The Heroic Making of a Soul March 28, 2014
Earlier this month on March 10, my darling child, Matrignosis, turned four years old. As it has been with my human children, so it has been with Matrignosis in many ways: Pouring my passion into her and learning more about myself as she’s grown has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life. Indeed, the overwhelming maternal feelings I have for her and what she’s taught me are reflected in the name I gave her: matri (Lat. Mother), and gnosis (Gk. knowledge).
Yet, as she has developed through my creative outpourings, Matrignosis has been not only Child, but also Maiden, Mother and Crone to me. All are part of the life cycle of women and the Sacred Feminine in whatever guise we see her: Goddess, Sophia, Anima, Soul, Yin, Mother Nature, Durga, Kali, the drive for species-preservation…..
As Child she represents my youthful innocence—all the instinctual feeling, vulnerability, wonder and openness I once had and to which I am returning, this time with awareness. (See Dreams of the Divine Child.)
As Maiden she is my dreaming Princess who lives in the questions and tolerates the tension between immaturity and maturity, ignorance and knowing, waiting for a kiss to guide her next steps in the dance. (See The Golden Bear.)
As Mother and Queen she has willingly embraced the otherness of masculinity. In so doing, she has suffered the loss of innocence, established the boundaries of her identity, struggled to assume her sovereignty, and celebrated the birth of fresh, hopeful new life. (See The Queen: Lioness of the Psyche)
As a Crone who is slowly and lovingly being stripped of youth’s illusions, she is opening to the mystery of Death while blessing the beauty and wisdom of her body, experiences, and each fleeting moment of her miraculous life. (See A Dream of Crones and Crone Love.)
Matrignosis contains all these qualities and more, as do I. She also reflects my Shadow, the parts of me that are ignorant, self-centered, proud, stubborn, judgmental, defensive, unforgiving. In some posts I’ve shared my flaws. In others I’ve withheld them. And sometimes they’ve snuck through the cracks in my Persona without my awareness, just as my Shadow sometimes erupts in my behavior. That’s what Shadows do and I’m okay with that. There’s no human being so transparent that light passes through without casting a shadow.
Yet I am not just a physical body with a flawed personality. I’m also an evolving soul with a sincere passion for self-knowledge, a deep love for Spirit, and a powerful desire to pass along what I have learned. As such, Matrignosis is as much a testament to my soul’s healthy truths and accomplishments as to my ego’s unhealed wounds.
The combination of both is what makes me human. My willingness to take my soul seriously enough to face and admit to both is what makes me heroic. The same is true of you and every soul who suffers the shame of ignorance, who is appalled when your Shadow overrules reason and good intentions, who enters the struggle for understanding because you want learn how to love and help other suffering souls. You. Are. Heroic!
And so in conclusion to this celebration of Matrignosis’s fourth birthday, I’d like to say that of all the good things she has brought into my life over the past four years, the courage to claim my soul’s heroism and let its light shine without apology or fear of judgment brings the most satisfaction.
Thank you for reading and sharing your truths here. It means the world to me to have created this in-between space where heroic souls can meet.
This is for you, Tony. Did you ever know you are my hero?
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
Art: Debutante, by Helen Scobel Raffa.
Art: Wisdom Lady by C. Victor Posing. Used with permission.
Feasting at Women’s Tables April 2, 2013
Since I left my job to write in 1989 I’ve always been part of at least one women’s circle with sometimes as many as four ongoing groups at the same time. My Jungian study group was formed in 1989 and our weekly meetings lasted for ten years. The Purple Pro’s, my writing group, has met monthly since 1990 and usually shared home-cooked lunches. This year is the first we haven’t had a meeting because of changes in our lives that make it too difficult.
In 1997 a few women and I founded The Matrix, an organization dedicated to identifying and meeting the sometimes physical, but always psycho-spiritual needs of women in Central Florida. Until we passed the torch along a few years ago, my monthly meetings with five unusually wise and gifted women were deeply growth-inducing and soul-sustaining. 1997 was also the year I started teaching classes and leading dream groups at the Winter Park Jung Center. When it closed, our dream groups met in private homes until my latest book demanded too much time and energy.
For over 20 years I have regularly shared meetings, study groups, planning sessions, classes, programs, volunteer projects, weekend workshops, retreats, dream groups, and food with circles of women. We opened and closed most occasions with rituals. Some, like the five minute deep-breathing meditation before dream groups, became traditions. Others were tailored for specific occasions like Matrix meetings, classes, holiday gatherings, and individual life passages such as birthdays, weddings, new babies, transitions into crone-hood, house-blessings, illnesses and deaths.
The defining feeling running through all these groups was abundant nurturing. This is nothing to scoff at, I assure you! Think about it. When’s the last time you were with a group of people who wanted to nourish each other more than they wanted to grab all the goodies? I’m not saying there were no hurts, disagreements or misunderstandings, but there were only two occasions when differences were not resolved with emotional restraint born from growing fullness and caring. In both instances, the unforgiving women who left were deeply wounded neophytes in self-reflection.
A climate of abundance is rare among both genders in social institutions where an attitude of scarcity prevails. Not even religions are immune. Think about the usual office and board meetings, gatherings around the water cooler, times off in the break room, holiday office parties. How many have you attended where you didn’t hear a single snide remark or juicy bit of gossip? I’ve sat in faculty meetings where scorn for other professors, departments or colleges was palpable. Served on boards, chaired committees, and attended church functions where petty gossip, misogyny, exclusivity, and competition to impress hid behind the thinnest of pious veils.
I know some women prefer the company of men. I’m sorry for those who’ve never experienced the deep sustenance offered by mature and generous-spirited women, who’ve been poisoned by the spiteful gossip of miserable, mean-spirited women. I’ve shared tables with a few of the latter type when they’ve joined one of my classes or tried to befriend me. But ever since I excused myself from the company of rigid institutions and started communing with like-minded sisters, women like that have never hung around for long. I think their wounds have left them feeling so empty that they crave a constant diet of discord and drama, and I have no appetite for this.
There are some desperately unsatisfied and spiritually starved women out there, and it hurts knowing they can’t digest the kind of food that would help them discover their inherent beauty and capacity for love. But there are also many generous-spirited Queens, Mothers, Wisewomen and Beloveds, and sharing my journey with some of them, including you who join me at this table, has been a major blessing in my life.
Are Men Out of Touch With Their Feelings? If So, Why? February 19, 2013
Before I address the questions I raised about gender wounds in my last post I’d like to clarify some terms. When I write about men, males, women, or females, I’m addressing sexual gender. When I use “masculine” and “feminine” as adjectives, I mean the qualities we associate with our inner masculine and feminine sides.
From an early age our egos build our identity on society’s messages about the characteristics and roles considered appropriate to our gender. We do this without knowing that we all have a masculine and feminine side. Gender wounds are the result of getting stuck in fixed ideas or lost in collective judgments about what we can and cannot be and do because of our gender.
Our “feminine side” reflects our drive for species-preservation. Jungians describe the feminine principle as the maternal, nurturing qualities of fertility, caring, creating, protecting and birthing new life; being, receiving, and containing; relating to otherness with honesty, harmony, mercy, and emotional intimacy; being physically and emotionally connected to and present with oneself, nature, and otherness; diffuse awareness of subtle energies; integrating information with intuition, subjective feeling, and creative imagination to see holistically and create meaning; reverence for paradox, mystery, oneness, and completion.
Our “masculine side” expresses our drive for self-preservation with attributes like the ability to separate oneself from external and internal distractions that threaten our territory and safety; the need to discover and manifest our individuality; penetrating, competitive, productive activity to meet our goals and satisfy our basic needs; focused concentration and rigorous self-discipline to sharpen our knowledge, skills and abilities; logical thinking that makes clear distinctions between details and helps us understand and resolve complex matters; aspiring to noble ideals like justice, freedom, purity and perfection.
Obviously, neither of these principles is in any way “superior” to the other and everyone has the capacity for both. Don’t you? So in answer to the question, “What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings?” I would say that women with well-developed feminine sides are simply trying to express the disappointment and rejection they feel when their need for emotional closeness, honesty, harmony and communication is not met by men who are emotionally distant, unexpressive, or silent.
In The Hidden Spirituality of Men, the trail-blazing theologian Matthew Fox writes, “A lot of self-preservation seems to require silence.” Fox quotes the medieval philosopher and mystic Thomas Aquinas who observed that there are “various kinds of silences: That of dullness; that of security; that of patience; and that of a quiet heart.”
Some reasons Fox cites for why men might be silent about their emotional and spiritual lives include:
- Because Western culture is still a dualistic patriarchy that values thinking over feeling, material wealth over spiritual, scientific fact over intuitive knowledge, men over women, and heterosexuals over homosexuals.
Because men are rarely rewarded, and often mocked, for openly expressing their deepest feelings of joy, sensitivity, and pain.
Because many men carry wounds inside they would rather forget or put aside than admit are there.
- Because communication between boys and fathers is often cold or nonexistent in our culture, and too many elders “retire” to the golf course rather than mentor younger generations.
Patriarchal cultures obsess over our masculine sides and repress our feminine sides. Although boys generally feel more pressure to conform, neither gender is immune. As a semi-reformed emotional stoic, I know that life feels like an endless desert with no oasis in sight when we can’t feel or express our emotions, especially grief and pain. And I believe that the depression and hopelessness felt by so many today is due to psychological and emotional ignorance. The remedy? Self-knowledge and self-acceptance.
Flexing Our Mythos Muscles September 14, 2012
The imaginative and symbolic way I perceive dreams and ordinary life is somewhat different from the way we are normally taught to think in school. I assure you this is not just sloppy thinking, but a conscious choice I’ve made to use more of my brain’s potential.
Plato was the first great thinker in Western history to define the two modes of thinking that are the specialties of the two hemispheres of the brain. He called them logos and mimesis. Following the lead of psychologist Gisela Labouvie-Vief I call the latter mythos. It is generally accepted that while there is some overlap, the left hemisphere of the brain is primarily oriented to logos and the right, to mythos.
Mythos thinking is symbolic, metaphoric, instinctive, imaginative, visual, intuitive, emotional, and subjective. Receptive to chaos, mystery, newness, and change, mythos is a compass that points us to the eternal and the universal. Mythos is the mother of original thinking, self-discovery, spiritual growth, and personal meaning. It is the basis for all forms of creative expression and every form of inner work that leads to self-knowledge.
Although Plato loved mimesis/mythos and was himself very imaginative, inner-directed and spiritually oriented, he considered reason to be a more advanced and mature form of knowing. He preferred logos to mythos for two reasons: because of mythos’s appeal to the emotions — which, of course, can be dangerous and uncontrollable when they are not made conscious — and because he thought logos was fostered by written language, which he considered an advancement and refinement over oral language. Following Plato’s example, the writer of the Gospel of John proposed that logos is cosmic reason and the self-revealing thought and will of God.
Plato passed this bias on to Aristotle, Aristotle passed it on to us. Due to the enormous influence of these men on Western philosophical thought, today virtually everyone but writers, artists and mystics vastly underrates the potential of one half of our brains. I find it very bizarre that we still haven’t overcome this prejudice against inherent qualities of our own minds! Certainly there was a time in the history of our species when it was essential to hone our left-hemisphere qualities if we were to continue to evolve beyond our earlier, right-brained orientation, but we’ve had this bias for the past 5,000 years now, and expanding our consciousness has never been more crucial.
Why? Because we’re killing ourselves, each other, and our beloved planet. In his book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, vascular surgeon Leonard Shlain writes about the brain’s role in the evolution of our species. His research suggests that historically there has been a cause-and-effect relationship between an obsessive left-hemisphere orientation and the ascendency of the separate, abstract, male Sky God, the dominator mode of governance, and the repression of women and minorities. If Shlain is correct, the root cause of many of the world’s current problems is the intolerance the left hemisphere of our brains has for right-brained otherness!
In short, we’ve been projecting our fear and hatred of vital parts of ourselves onto others and now we’re suffering the consequences. Isn’t it time we started flexing our mythos muscles?