For the Crones May 3, 2016
The powers most capable of halting the escalation of hatred and chaos in our world today are not physical or political. They are psychological and spiritual. They are activated in individuals whose minds are committed to seeking justice for all, whose hearts are filled with caring and compassion, and whose behavior is directed toward connecting and healing.
When everything we say and do originates from that core of love, it spreads through Indra’s diamond net and quickens the sacred spark that lives in every soul. Each of us can make this contribution to healing the separations within and between the peoples of the world.
Throughout history mothers and grandmothers have dedicated most of their energy, and often their lives, to nurturing and preserving life. Of course, many fathers and grandfathers have done the same. But women’s contributions have been educationally, financially, politically and spiritually restricted, vastly underrated, and largely taken for granted except for occasional lip service.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In a world splitting apart to birth a more evolved consciousness, the most important work we can do is to consciously respect and courageously share the blessings we’ve received from the other side of the Divide. To that end, and because Mother’s Day is celebrated this month, I offer these questions for reflection:
How have my female ancestors enriched and improved my life?
Am I as nurturing toward others as the benevolent women in my life were and are to me?
How can I use my unique skills in original and authentic ways that will justify their belief in me and benefit all beings?
One of my responses to these questions is this song to the elder women who’ve made a difference in my life. I dedicate it to crones everywhere.
THE YOUNG WOMEN AND MEN ADDRESS THE CRONES
To the Queens:
Sovereign and brave, you stand
firm against those who would abuse power
and labor tirelessly to bring justice to the voiceless
and downtrodden. You protect all that is vulnerable
and foster culture and creativity. You nourish seeds
of hope and new life in our hearts. Help me
lead with caring and integrity.
To the Mothers:
Wild and free-spirited, you have raced the wind like Horse.
Like Lioness you have fearlessly forged new trails to feed your children.
Like Bear you bear your solitude by boldly entering the dark winter wilderness,
yet you always return to the world in Spring with love honed fierce by sacrifice and birthing.
Great Mother of all that exists, teach us to love our bodies and trust the cycles of our lives.
To the Wisewomen:
Understanding, intuitive and trusting, you have aided birth and befriended death.
You have borne and survived intolerable suffering on paths of deep descending;
yet, aware, authentic, and free, here you are! Still dancing among the living.
You release your attachments to desire as you weave strands of meaning.
Show me how to joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world.
To the Beloveds:
Attractive and magnetic, you receive your lovers passionately
and share the truths of your souls with honesty and intimacy.
Your acceptance and encouragement inspire heroic striving.
Your beauty and endless generosity inspire artful living.
Bless me with gracious hospitality to otherness.
To all the Crones:
You are the Wisdom Women.
We are watching you.
Image Credits: Google Images.
Perfection, or Who’s the Purest of Them All? April 19, 2016
“When one tries desperately to be good and wonderful and perfect, then all the more the shadow develops a definite will to be black and evil and destructive.
People cannot see that; they are always striving to be marvellous, and then they discover that terrible destructive things happen which they cannot understand, and they either deny that such facts have anything to do with them, or if they admit them, they take them for natural afflictions, or they try to minimize them and to shift the responsibility elsewhere.
The fact is that if one tries beyond one’s capacity to be perfect, the shadow descends into hell and becomes the devil. For it is just as sinful from the standpoint of nature and of truth to be above oneself as to be below oneself. It is surely not the divine will in man that he should be something which he is not, for when one looks into nature, one sees that it is most definitely the divine will that everything should be what it is.” ~Carl Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 569.
“What?” you say? “You mean I have to accept the bad parts of myself? No Way! You must be crazy. I’m not giving in to laziness, lust, selfishness, fear, or greed. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to be perfect. Now you say I have to stop? Didn’t Jesus say, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48)? Well, that’s all I’m trying to be: perfect!”
In the Aramaic language Jesus spoke, the word perfect meant completed, or whole, not always good or spotlessly pure. Here’s the paradox Jung was addressing and we find so difficult to accept: to complete ourselves we have to be honest with ourselves, and this means acknowledging those things in us we think of as bad as well as the ones we consider good. We can’t be complete by accepting only half our nature. For example, by identifying solely with reason and logic, we cut off our capacity for passion, intuition, instinct, and the tender feelings of empathy and compassion. Then we start finger-pointing, name-calling, wall-building, and war mongering.
Accepting our flaws is not for the faint-hearted. Like Christine, the innocent young singer who, in the classic Gaston Leroux novel, earnestly persuaded the Phantom of the Opera to take off his mask, we may be painfully convinced of our puny audacity in challenging the archetypal masters and mistresses of our unconscious, and we may faint at our first sight of the ugliness. But it is only when the ugliness has been unmasked and we can see it for what it truly is that it loses its negative power over us and we can begin to learn from it.
The Phantom was certainly a dark and frightening creature, but behind that hideous face was a pure musical soul with the voice of an angel. If Christine had refused to grant her negative animus its rightful place in her life, she would not have achieved her destiny. Fortunately for her, instead of rejecting the Phantom she came to love him, and in the final act of lifting the mask a second time and kissing his grotesque face, her ego grew up and she developed an honest relationship with her unique Self.
Snow White had the same problem. She was tormented again and again by her wicked stepmother, a dark, vain, and passionate feminine antagonist—psychologically the opposite, shadow side of her own conscious personality—who did everything she could to destroy the sweet passive child who knew nothing of evil. Snow White’s trials were long and painful, but by patiently enduring them she was brought to the point where she could awaken to her masculine strengths (represented by the kiss of the prince), conquer her own evil tendencies (represented by the evil Queen), gain enough balance and maturity to stand on her own two feet, and marry her prince (the Sacred Marriage, or hieros gamos).
In the masculine hero myth, the hero kills his dragons, or inner and outer enemies, thereby earning his way to salvation. It is true that a kind of death always precedes transformation and rebirth. However, the feminine way, which we must incorporate into our psyche as well if we wish to continue to evolve, is not to fight perceived imperfections in order to destroy them.
Rather it is a peaceful way of withdrawing, descending into our own depths, seeing, reflecting, grieving, accepting and integrating. This happens slowly, gradually and naturally, through a diligent desire to let our immature egos die a natural death to make way for the new, the way flowers fade and wilt after they have produced seeds from which new growth will arise in the spring.
No matter how hard we may try, we’ll never be perfected in the traditional sense of the word. But it is possible to become more aware and individuated, and thus less vulnerable to our hellish inner demons. By owning them as parts of ourselves, we’ll be less apt to project them onto others. This is our only hope of moving ourselves and the world a little closer to our enduring ideals of peace and salvation.
Quote and Image Credits: My thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for sharing this quote and these images on Facebook.
Following Our Symbols: Water March 29, 2016
“From the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; hence the unconscious is…the very source of the creative impulse.”~Carl. G. Jung
“Without water, there is no life; so water is not an image or simile, but a symbol of life.” ~Tom Chetwynd, Dictionary of Symbols (p.422)
Water is not only a symbol of life. It is the very precondition of life. Without water, there can be no life. Is it any wonder that most cultures have associated water with the feminine and the dark depths of the unconscious? After all, it has always been the female of our species who gives birth to new life.
What does water have to do with the processes of your psyche? Chetwynd explains:
“The feminine unconscious moistens the dry, hard, conscious realm of the male Ego, and brings life to it. Vice versa, the too moist, the too emotional and unconscious, may need to be dried out in a fiery male domain (hellfire).
It’s crucial to understand that when Chetwynd uses the terms “feminine” and “male” as adjectives, he’s using them the same way Jungians do: as metaphors for the basic energies of the psyche of every man and woman. In Jungian terms, “masculine” and “feminine” are the primary pair of complementary opposites under which every other pair of opposites can be subsumed.
Thus, the moon is “feminine” and the sun is “masculine.” The unconscious is “dark” and “feminine” and the conscious Ego is “light” and “masculine.” Soul is “feminine” anima; Spirit is “masculine” animus.
Jungians are not the only ones who think like this. Throughout history we’ve always used words this way, not for the purpose of assigning different roles and characteristics to men and women, but in recognition of the fact that we all perceive life in terms of pairs of interconnected opposites.
Many languages assign feminine and masculine endings to words depending on their associations. For example, agricola, the Latin word for farmer, ends with “a,” a feminine suffix. This did not mean that only women could be farmers, but that the fertile earth and its life-sustaining vegetation was associated with femininity. Likewise, the word for wolf, lupus, ends with “us,” denoting masculinity. Obviously not all wolves are males; however, Latin speakers associated wolves with the animal ferocity of aggressive male warriors.
You’ve probably already realized that the same way of thinking designated the Latin word for Soul as anima, and the word for Spirit, animus.
“There is an alchemical saying: Man is the heaven of woman and woman is the earth of man. The woman’s task is to bring things down to earth.” ~Marie Louise von Franz, Psychological Perspectives by E. Rossi
That might have seemed appropriate to the alchemists, however, many Jungians today would not say it is a woman’s task, but the “feminine” task to bring things down to earth. Consider: What is the Latin for heavenly? Caelestibus. Masculine. And how about earth? Moon? Water? Terra, luna, aqua: feminine associations all.
Jung believed your purpose in life is to attain conscious union with the Self: your physical, earthy, sacred source, the life-sustaining fountain at your core composed of your animating (anima + mating?) anima and animus.
The Latin word for conscious union is neuter: coniunctio. And is there a Latin word for consciousness itself: “knowledge of self” or self-awareness? It appears there is. According to Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary, Cícero and Livy used the word conscientia to mean “self-consciousness.” Feminine.
Thinking in this symbolic way leads to a startling conclusion which logos thinking fails to grasp; which, in fact, our “male ego” seems to be fighting with all its might not to grasp lest it be forced to give up its presumption of primacy. Were it not for our feminine sides, we would have no animating, rejuvenating fountain, no Self, no ego, no psychological life. No consciousness.
We would not be sentient creatures. We would not feel, love, care, be aware of our bodies, perceive with our senses, think, imagine, will, or create. We could not surpass our ignorance, grow, change, become conscious of the miracle of life.
Every day, political leaders and common criminals alike demonstrate disrespect for the feminine elements of life by violating women and restricting their rights. Reinforcing hierarchies of male supremacy. Amassing wealth while permitting life-sustaining water and earth to be exploited and polluted. While this disrespect may serve the aims of the minimally-conscious “male ego,” it does not and cannot serve life.
What symbols have the power to overcome our toxic lack of consciousness? Can you or I do anything to help? Can our vote in the coming election promote greater respect for the feminine waters of life? For the healing of humanity and our planet?
Photo credits: Kasko Marine Fountain. Ackenberry Trout Farms. Moon over water: Google images.
The Feminine Symbolism of Vessels February 16, 2016
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, and Smashwords.
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.
A Global Community of Life December 1, 2015
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.”