Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Global Community of Life December 1, 2015

 

Inner City Books's photo.

This morning I was checking my Facebook page when I came across this image and a quote, both of which knocked my socks off. They were on a site I follow called Depth Psychology Alliance. The post was made by Inner City Books, the premier publisher of Jungian books. I know this because in the first frenzy of my introduction to Jungian psychology, I ordered, received, and devoured about 20 Inner City books. Since then I’ve acquired many more.

In those days, there was no internet, and only a handful of universities taught courses in Jungian psychology. So my only sources of information about my new passion were books and a course of study called Centerpoint, which sent audio tapes and printed materials via snail mail. And nobody but the few people in my group had ever even heard of Carl Jung.

Internet Story:  A few weeks ago, Susie, a childhood friend from Michigan I last saw 59 years ago, found me on Facebook. What do you think was one of our first topics of discussion?

“Oh, Jeanie, by the way,” she wrote me.  “Have you ever heard of Chandler Brown?  She’s a friend of mine who wrote a book called Questpoint:  The Journey to Myself.

I was thrilled. Questpoint was the name of  Centerpoint’s initial course offering, an introduction to Jungian psychology that groups could study without having to commit themselves to the entire four-year program. I loved that course. It changed my life.

I ordered the book so I could write about it here and discovered it was co-written by Elsom Eldridge Sr. He was affiliated with the original Centerpoint Group and is now the head of the Centerpoint Foundation International. And he lives a couple miles down the road from me. Seriously. Small world, huh? That kind of stuff happens all the time now that we have the internet!

So on to the quote. It’s from Marion Woodman, one of the shining lights of Jungian Psychology. It was taken from her book Conscious Femininity, by Inner City Books. All her books are rich in extraordinary insights, especially about our understanding of women and the feminine parts of the psyche, but this quote grabbed me where I live and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  Halfway through the day when I sat down to write this post, it popped up again. That’s when I realized I needed to add it to today’s post. You’ll know why in a minute.

“Commenting on a mandala whose center was left empty, Jung said that its center was in the new era, the era which we have now entered. We are the observing center of the mandala which now revolves within human consciousness as consciousness expands to encompass the globe. The globe is a mandala whose center is us, whose center is the consciousness we bring to it.

Needless to say, the “us” at the center of the global mandala is not the unredeemed patriarchal ego which has ruled the planet since its human discovery as a globe. We who live in the center of that mandala are both masculine and feminine, united in a partnership of equals. That union, which I have spoken of in these interviews, transcends without denying gender; gender is the differentiated manifestation of the oneness that transcends it. To call the us at the center “androgyne,” with its primitive associations, is inadequate to what we as conscious beings now are and as world citizens are becoming. Perhaps a better understanding lies in the concept of human identity coming into consciousness through recognition of otherness not as alien other, but as the instrument of recognition itself.

The feminine is the instrument of the recognition of the masculine, as the masculine is instrument in the recognition of the feminine. The one is present in the other as the instrument of consciousness itself. Toward the emergence of that consciousness in both men and women, these interviews and articles are in a multiplicity of ways addressed. A Self endlessly differentiated through the work of individuals unites us all in a global community of life we are only now beginning fully to discover.”

So why did I write about this today? Because ever since last Tuesday, when my new video series about looking at your dreams from a Jungian perspective came out on Youtube, the internet’s power to educate and unite us in a “partnership of equals” in a global community of life has been the default setting in my mind.  I thought about it while I looked up a recipe on my iPhone for apple and sausage stuffing. I thought about it at Thanksgiving dinner when I talked with some of our guests about things we’d seen about each other on Facebook.  I thought about it when I took a picture of the 12 pies we set out after dinner on my iPhone and posted it on Facebook.  I thought about it today when my trainer told me he liked my new videos on Youtube.

Ever since I made my keynote speech about my book, Dream Theatres of the Soul, at the IASD summer conference, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the video footage. With the help of Dawn Jensen, my social media trainer, and Rachelle Mayers, a communication, media and production professional, we came up with a format of five short videos, each from 8 to 12 minutes long, featuring the key points of my speech.

And now I’m thrilled to tell you they’re done. And what’s been on my mind all week is that none of this would have happened without the miraculous educating, connecting and uniting power of the internet. I wouldn’t have made a video of my speech because I wouldn’t have had a way to show it to enough people to make it worthwhile. And none of you would ever have seen it, and I wouldn’t have found my friend Susie, or the book Questpoint, written by her friend, or the exquisite yin-yang image from Inner City Books, or the quote from Marion Woodman.

Nor would I have received the best gift I could have ever gotten from my big brother, a retired head of production at a Tampa TV station.  This dear man who’s been reading and copying all my posts for five and a half years called me from North Carolina to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving.  And to say, “Oh, by the way.  I just binge-watched your dream videos on Youtube. And Jeanie, I think I get it now.  I think I understand what you’ve been writing about!” All of this and so much more has been made possible by Grandmother Spider’s web.

So today I’m celebrating the internet. Because, human consciousness is, indeed, expanding “to encompass the globe…a mandala whose center is us, whose center is the consciousness we bring to it.”  And I’m so thankful to be a part of that, and to present these new videos which I hope will add to your expanding consciousness and to our global community of life.

You can also find the series called Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery  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 KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

 

Birth of a Poet? November 5, 2014

SearchingforHummingbirdsI’ve been feeling a bit estranged from myself for awhile.  This might seem odd coming from one who’s made a profession of self-discovery. Yet, the fact is that since my last book came out, I’ve been beset by a restless discomfort and confounding dreams.

A part of me is not surprised.  I can’t count the times I’ve undergone similar transitions after leaving an outworn psychological house behind. And I know I’ll experience more as long as I’m alive and growing. But another part of me expected this move to be shorter and easier.  Shouldn’t I be getting better at adjusting to change?

Actually, I am getting better.  I trust the processes of my psyche. I know my yearning for closure comes from an impatient ego longing for an end to the questions:  What’s going on with me?  What next?  And I know closure will come when I’ve stayed present with the questions for as long as it takes.

Nonetheless, to give my unconscious a little nudge, last year during a ritual at Maeve’s tomb on the summit of a limestone hill in Ireland I asked the Celtic Queen of the fairies for a clearer understanding of the recurring symbolism of excrement in my dreams.  Then last month in Greece, after a year of numerous dreams featuring the color orange, new babies, and feelings of being helpless and overwhelmed, I asked the Oracle at Delphi for direction in my life and writing.

So yesterday morning I wrote what may be my first real poem!

I’ve tried poetry off and on for years, but even the published few wouldn’t get air time on Amateur Hour.  This is not false humility but an honest assessment of my limitations. I’m wordy. I tend to ramble. I have lacked a proper appreciation for subtlety; a true understanding of the power of imagery;  and the patience to condense wimpy words and loose thoughts into a coherent idea with emotional impact.

This summer I received a book of poetry titled “Searching for Hummingbirds” from Betsy Holleman. I met her years ago at a writing conference led by novelist Rosellen Brown and poetess Dorianne Laux.  I hadn’t written any poems since the conference, but Betsy’s book inspired me to write a memorial poem for my mother.  I’m not happy with the result, but the process filled several enormously pleasurable hours.

SkinfulofDustI think that’s what motivated me to order “A Skinful of Dust” by Brian Carlin, an award-winning poet from Glasgow.  We’ve followed and commented on each other’s blog posts for a few years and often find inspiration in each others’ writing.  His book is a treasury of sturdy words and startling images that sparked a deeper resonance with poetry than I’ve ever felt before. And a book he recommended, Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space,” is opening my mind to creative depths I never knew existed.

Then yesterday morning I was blown away by the latest post from poet/artist Steven McCabe.  His post “Autumn Morning,” is based on a poem by Pablo Neruda and complemented with original art and a vintage-looking video. It evoked such an unusually rich reverie that I set aside my morning Sudoku ritual to write a poem about it.

I’m not prepared to share it here yet.  The poem is too fresh, my emotions are too raw, and my baby is too vulnerable for mass exposure.  But I feel like I’m standing at the threshold of an exciting new adventure in creativity and I wanted to celebrate with you.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Tourist or Pilgrim? Which Are You? October 14, 2014

PhilGreeceThe pilgrim is a poetic traveler, one who believes that there is poetry on the road, at the heart of everything.” ~Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

In October of 2012 I was invited to make a presentation at Journey Conferences, an annual gathering of Jungians.  There I met Phil Cousineau, an author, filmmaker, lecturer and expert on mythology, and learned that he leads trips to some of the world’s most sacred sites.

Fred and I love to travel, so when we heard about his trip to the sacred sites of Greece with Sacred Earth Journeys this fall, we signed up.  My favorites among Phil’s many books are The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred, and Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Modern Time.  Since our return last week I’ve been thinking about how this trip combined the themes of these two books in a magical way that made this my favorite travel experience ever.

“In each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred.”

The focus of our previous guided tours has been on the outer world. What drew me to this one was the promise of equal time for the inner life of the soul.

I was not disappointed. Each morning began with an hour-long conversation about the sites we would visit, the ancient myths associated with them, and the way they are still being played out in our lives today. Phil’s passion for mythology combined with his passion for mentoring turned what could have been just another interesting tour into an extraordinary personal odyssey.

Seeking Guidance from the Oracle at Delphi

Seeking Guidance from the Oracle at Delphi

“The force behind myths, fairytales, parables and soulful travel stories reveals the myriad ways the sacred breaks through the resistance and shines forth into our world. Pilgrimage holds out the promise of personal contact with that sacred force.”

For me, one of the most problematic aspects of past tours has been the lack of opportunity for close observation and reverie. Not so this time!  At least once a day Phil offered prompts for writing poetry or essays or making sketches. Always, he built in plenty of time for reflecting on how the celebrations and myths associated with sacred spaces triggered lost memories and inner stirrings. As if that were not enough, he provided even more time for sharing our impressions, insights and healing experiences with each other.

Our task in life is to find our deep soul work and throw ourselves headlong into it.”

At the ruins of Eleusis, site of the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries which celebrated the sacred death/rebirth fertility myth of Demeter and Persephone, we rested in the cave reputed to be the portal to the Underworld. There some of us shared evidence of the buried spiritual depths that lie beneath the surface of our lives. I spoke of how I shut down painful emotions and lost my tears at the age of 11 when my father died.  That night I dreamed I was as angry as I’ve ever been at family and friends who were thoughtlessly trashing my house and expecting me to clean up.  The dream ended with me hurling volleys of creative curses at them like Zeus throwing his thunderbolts, then laughing in delight at my uncharacteristic behavior!

The Starting Line at Olympia

The Starting Line at Olympia

Where was the anger coming from?  Was being in Greece influencing me to channel my inner Persephone, Dark Goddess of the Underworld?  Is she still mad at Hades for violating my personal space and stealing my father away? What about the laughter? Could Persephone finally be lightening up about a personal crisis which she has learned to view as a mere speck in the cosmic view of things?

Over drinks two evenings later, a woman in our group shared a shattering life-changing experience she had as a young adult. At dinner she made a mind-blowing connection: The myth of Demeter and Persephone is her story, one she has lived ever since her youthful trauma. She never knew it until that moment!

“What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly.”

The night after we visited Olympia, site of the original Olympic games, I dreamed of another Dark Mother who reminded me of Ereshkigal, cruel Queen of the Underworld who hung her sister Inanna, Sumeria’s Queen of Heaven and Earth, on a meathook to die. In a show of unwanted patronizing attention, dream Ereshkigal asked her attendants to escort me down some stairs. I refused to go. As I was falling asleep that night she visited me and gave me a light kiss on my lips. Her presence was oppressive and filled me with dread.

Why does the Goddess of the Underworld visit me now?  It seems obvious. I’ve entered a phase of life when my task is to make peace with death.  I’m not thrilled about this, but I’m ready to face what comes next.

“What every traveler confronts sooner or later is that the way we spend each day of our travel…is the way we spend our lives.”

Skotino Cave, Crete

Skotino Cave, Crete

The bearlike rock formation in the Skotino Cave in Crete reminded me of Elephant in the Cave, an early dream which showed me how frightened I was of reflecting on my inner life.   Greece’s ancient goddess figurines; images of snakes and initiation rituals; sacred vessels and ceremonial masks; ruins of labyrinths and altars; the sacred tree worshiped at the Palianis nunnery:  all these and more symbolize issues that used to haunt me in waking life and appeared at night in some of my most memorable and life-changing dreams.

Greece’s antiquities are not meaningless historical facts to me.  They are living realities within me.  Having experienced these realities for over 25 years, I feel blessed by this trip and the direct contact with the sacred it provided every day.  I guess this makes me a pilgrim.

How does travel impact you?

All quotes are from Phil Cousineau’s Art of Pilgrimage.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

An Integration of Opposites January 4, 2013

HSDcoverA major highlight of 2012 for me was that my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, made its debut in August. I am happy to say that so far it has received excellent reviews. Following is one of my favorites written this fall by playwright, actor, author, and teacher of creative writing, Joey Madia. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to him and all of you who have so graciously supported my work.

“An Integration of Opposites”: A Review of Healing the Sacred Divide by Jean Benedict Raffa (Larson Publications, 2012, larsonpublications.com), ISBN: 978-1-936012-60-2

By Joey Madia
Books, in many ways, are like people, and a bookshelf full of books could be thought of as a society in miniature. Some books look nice, but don’t offer much when you get past the cover. Some books offer some companionship in the form of a bit of new knowledge, perhaps some laughs, and a pleasant passing of time, but they are soon forgotten. Still other books are provocative, poking us in uncomfortable places and riling us up—and in the process, helping us to grow.

Then there are the books that are destined to be great. They are the books that we go to again and again. Books that are clearly the product of deep thought, extensive research, careful structure, and years of richly lived experience by their authors.
These books, unlike those that are merely passing travelers or vague acquaintances, become our friends.

Healing the Sacred Divide (subtitled “Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World”) has become my friend. It will be given a special place on my shelves once this review is complete and sent out into the world, and I anticipate going back to it again and again as I continue my journey to wholeness and spirtual health.

From its stunning cover (with art by Cicero Greathouse) depicting the mandorla (which I’ll define later) to its closing myth, Dr. Raffa’s book grabbed me and egged me on. It is a fairly dense book at 318 pages, with small type and 54 chapters, but it is also varied in its presentation and structure.
Healing the Sacred Divide is divided into two parts: The Evolution of God-Images (which sets the stage by examining the creation and promulgation of organized religion and the separation of the God and Goddess) and Nine Wisdom Gifts of an Integrated God-Image. It is this second part that constitutes the greater portion of the book.

As I mentioned, the book, although packed full of words, is sufficiently varied to prevent it from ever feeling like a dry academic tome or didactic “self-help book.” [This makes sense considering the duality of logos and mythos that runs like a river thru the text]. Dr. Raffa presents experiences, light and dark, from her personal life, for they are inextricably woven with the chapters she has written and the ideas and suggestions she presents. This personal investment over the course of decades, through family tragedy, Church struggles, and spiritual passageways fills the book with a warmth and sincerity some books in this vein lack. One gets the sense that the exercises she offers at the end of each chapter in Part 2 should at least be tried, because she’s used them herself.

Intermingled with the Nine Gifts (which are: Holistic Perception, Transforming Light, Acceptance of Shadow, Emotional Integrity, Partnership, Balance, Sovereignty, Meaning, and Mandorla Consciousness) are a series of “Cosmic Dialogues.” These, to me, were the edgiest and most difficult sections of the book as a male, to read (along with the culminating myth, which works on the same model), casting as they do the God as a traditionally driven, domineering Patriarch and Goddess as the solely Nurturing Mother. But, as Dr. Raffa suggests, I was open to the feelings I felt when the hackles came up, and I saw where the Shadow in me still needs some integration to get beyond the idea that Males being to blame for all of the heartaches, wars, and deceits in the world means that I am somehow to blame by being one. Not since reading Robert Bly’s Iron John 20 years ago have I so actively engaged with the notions of Maleness being devalued in society and how it has shaped my engagement with it, and I am more whole for having done so.

One of the keys to the process of healing the sacred divide, very much in line with Jungian ideas of embracing and integrating the Shadow (I have previously reviewed an excellent book by Erel Shalit on the subject), is the mandorla [what I have always known as the vesica piscis], that middle place where Light and Dark, Male and Female, “Good” and “Evil,” etc. overlap. It’s the spiritual analog of the Venn Diagram and the section of the overlap brings to mind the shape of the fish associated with Jesus and also the entrance to the womb.

There is a thought-provoking table of pairs on pages 50–52 that are organized around the Drive for Species-Preservation (Feminine Principle) and Drive for Self-Preservation (Masculine Principle). This distinction of Species- vs. Self-Preservation is one I had never before seen and it goes a long way toward understanding what is at work here.

Those readers familiar with Alchemy, the Hieros Gamos [sacred marriage], and Kundalini, Sophia, and other snake-based spiritual symbology will find much of interest in these layers of the text. Raffa pulls from the work of Jung, as mentioned, and also of Joseph Campbell and those from whom he learned, such as Heinrich Zimmer and the writings of Meister Eckert and Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Many chapters have an Endnotes section, which is a wonderful aide should a certain idea or “Gift” create a pull toward further research.
Division [partisanship, sexual politics, classism, etc.] is the coin of the realm in America as the November 2012 election approaches. The chasm seems to grow ever wider, marked by increased venom in the rhetoric of politicians, corporate CEOs, religious leaders, and the millions posting on Facebook and Twitter. The voices of those committed to healing the divide are being drowned in all the noise.

I hope that many, many people read, digest, and practice the exercises in Dr. Raffa’s Healing the Sacred Divide. Healing begins within, but quickly spreads to farther realms. A shift in paradigms has never been needed more.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Healing Wounded Masculine and Feminine Energy: Part I September 21, 2010

In response to my post, “Breaking Through to the One Thing,” Annette asked how to heal the masculine energy in women and feminine energy in men. This is a great question and a very welcome one. I’ve been wanting to deal with the “How-To’s” for a while now. So in this and the next post I’ll be presenting my “prescription” for healing and empowering the soul.

The short answer is inner work. Don’t let the word “work” put you off. Healing the psyche is not mindless hard labor that saps your energy for a meager payoff, but a work of love that gets progressively easier and more rewarding. Why? Because it fills us with well-being to transcend our ignorance and grow in consciousness. This is our job, the hero’s journey, our magnum opus.

The process is essentially the same for both genders and applies to all aspects of the psyche. This is because every psyche is fueled by two streams of energy.  We think of one as masculine and the other as feminine. Every psychological quality, action, or way of perceiving of which we are capable belongs to one or the other of these categories. (Remember, this is not about gender stereotypes, roles, or sexuality, but psycho-spiritual functioning.) When both streams are allowed to flow freely and spontaneously, unimpeded by mental or physical blockages, our bodies and minds function at optimum levels.

The long answer is that there are four steps to inner work. While I could write a book about each step, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to read it here. So I’ll keep it short and simple.

Step #1: Set Your Intention. Healing begins when you make a conscious choice to take your inner discomfort seriously and take action to overcome your resistance, laziness, apathy, and inertia. The greatest obstacle is fear. Most of us are very intimidated by the idea of discovering something disagreeable about ourselves and it takes an unusually strong and healthy ego to delve deeply into the unconscious. But if you remember that giving in to your fear will only perpetuate your suffering and keep you from bringing out your best, you can acquire the courage and self-discipline to stand up, step out, and show up with a warrior’s “Just do it” determination.

But what action will you be taking? What will you be showing up for? Essentially the same things you would do to heal a physical dis-ease: Take your medicine, exercise, and diet.

Step #2. Take Your Medicine. The medicine that heals souls is self-knowledge. To acquire it you need to seek help and do your homework. People who have been on the path for many years know what you’re going through. They can help you pinpoint problems and suggest treatments. Don’t overlook this step. Surrender is part of the solution. If studying with a mentor, enrolling in classes, attending workshops, or getting counseling is out of the question because of time or money restraints, then find a study partner or start a study group and read. Read. Read!

My favorite early author/mentors were Jungians Robert A. Johnson (Inner Work, He, She, and We),   John Sanford (The Invisible Partners and The Kingdom Within), and Marion Woodman (The Ravaged Bridegroom, The Pregnant Virgin, Addiction to Perfection). I highly recommend these brilliant writers whose healing wisdom comes from years of personal experience. Their works contain extraordinary gems of wisdom and I encourage anyone who’s interested to check them out. Meanwhile, stay tuned for steps #3 and #4.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found here at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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