determination and indomitable will to do the right thing: to support, protect, and nurture everyone in our society, regardless of age, gender, race, social class, or religion. May we all, female and male alike, manifest more of this wise use of feminine strength.

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

Dysfunctional God-Images in a Broken World January 23, 2019

New Years greetings to all. These are certainly interesting times, aren’t they? Technology is taking over our lives. Predictable behaviors and expectations of governments, the economy, business, education, relationships, genders, and health care are changing so swiftly that it’s hard to know who or what to trust. Even Mother Nature is behaving strangely. Once our religions were our primary source of security and comfort, but now even they contribute to the growing divisiveness in ourselves and society. 

How are you responding to these unsettling changes? What holds you together when the spiritual beliefs and authorities you believed in no longer merit your trust?

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be addressing these and related questions next month in a presentation at the Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida. What follows is from their website. I hope you’ll join me. 

The Dysfunctional God-Images in a Broken World

Religious ideologies are tearing our world apart. As long as our spiritual ideas are exclusive, one-sided, and based on unquestioning faith to dogma, we contribute to the problem. As J. Krisnamurti said, “The world problem is the individual problem.” To heal the polarizations caused by conflicting God-images we first need to heal our relationship with the Self, our personal God-image. Our egos’ connection to the Self reveals the underlying connection of love that runs through all individuals and religions. Maintaining an ongoing connection to this inner source of love transforms the God-image from a mental concept into a loving relationship that can change one’s life.

This one-day lecture/workshop explores dysfunctional ways religions have tried and failed to connect with the Self. An overview of three epochs of consciousness through which humanity is evolving is followed by descriptions of dysfunctional God-images that barely touch the mystery of love at the core of the psyche. We examine the moral reasoning that accompanies each epoch, and discuss seven steps to heal our selves and our broken world. Participants will engage in writing and discussion activities that examine the evolution of their own consciousness and God-images, and suggestions for practices that aid personal growth into union, wholeness, and love will be offered.

Participants are requested to bring writing/journaling materials. Sharing is voluntary.

4 CEs are available.

Questions for Consideration

  • How has my God-image influenced the way I feel about myself and live my life?

  • Have I ever challenged my God-image? How? Why or why not?

  • How would my life be different if I knew from an early age that the Sacred Mystery lives in me, and it is my job, not someone else’s, to connect with it?

Learning Objectives

Following the completion of this program, participants will be able to:

  • Identify dysfunctional God-images in one’s self and others;

  • Describe the three stages of consciousness through which the psyche develops, and the stage from which they are currently functioning;

  • Discuss the value of mature moral reasoning, and critique techniques for promoting it in one’s self and others; and

  • Explain the value of inner work practices as aids to self-discovery and spiritual growth.

About The Presenter

Jean Raffa, Ed.D.,

is an author, speaker, workshop leader and dream group leader. Formerly a teacher, television producer, and college professor, she changed directions in mid-life to write about her passions: Jungian psychology; empowering the feminine in all of us; Dreamwork; and psychological and spiritual growth.

Her books The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, and Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dreamwork have been used in university classes and dreamwork courses throughout the country. Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World, received the 2013 Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council. She is currently working on The Soul’s Twins: Partnering Your Masculine and Feminine Archetypes, to be published by Schiffer Publishing.

Date & Time

Saturday
February 23rd, 2019
10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Price

Workshop Only
$85

Workshop + 5 CEs
$100
(CEs $3 each)

Location

Santa Cruz Resurrection Church, Biscayne Park
11173 Griffing Blvd, Biscayne Park, FL 33161

Google Map of Santa Cruz Resurrection Church

Register

REGISTER ONLINE
(CREDIT CARD)
CLICK HERE to register online.

BY MAIL
(CHECK)
Mail your check to CJSSF with name(s), address & zip code & event to: Patrick Parham, P.O. Box 669, Hallandale, FL 33008

AT THE EVENT
(CHECK AND CREDIT CARD)
If you want to pay by check or credit card AT the event, bring your check or credit card with you to the desk, BUT you must let us know you will be attending as we must know in advance. Email us at info@jungfl.org

REGISTRATION & RSVP DEADLINE
Please register online or contact us to let us know you will be attending (and paying at the door) by Friday, February 22nd at 5:00 p.m.

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.

 

Good News, Bad News October 8, 2018

 

“Love is the fundamental energy of evolution….Our challenge today is to trust the power of love at the heart of life, to let ourselves be seized by love, to create and invent ways for love to evolve into a global wholeness of unity, compassion, justice and peacemaking. As a process of evolution, the universe is incomplete, and we humans are incomplete. We can change, grow, and become something new. We have the power to do so, but do we have the will? We need a religious imagination that ignites our energies to move beyond mediocrity and fear, one that anticipates a new future of planet life.” ~Ilia Delio. The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, p. xxv

First the good news: The first draft of my new book is finished. From here on out it’s just a matter of refining it, a process akin to socializing a child so it’s fit to be seen in polite society. It’ll take me a while to do that, then off it goes. Sending it to the publisher is like sending a child to finishing school after basic training. An editor will offer suggestions, I’ll make revisions. A marketing person will review and adjust the promotional plan, make the necessary arrangements, and so on.

Now for the bad news: I’m living in a country whose collective shadow is manifesting in so much nasty, ugly, uncivilized, territorial, competitive, top-dog, mine’s-bigger-than-yours animus masculinity that I’m losing hope. Just so you know, my book is about how psychologically and spiritually, men and women both contain the masculine and feminine principles/drives. So I’m not just talking about men. There are plenty of women around exhibiting that same shadow.

Here’s what I’m on the verge of seriously asking myself: Why am I spending so much of my life energy creating this new child who’s all about love and partnership and creative, unitive consciousness? How can it possibly survive in such an environment, let alone thrive? How can anything soft and vulnerable—like an innocent child or a human soul—bear the toxicity of our time?

I know the answer to the first question is, “Because I have to.” And I know I won’t rest until it’s done. Nevertheless, I really, really, need to hear some good news.

Two Monday mornings ago, I awoke with the usual dark cloud over my head from watching the late night news about the latest political brouhaha. This time it was the Brett Kavanaugh supreme court nominee hearing and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s upcoming testimony about an alleged abusive encounter with him. I didn’t want to think about it. I couldn’t wait to make my coffee and get to the newspaper so I could solve the sudoku puzzle. I needed a distraction from my gloomy thoughts, a problem I could actually resolve.

Part of my morning ritual is to read my horoscope which shares the same page. Occasionally a comment will resonate and spark some creative thinking. That morning, mine said something like, “Instead of thinking about what you need to change, ask yourself what would improve your life.” The answer came almost immediately. Being with a kind, compassionate, psychologically savvy and spiritually mature woman who has a good balance of masculine and feminine energy would definitely improve my life right now.

So I sent an email to a friend I haven’t seen in several months, and invited her over for tea one afternoon. We agreed to meet a week later, last Monday afternoon. One of the first things she said after we’d settled into comfortable chairs was, “Are you in as much pain as I am from watching Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony last Thursday?” She was already reading my mind. I hadn’t actually watched it that day, but I’d been seeing it on the news ever since. And yes, I was in much pain about it.

After we talked for a while about how much Ford’s testimony had moved us she said, “But you know, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Kavanaugh and his wife too. Did you see her face? There was so much devotion and concern for him in her eyes.”

And that’s exactly what I needed to hear. Her compassion for both Ford and Kavanaugh—her ability to put herself in their shoes and imagine the impact this ordeal was having on both their families—was the voice crying in the wilderness I’d been longing to hear. We spent the next two hours having one of the most pleasant, light-hearted, and affirming conversations I can remember ever having. We laughed a lot. And I teared up a few times. I’ve felt much better ever since.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that if the current political situation is dragging you down, find yourself a gentle, compassionate, feminine voice with “a religious imagination that ignites [y]our energies to move beyond mediocrity and fear, one that anticipates a new future of planet life.”

Thank you, Ilia Delio. Thank you, Pat. I’ll be doing more of that from now on.

Image credits: Ford, Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty. Kavanaugh, Unknown, Vox.com.

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.

 

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

Three Billboards Day 04_118.dng

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.

 

 
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