The Shape of Water: The Shape of Change? January 30, 2018
Filmgoers may have laughingly dismissed Godzilla, the Teenage Werewolf, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the 1950’s, but nobody laughs at the real-life monsters we see on television every day in the form of terrorists, genocidal dictators, and political leaders who incite divisiveness and spout nuclear threats. We get it. Dystopia is us. Our problems are caused by humanity’s psychological and spiritual ignorance, and they will not be resolved until enough individuals acquire more mature and humane ways of thinking and behaving. What used to be the role of deities and religious authorities has now become everyone’s job.
Fortunately, there are seers among us to show us the way. They are the courageous and gifted artists who create books and films depicting ordinary people who evolve into heroic individuals. The Star Wars series, Avatar, Arrival, and The Shape of Water are examples. Their mythic themes and archetypal characters limn the shape of our own souls. Everyone enjoys a good story. But do we realize these stories are about us? Do we understand their metaphors and decipher their symbols? Do we apply their lessons to our own lives?
Each of us contains a possible hero like Luke Skywalker, an indomitable Amazon heroine like Princess Leia, a Wise Man like Yoda, a menacing Warrior like Darth Vader. You may relate to Avatar’s Jake Sully, a vulnerable wounded Warrior with the potential to be healed by love, but his counterpart—the dark side’s ruthless, power-hungry Colonel Miles Quaritch—also lives in you. Regardless of your gender you can activate the healing of an Earth Mother like the Na’vi’s Mo’at, a beautiful Beloved like princess Neytiri, or a benevolent Wise Woman like Dr. Grace Augustine. Archetypes are latent patterns of energy in everyone’s soul. They teach and empower us when we listen.
Consider Arrival’s gentle Louse Banks, a linguist who’s tormented by intuitions and visions which fill her with confusion and dread. She’s the image of a person in whom the Mediatrix archetype is activated. When the U.S. Army recruits her to communicate with alien life forms hovering over the earth, she breaks the rules to gain their trust. In a blog post titled “Arrival: How the Feminine Saves the World,” depth psychology expert Carol S. Pearson notes this “reveals how traditional elements of the Lover archetype are morphing to meet new challenges.” The world leaders see the aliens as dangerous threats and are preparing to make war on them. But because Louise is motivated by love, not fear, she sees them as wondrous life forms to communicate with and befriend. This prompts us to ask ourselves: Do I respect people and species different from me? Do I listen to the subtle messages of my body? Do I befriend my thoughts and emotions or try to ignore them?
In The Shape of Water, an even more vulnerable heroine saves the life of an amphibious monster. The year is 1962. Elisa is a mute, mousy janitor on the night shift of a top-secret government research lab desperate to get one-up on the Russians. One night a promising “asset” arrives in a portable tank in the form of a scaly green creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon lookalike from a Brazilian rainforest where he was worshiped as a god. Deeply drawn to this equally voiceless and powerless creature, Elisa initiates a fairy-tale romance with him by playing Benny Goodman on her portable record player, placing hard-boiled eggs on the lip of the tank in which he’s confined, and teaching him sign language when he emerges from the water to eat them.
As it turns out, the real monster in this story is Richard Strickland, a sadistic, square-jawed military officer who tortures the green man, sexually harasses Elisa, and makes racist comments to Zelda, her co-worker. Overhearing the scientists’ plans to kill and dissect her beloved in the name of science, a frantic and determined Elisa enlists the help of Zelda and her gay neighbor, Giles, to rescue him. The remainder of the film builds the tension amid a dreamy, watery green ambiance before reconciling it in a surprise ending that leaves us wondering: What just happened? Is he what he seems? Do I have it in me to do what she did? Does love really have a god-like power? How strong is my Lover archetype? Do I truly know how to love?
The characters in these films play out their roles against a backdrop of mythic themes:
the destructiveness of our shadow Warriors
the crises and suffering necessary for the making of a hero/ine
the need to respect, communicate with, and accept help from other people and species
love’s victory over ignorance and hatred
But here’s a not-so subtle difference. It used to be that only men got to be heroes, but we’re seeing more heroines now. Although the first Star Wars film to appear centers primarily on Luke Skywalker, it is his heroic sister, Princess Leia, who turns him into a hero. The same is true of Avatar’s Jake Sully whose heroism is inspired by the equally heroic Princess Neytiri.
The most recent of these—Arrival, The Shape of Water, and The Last Jedi—convey a theme new to our time which resonates with many souls today: the feminine as savior. Louise, Elisa, and Rey are not fantasy superheroines like Wonder Woman and Aquagirl. And they’re not sidekicks who help the main character accomplish his goals. They are ordinary women who initiate change and accomplish it with the respect and cooperation of healthy, caring men. Louise’s heroism is aided by Ian, a scientist. Giles helps Elisa save the green man. And in the newest Star Wars episode, Rey becomes the last Jedi with the help of Luke Skywalker. The main protagonists are females.
This shift in the spirit of our times is reflected in recent statistics. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reports that of the top 100 films in 2014, only 12% featured female protagonists. But then something happened. In 2015 the figure was 22% and in 2016 it jumped to 29%.
Although the data are not in for 2017, we appear to be seeing the beginning of a trend. Water, like earth, has always been considered a feminine element, and in dreams, water and earth symbolize the unconscious self. Societies have unconscious selves too. Like the ocean, our collective unconscious contains monsters, but it also holds overlooked hidden treasures. Is the feminine as savior of the world the shape of change? Are you and I the shape of change?
Note: For more posts like this, please check out the blog of noted author Carol S. Pearson, where this post first appeared.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
Hillary Clinton and the Feminine Archetype: Part II September 27, 2016
“At the beginning of a new millennium, we are participating in the birth of a new evolutionary era, one with radically different aims and values from those which dominated the patriarchal era. Mythologically speaking, this new era invites the marriage of lunar and solar consciousness and the birth of the ‘child’ of a new kind of consciousness arising in the soul of humanity that would be the fruit of this union and the true ‘saviour’ of our species. . . It is a tremendously exciting, challenging and creative time to be alive.” ~Jungian Analyst Anne Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”
An obsession with the solar archetype during the patriarchal era has conditioned us to minimize lunar consciousness. We think the resulting conflicts are inevitable. They’re not. It is possible to live with inner and outer harmony, but we just haven’t evolved that far yet. The multiple wars and societal chaos characterizing the 20th century are finally awakening us to this imbalance and forcing us to take the lunar archetype seriously.
“If we can abandon our addiction to weapons and war, directing the trillions saved on feeding, educating and caring for the children of the world, the result will be an infinitely better world and the possibility of our own survival as a species. We need to challenge the arcane warrior ethos of governments . . .” Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”
As Baring notes, feeding, educating and caring for the children of the world is a primary aim of lunar consciousness, and it is crucial that our governments act on this. The fact that Hillary Clinton has devoted her life to this cause is a major reason I say her feminine archetype is well activated. Consider these facts:
Instead of signing on to a prestigious law firm after graduating from Yale, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund—focusing her career on the fundamental need for quality public education for every American child. She also worked with teenagers in adult prisons in South Carolina and families with children with disabilities in Massachusetts.
When she was appointed to the Arkansas Education Standards Committee, she investigated public schools throughout the state, listening to parents and teachers and working with a team of educators to create policy that would better prepare Arkansas students for a 21st-century economy. Before that she had already co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, which would later make huge strides in standing up for children in the welfare system.
In 1995, as first lady, she boldly declared “women’s rights are human rights” at a U.N. conference in Beijing. This was much more controversial than it sounds today. Many in the U.S. government didn’t want her to go to Beijing. Others wanted her to pick a less “polarizing” topic. I think it’s a sign of her sincere passion for this cause that she stood up for her beliefs and spoke out about human rights abuses at a time when this was not a popular stance. A Huffington Post article says,
“Globally, no candidate has done more for women’s rights than Secretary Clinton. In her time as Secretary of State, she appointed the first-ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department; oversaw the creation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security; and introduced the Global Health Initiative (GHI), investing $63 billion to help partner countries provide robust maternal and infant health services. Secretary Clinton has worked tirelessly to elevate women’s rights as the key towards economic prosperity and global stability. Her public and private initiatives have appropriated millions of dollars towards providing secondary education to young girls around the world, and tackling the obstacles that face at-risk youths.”
In 1997 she worked with Republicans and Democrats to secure health care for millions of American kids. As first lady she fought to help pass health care reform. When that failed, she worked with Republicans and Democrats to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP cut the uninsured rate of American children by half, and today it provides health care to more than 8 million kids.
As U.S. senator from New York, she supported comprehensive immigration reform legislation, co-sponsored the DREAM Act three times, and worked to expand health care access for low-income immigrant mothers and children.
The presidential candidates are running for the highest office in a system dominated by solar consciousness and numerous examples of corruption. Ideally, we’d prefer the winner to be above ethical compromises, but as Dr. Carl Jung asserts, it is humanly impossible for any individual to exist without a moral shadow. We all have one. It therefore seems more fruitful to compare Clinton’s and Trump’s observable shadows than to hold one of them to an unattainable standard while dismissing the character flaws of the other. I’m not advocating lowering the bar. I’m facing the realities of human nature in a flawed system and only asking that we view the facts objectively and judge accordingly.
Here are the facts as cited by the Washington Post Fact-Checker site. In comparing claims made by both candidates, out of 52 rated claims made by Trump, 63 percent were rated false. Out of 36 rated claims made by Clinton, 14 percent were rated false.
Hillary’s Personality and Likability
“Awakening to the Feminine means becoming protective of the whole of creation; dying to all the divisive ways of looking at life and each other; being born into an utterly different vision of reality.” ~Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”
Some perceive Hillary to be harsh and overly aggressive but people who know her disagree. I attribute this to three factors. First, we are unconsciously influenced by longstanding stereotypes about what women’s roles and behavior ‘should’ look like. Second, our history and art have trained us to empathize with white men and go easier on their flaws. Third, we have few cultural models of strong, complex, confident, female leadership.
As Hillary explains in a recent post for Humans Of New York,
“It’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way. You have to communicate in a way that people say: ‘OK, I get her.’ And that can be more difficult for a woman. Because who are your models? If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens.”
Few would disagree that Hillary has a highly activated masculine side. Good. We need that. But we also need a leader with a highly activated feminine side. The fact that Hillary has both convinces me that she is the only candidate capable of leading us safely into the new kind of consciousness required for economic prosperity and global stability.
Click here for The New York Times endorsement, “Hillary Clinton for President.”
Image Credits: Google Images.
Jean’s newest book, 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 also at Amazon as well as Kobo, Barnes And Noble, and Smashwords.
A Zen Summer August 16, 2016
You trust your unconscious as if it were a loving father. But it is nature and cannot be made use of as if it were a reliable human being. It is inhuman and it needs the human mind to function usefully for man’s purposes. Nature is an incomparable guide if you know how to follow her. ~Carl Jung, Letters Volume 1, Page 283.
Remember Mr. Miyagi, the Japanese handyman who was a Karate master in the classic 1984 film, Karate Kid? Everyone’s favorite part was the way he used hard work, specific movements, and mantras to train Daniel, a misguided youth. “Wax on, Wax off. Sand the floor. Paint the fence. Paint the house.” For Daniel, the work was grueling, pointless and demeaning until, as shown in this dramatic scene, his suffering led to a revelation akin to a transformational spiritual awakening.
Mr. Miyagi comes to mind when I think about this summer in the mountains. I’m a writer and practitioner of inner work and contemplation…not much of a physical doer. I look forward to being here all year, imagining the pleasures of no deadlines, no agenda. I picture myself spending long hours on the porch reading and writing in peaceful meditation. Then I arrive and barely find the time to publish a weekly blog post or finish reading a book.
Here, my life is centered on my granddog Izzy, and Nature. Like Mr. Miyagi, both are exacting masters. Feed birds. Feed fish. Feed dog. Groom gardens. Groom trails. Groom dog. Pick up trash. Avoid poison ivy. Wash dog. Worry about trees. Worry about rain. Worry about dog. Appreciate boulders. Celebrate rain. Pet dog. Four of these were especially prominent this summer.
Appreciate Boulders. I found a new favorite stone on the trail our handyman blazed through the dense forest last winter. It’s huge, mossy, and wrinkled as an old lady wearing a hat of ferns. Or is that Green Man whose face I see in the shadows? I can’t resist reaching out and patting him/her when I pass by. A few days ago I found this in one of my favorite blogs:
“The central symbol of the Zen garden is the stone. For Jung, it signified “something permanent that can never be lost or dissolved, something eternal that some have compared to the mystical experience of God within one’s own soul;” for Cirlot it is “the first solid form of the creative rhythm —the sculpture of essential movement, and the petrified music of creation.” Stones are pure and perfect in their simplicity, yet powerful, mysterious and inscrutable like the gods.” From Symbol Reader, Symbolism of Gardens.
Worry About Trees. The hemlocks are being decimated by a parasite and we’re treating many of them with biennial doses of medicine, but we can’t save them all. On every hike after a big wind I have to remove or circumvent heavy branches and another fallen tree or two. A neighbor across the creek has several dead ones still standing. A few threaten to land on our house.
One evening after a storm with gale force winds we heard a commotion out on the main road. A giant oak had fallen and neighbors with chain saws were cleaning it up. It was there a century ago when the dirt road leading to our property was carved out of the mountainside, and over time its roots were exposed and weakened by erosion. Luckily no cars were beneath it when it finally surrendered to nature’s purposes.
Celebrate Rain. I don’t know what it is about rain, but it feels magical. One evening Fred and I were rocking on the porch and watching black clouds gathering above the mountains when suddenly the ozone-scented breezes and whisper of raindrops coming up the valley transported me to an unusually intense meditative state. Curious, I checked my heart rate on my Apple watch. Within moments my normal resting rate of 61 beats per minute plummeted to a shocking 45. Cool.
A woman too has a peculiar attitude toward nature, much more trusting than that of a man. ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 123.
Was Jung right, or was he still conditioned by some of the prevailing stereotypes about women in the early 20th century? I don’t know. But I do know I am deeply connected to this land. I love it and trust it, and sometimes I worry about it. Will my grandchildren and great grandchildren love it as much as I do? Will they feed the birds and clear the paths and pat the boulders and love the trees enough to learn their names and do their best to protect them?
Feed Birds? Last week Izzy’s fierce barking woke Fred at 1:30 in the morning. Exhausted from a day of “doing,” I was sleeping like a stone. Thinking she had to go out, Fred took her downstairs. But instead of heading for the front door, she stood transfixed at the glass door to the side porch. What was going on?
The mystery was solved the next morning when we found our biggest, sturdiest, squirrel-proof bird feeders mangled on the ground. Only a scattering of seeds remained. Somewhere in the Nantahala National Forest up the mountain a contented bear was snug in its den dreaming about last night’s tasty meal.
The Asian martial arts are rooted in Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Their spiritual elements gave purpose and meaning to the ancient warriors who loved and practiced them.
The same can be said of those of us who find purpose and meaning in loving Nature, our Mother. If our practices have a spiritual element, so do hers. After all, inhuman though she may be, we come from her, and she’s an “incomparable guide if you know how to follow her.”
Credits: Thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for the Jungian quotes. Karate Kid video from YouTube. “Anyone can slay a dragon quote” image by Brian Andreas from www.pinterest.com. “Try not to change the world” quote by Sri Chinmoy from www.srichinmoybio.co.uk
Join the Epoch III Ego Evolution Revolution June 14, 2016
“People must know they are in conflict. They must be able to carry the conflict. That is consciousness.” Carl Jung, as told to M.I. Rix Weaver, J.E.T., Pages 90-95.
Leaving our Epoch II ego consciousness behind is daunting and painful because the ego is suffering the trauma of dying to “the world’s” opinions. As Dr. Michael Washburn notes (Transpersonal Psychology in Psychoanalytic Perspective, pp. 183-216), symptoms of the ego’s death throes include a lack of psychic energy, a sense of alienation from the world, unstable relationships, mood shifts, depression, extreme anxiety, impulsiveness, potentially self-damaging behaviors, intense and inappropriate anger, emptiness, boredom, identity disturbances, and so on.
These common symptoms point to the Epoch II ego’s dis-ease and its need for purging and opening before new psycho-spiritual life can be born. This process often starts with a painful crisis that forces us to acknowledge our shadow and the undeveloped masculine and feminine forces of our psyche. Help can be found in various forms of mental training that explore the unconscious. Some people use spiritual practices—prayer, meditation, contemplation and mindfulness—to observe their thinking. Psychological practices like dreamwork, psychotherapy and active imagination likewise help us retrieve repressed material and identify and control toxic mental events and emotions.
“…this work brings many benefits, including affirming self-knowledge, deeply satisfying personal meaning, freedom from the compulsion to please or impress, the joy of clearly seeing the underlying patterns of our lives from a cosmic perspective, a sense of connectedness to nature and all of life, and benevolent thoughts and actions guided by a conscious immersion in the Divine Unity.” J.B. Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 73.
Jung noted that this work leads
“to the union of opposites in the archetypal form of the hierosgamos or ‘chymical wedding.’ Here the supreme opposites, male and female . . . are melted into a unity purified of all opposition and therefore incorruptible.” C.G. Jung, CW xii, para 37.
The alchemists called this the sacred marriage of the King and Queen. Psychologists call it individuation and wholeness. Spirit persons refer to it as enlightenment. All are names for Epoch III Integrated Consciousness. As the famed ‘pearl of great price’ it is highly sought; however, the way is closed to even the most intelligent and pious Epoch II ego until it is brought low enough to face its powerlessness and ask for help. Richard Rohr quotes Bill Wilson, Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“How privileged we are to understand so well the divine paradox that strength rises from weakness, that humiliation goes before resurrection; that pain is not only the price but the very touchstone of spiritual rebirth.” –Bill Wilson (Cited in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, June 10, 2016).
Every living thing is compelled to evolve into an improved form. As individuals find healing and rebirth, society follows. But pain, weakness and humiliation do not go down well in patriarchy and at present we can expect little help from that front. In writing about the rash of mass shootings in the U.S. over the last several decades, Mary Harrell, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist, points to the need to incorporate qualities associated with the feminine principle into societal institutions. Harrell asks
“How can our nation’s boys effectively manage hate and rage when they live in a society that splits all aspects of the human condition into good and evil?” Mary Harrell, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life, p. 79.
“Unfortunately, it is our schools—reflections of the larger culture—that have marginalized the archetypal feminine, the Goddess. Because she has been cast into the dark place of repression and denial, she can’t transform excesses of rage and hate.” Harrell, p. 82.
Harrell notre that transforming educational systems
“…requires conversations, and especially direct initiatives aimed at inclusiveness and effective response to cultural wounding. Valuing the Goddess calls for consideration of issues of war and peace within a frame of death and life, rather than through a sole masculine expression of “higher values” like nationalism, and freedom, thereby bloating an expanded military agenda….These goddess perspectives need to balance the patriarchal attitude, which defines the school curriculum, usually by overvaluing science, math, and technology (intending that the nation will stay ahead in a competitive—masculine—rather than a collaborative—feminine—process).” Harrell, pp. 83-4.
I wrote the above last week. As I conclude this post two days before its scheduled publication, I am struck by a bizarre synchronicity. This morning a rage-filled young man killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in my home town of Orlando. Mourning this outrage, I still remain hopeful of positive change.
1. Notice and reflect on what’s happening in your inner and outer life.
2. See your conflicts and crises as meaningful messages from your inner feminine who wants to awaken deep feeling, humility, willingness and surrender.
3. Help her express herself creatively through art, poetry, writing, dreamwork, ritual, etc.
4. Unless you are in an abusive situation, tolerate the tension as long as possible without doing anything rash. Trust that healing and balance will come if you stay with your struggle.
5. Share your earned wisdom in your own unique way.
Together, we can make a difference. If a critical mass of individuals frees their dragons from their psychological prisons, future generations will see us as heroic pioneers who led humanity into the “Epoch III Ego Evolution Revolution.”
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” ~Jung CW 9i, Page 32, Para 66.
Image Credits: Google Images
Jean’s newest book, 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 also at Amazon as well as Kobo, Barnes And Noble, and Smashwords.
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.