Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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

Three Billboards Day 04_118.dng

Dark, quirky, clever, and controversial, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been nominated for seven academy awards this year. Like “The Shape of Water,” nominated for a whopping 13, its protagonist is a powerless, justice-seeking female up against an unsympathetic patriarchal system. In this case, the villain is not the U.S. military, but a small town, good-old-boy police force. Both plots are driven by the archetypal hero/ine vs. villain theme punctuated with racism, violence, and abuse of power.

Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother whose teen-aged daughter was raped then set afire. Angry at local authorities who haven’t solved the murder, she rents three unused billboards and puts up an accusatory message to sheriff Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson. In the face of animosity and threats from several fellow citizens, especially the racist, mama’s-boy police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), she persists in calling attention to her cause. As tension and emotions ramp up in a series of unexpected events, viewers discover that in this battle between good and evil, the lines aren’t as clearly drawn as we might prefer.

Original as this film is, at bottom, its theme is archetypal. Consider the ancient Greek myth about the Earth Mother goddess Demeter and her beloved young daughter, Persephone. Carol S. Pearson’s latest book, Persephone Rising, contains an insightful explanation of the same psychological forces which continue to influence us and our culture today.

In the myth, innocent Persephone gathers flowers in a field when Hades erupts through a cleft in the earth and abducts (and some say rapes) her. When Demeter realizes her beloved daughter is gone, she is overwhelmed with grief. After getting no help from the gods who, fearing retribution from Zeus, refuse to tell her what happened to her daughter, she sets aside her responsibilities for making the crops grow and searches the earth tirelessly. While Demeter grieves, all growth on earth ceases, then dies. As Dr. Pearson notes, Demeter’s recognition that her needs matter too result in the “first ever recorded sit-down strike.”

Zeus — the Father/King of the gods and prototype of patriarchy’s top dog whose power trumps everyone else’s — is not happy about this.  It was he, Persephone’s father, who had given Hades permission to take her to the underworld in the first place. But if the famine kills the humans, who will build his temples? Who will worship him with gifts and offerings? So this macho, uncompromising thunder God relents and demands Persephone’s release. Demeter’s non-violent protest works.

But will Mildred’s protest work? Will it stay non-violent? Our dualistic mindsets want a hero to celebrate, a scapegoat to blame, a heretic to crucify. But these people are not polar opposites like virtuous princes and wicked witches. They are complex, multi-faceted human beings grappling with complex issues and powerful emotions that aren’t easy to reconcile.

The gods and goddesses represent amoral, instinctual forces in all of us. At bottom, this is who we are. You and I contain every emotion they feel, and we are capable of being gripped by them to commit every act they do, good and bad. The only difference between them and us is that we humans want to be virtuous so we make rules for ourselves, try to keep them, and disown our shadow sides that want to break them. But sometimes they show up anyway.

Mildred’s daughter has been taken from her and she deserves justice, but can we condone her increasingly questionable tactics? We might likewise ask, how can Demeter, supposedly an endlessly loving and forgiving Mother goddess, let humanity starve to death just to get her daughter back? Does her grief justify her means?

Seeing unsuspected sides of Sheriff Willoughby and officer Dixon is equally unsettling. Why isn’t Willoughby putting more effort into pursuing the culprit? Is he indifferent to Mildred’s suffering? Why does he let Dixon — one of those ignorant Warrior bullies we love to hate — get away with his senseless cruelty toward a man less powerful than he? Are these people redeemable?

Demeter gets her daughter back from the underworld, at least for part of every year. But though Mildred has some admirable goddess qualities, she is not a goddess, and no matter how much she acts like one her daughter will never return. Is there a human force strong enough to reconcile her fierce Demeter hunger for justice? Dixon, like Zeus and Ares, the God of War, savagely punishes people he hates. Will Mildred become like him? And if she does, will this cancel out any vestiges of human goodness left in her?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark, disturbing film, but I loved it for highlighting human complexity and prompting these and other difficult questions. It is the function of artists and art to raise a culture’s awareness. To challenge our either-or morality. To explore the gray realm between opposites in which a creative third force can emerge to reconcile our divisiveness. I love it that this film is being honored for rising to this challenge.

But I loved the dreamy, fairy-tale quality of The Shape of Water too. This leaves me with another question. Which one do I want to win the Oscar for best picture? This is a complex issue I haven’t reconciled yet.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


Two Ways To ‘Tell It Like It Is’ November 21, 2016

White smokers at Champagne Vent

White smokers at Champagne Vent

The tag line for this blog is “Think psychologically;  Live Spiritually.”  In the 6+ years I’ve been writing here, I’ve often shared dreams or traumatic early experiences that shaped my personality and way of life. I’ve done this to demonstrate the healing power of self-examination and self-discovery in the hope of helping others.

Since the presidential election I’ve had a few dreams, experiences, and conversations that heightened my awareness of an issue I’d like to address for the same reasons. I’m talking about the recent spate of angry outpourings from people who have been bottling up attitudes and feelings for years and have suddenly decided to “tell it like it is.” While the social media have always had its share of ‘trolls,’ the phenomenon has escalated since the election, and the venting is usually aired with hurtful language and intent.

A story on the radio this morning: A husband and wife were talking to a relative who was excited about coming for leftovers the day after Thanksgiving because the wife always served delicious BBQ turkey sandwiches. Frustrated, the husband said to his wife, “I’ve bottled up the truth for fifty years. I’ve always hated your BBQ sandwiches and now I can say whatever is on my mind without worrying about hurting your feelings. That’s the way the country is now since Trump was elected president! You just tell it like it is.”

unknownSomething in me seems to be responding to this at an unconscious level. In a dream from yesterday morning, four different men said or did mean things to me. One man accused me of being a sneaky crook when I accidentally bumped into his table and bent to retrieve an object that had fallen off. A second thought I was being selfish when I didn’t want to go where he wanted me to go. A third passer-by witnessed a fourth man groping me, and accused me of being a ‘loose’ woman. In three of these cases I was wrongly accused and misjudged. In the fourth I was physically molested. Worst of all, I couldn’t defend myself because my throat was shut so painfully tight that I could barely speak.

I recognized the husband’s response because I’ve experienced his need to vent about something I’ve repressed for too long. I recognize my dream characters as parts of myself because I can trace their self-critical attitudes back to youthful wounds that left me feeling guilty, as if I somehow deserved ill-treatment. Having no understanding of my feelings or words to defend myself, I held in the hurt. Meanwhile, in the shadows of my unconscious, my critical bullies were gaining power and building up pressure. And more times than I care to remember, I have let it out in ways that were hurtful to others.

Through trial, error and much self-reflection, I’ve learned there’s nothing inherently right or wrong about venting. We all hide certain uncomfortable truths, we all suffer for it, and most of us have felt relief from letting off some steam. But there is a better and a worse way to vent, and if you care about healing yourself and the world around you, you have a better chance of helping with the better way.

unknown-1Venting with a vengeful motive, self-righteous attitude, cruel words with the intent to wound, and the will to win at any cost is worse. A better way is to tell the truth about how you feel and why, to tell it honestly without anger, to tell it for the purpose of healing separations and misunderstandings, and to try to cause as little pain as possible.  I know it’s not always possible, but the least we can do is try. And keep trying.

So here’s what I’ve got:

Jeanie’s Self-Help Mini-Course on How to Tell it Like it Is!

I.  Reflect on my early painful experiences. 

  1. What hurtful experiences, starting with early childhood, caused me to bottle up my honest attitudes, beliefs, and feelings? Describe.

II. Reflect on my emotional responses.    

  1. How did these experiences make me feel? Hurt? Sad? Afraid? Victimized? Paralyzed? Humiliated? Betrayed? Helpless? Hopeless? Resentful? Rebellious? Resigned? Angry? Sorry for myself? Jealous? Vengeful? Other emotions?

  2. How do these feelings show up in my attitudes and behavior today? Record examples.

  3. Why did I bottle up my feelings? Because it didn’t feel safe to express them? Because I learned that way of dealing with emotions from my family of origin? Because pretending to be calm and unemotional helped me avoid conflict? Because I didn’t know how to fight back? Because I assumed I must have deserved the wounds? Because I was too proud, embarrassed or afraid to face what happened or ask for help? Because I thought it would make me look weak and whiny and I wanted to look tough and stoic?  Because my culture taught that ‘just getting over’ my feelings was the wiser, more mature thing to do? Because I was afraid of censure? Other reasons?

unknown-3III.  Reflect on my reasons for ‘telling it like it is.’

  1. What are my true motives? The desire to connect? To understand a different point of view? To help? To make peace? To heal my memories and wounds? To heal a relationship? To get revenge for being betrayed by someone or something I trusted?  To right a wrong? To relieve internal pressure?  To be right? To feel superior? Others?

Surely we can do this better. We’ll never heal ourselves or the world if we can’t.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Image Credits:  Wikimedia Commons


Seeing Through a New Lens: Part II November 1, 2016


“I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.” ~ C.G. JungModern Man in Search of a Soul

Here’s the rest of the story I started last week.

The event with Ken receded from my mind as I moved through high school.  I had a few dates with a few nice boys but it wasn’t until the summer after graduation that I had a boyfriend. ‘Steve’ and I dated until I left for college that fall, and I looked forward to seeing him again over the Christmas vacation.

One night during the holidays Steve said we’d been invited to the house of a man to whom he was distantly related. This man, who had specifically asked Steve to bring me along, had occasionally offered Steve a little fatherly advice after his stepfather had died. In a bizarre synchronicity, he was Ken’s father. I went reluctantly, fearing to see Ken who had not spoken to me since the tenth-grade dance. He wasn’t home. Steve and I talked with Ken’s father for a few minutes, then he asked to speak to Steve alone. They returned shortly, and Steve and I left.

I thought of this favorite coffee mug when I remembered my story about Ken.

I thought of this favorite coffee mug when I remembered my story about Ken.

When I asked, Steve told me Ken’s father had said, “You don’t want to get serious about a girl like that, do you?” After three years Ken’s anger at the ‘me’ he thought he was talking to on the phone was still alive and well, and he’d convinced his father I was the ‘wrong’ sort of girl. His intervention worked. Steve and I broke up before I returned to college.  A few weeks later when I met a very attractive man, I was free to encourage him. He was Fred, my future husband.

One final footnote: A few years ago I saw Ken at a high school reunion and heard he has a very successful career in a prestigious profession. I wanted to talk to him in the hope of mending old wounds, but it never happened.

Ken, if you should happen to read this, I know you were raised to believe in a sexual double standard. It was okay for boys to enjoy sexual repartee, but ‘good’ girls just didn’t do it. You liked me when you thought I fit the acceptable stereotype. But when this image was shattered by the “me” you thought you were talking to on the telephone, you believed I deserved to be punished. You didn’t know any better.

I’ve shared this story to lift the veil on misogyny so we can see it for what it really is: a man-made perspective with an unnaturally small lens. Through it women are seen as bodies to magnify men’s egos and satisfy their pleasure. This distorted image focuses on our surface, physical “flaws,” is blind to our individuality, depth and complexity, and circumscribes our freedom, creativity and growth.

The underlying cause of every prejudice is fear. What we fear, we try to control. We build walls to separate it from us and keep it “in its place.” When the walls grow so thick that our fear is no longer mediated by communication and understanding, it morphs into anger and hate.

imagesEpidemics of misogynistic anger and hatred turn men into beasts and women into victims. Harassment, abuse, and crimes against females become commonplace. Obsession with women’s sexuality and objectification of our bodies are normalized. People with this perspective think it’s okay, even desirable, to legislate and enforce what we can do with our own bodies. Children absorb the poison and spread it like a virus to each other and the next generation.

We’ve seen too many tragic results of this twisted thinking in the world, and the current presidential election has brought America’s collective illness into high relief. We’re better than this. For God’s sake and for our own good, it has to stop!

Through patriarchy’s one-sided lens, erotic sensations are only associated with sexuality. But did you know that an authentic ‘religious’ outlook sees sexual and spiritual energy as the same thing? Both are life-serving, imaginative and healing. Both are pleasurable, beautiful, and soul-satisfying. Both breed intimacy and compassion. Both arise from the love that fuels our very being. Appreciating this energy running through all life automatically enlarges our perspective, thus opening a new outlet for passion and leaving less room for fear, anger and hatred.

My youthful outlook has expanded enormously since high school, but I’m far from finished. My dream said I need a bigger lens, and recent changes suggest I’m acquiring one.  Here’s an example.

blackandwhiteandcolorchangeperceptionIn another dream from last week I saw a generous side of Donald Trump, a man in whom I have never seen one redeeming quality. Fred and I were in his penthouse apartment which he had donated to us for a week. That surprised me. His insults to women have been painful to the wounded girl in me and I could never vote for him, but after this dream my attitude toward him underwent a subtle shift. I see my prejudice and realize that just as I have a negative and positive side, so must he. I actually feel a bit more understanding. How’s that for a bigger lens?

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.  Meta Vie:  the Lens of Love.  Through a Stronger Lens.  Fractile Enlightenment. 


Affordable. Health. Care. Part III January 26, 2016

maslows-hierarchy“If only man would act rationally, perhaps wars and depressions and insanity could be avoided;  but unfortunately, man does not seem to be any more capable of acting sanely now that he was a thousand years ago.  We are still confronted with man’s own irrational behavior and the untamed forces within his psyche.” ~M. Esther Harding, Psychic Energy, pp.202-3

The troubled waters of society are the natural result of troubled waters within the human psyche. Until we free ourselves from our instinctive drives, each of us, from the most powerful leader to the most vulnerable victim, will add to the turbulence of our time. And the waters will not grow calm until our basic needs for survival, health and safety are met.

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s  President Franklin Roosevelt signed the original Social Security Act into law amidst great turbulence and opposition. At the time, poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50 percent.

“Opponents, however, decried the proposal as socialism. In a Senate Finance Committee hearing, the Democratic Oklahoma Senator Thomas Gore asked Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, “Isn’t this socialism?” She said that it was not, but he continued, “Isn’t this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?” Since then, “Changes in Social Security have reflected a balance between promoting “equality” and efforts to provide “adequate” and affordable protection for low wage workers.” Wikipedia

Affordable. Health. Care. Eighty years later opponents of government’s involvement in the lives of its citizens still fear “socialism.” Proponents still promote “equality” and “adequate” affordable protection. Those whose lives have been made easier by the Social Security Act don’t really care what you call it. They’re too busy being grateful for Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security pensions. For the freedom to enjoy their latter years in relative comfort and health without unduly burdening their children.

And what of their children? They are the baby boomers, some of whom are now running the government.  Here’s what Wikipedia says of them…of many of us:

“In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of widespread government subsidies in post-war housing and education, and increasing affluence.[3]

As a group, they were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to that time, and amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time.[4] They were also the generation that received peak levels of income; therefore, they could reap the benefits of abundant levels of food, apparel, retirement programs, and sometimes even “midlife crisis” products. The increased consumerism for this generation has been regularly criticized as excessive.[5]

And “socialism” is still a bogeyman, even to some who have benefitted most from widespread government subsidies. And we still quibble and fear and fret over this issue; the untamed forces within our psyches still stir the waters.

I was surprised to learn from this site how many countries already have universal health care. Switzerland and Singapore have the two must successful systems and “have achieved universal health insurance while spending a fraction of what the U.S. spends.”

This Forbes article says “Many American conservatives oppose universal health insurance because they see it as fundamentally antithetical to a free society. ‘If we persevere in our quixotic quest for a fetishized medical equality we will sacrifice personal freedom as its price,’ wrote a guest editorialist in the Wall Street Journal in 2009. But according to the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank, ten nations freer than the United States have achieved universal health coverage. It turns out that the right kind of health reform could cover more Americans while increasing economic freedom.”

So if “the right kind of health reform could cover more Americans while increasing economic freedom,” what’s preventing us from devising and implementing “the right kind of health reform?”

oceans-choppy-watersThe untamed forces within our psyches.

Many people I’ve spoken to since beginning this series tell me the Affordable Care Act is the best thing that ever happened to them. But it has problems. And my friend is trapped by a particularly unjust one.

I have no answers. But one thing is sure: the troubled waters in the US will not grow calm until the basic needs of our citizens—survival, health and safety—are met. And this will not happen until the privileged few at the top of our governmental hierarchy willingly place the untamed forces within their psyches under the microscope of consciousness.

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”~Carl Jung

My thanks to all of you who enriched this dialogue with your many insightful comments.  May the dialogue continue until the waters grow calm.

Image Credits:  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,Wikipedia. Turbulent waters: earth

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.


Affordable. Health. Care. Part II January 19, 2016

affordable-care-act-generic-graphic-hearstLast week I wrote about a friend who has issues with the Affordable Care Act and vented to me in a rather adversarial way. In that post I shared my self-doubt and conflicts about whether I could handle such a political hot potato in this blog with intelligence, objectivity and balance. Afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that just writing that introduction resolved most of my discomfort. The bit that lingers is just par for the course for this sensitive and scrupulous INFJ!

So now I’ll continue with his story in his own words:

“In 2014 my United Healthcare PPO health insurance policy cost me $213.09 per month with a $2500.00 deductible.  My wife paid $250.00 per month with a $3500.00 deductible, also from United Healthcare.  We are both in our 50’s and self-employed in the service industry.  We pay 25% income tax.  There were no savings or other advantages to purchasing a joint health care policy.  Together, our effective monthly cost was $450.00 per month with $5000.00 in deductibles.

“In 2015 the Affordable Health Care Act went into effect.  My monthly premium went up to $489.39 with a $5200.00 deductible with Humana (HMO). My wife’s plan with United went up to $475.00, also with a $5200.00 deductible.  That cost us $965.00 a month with an effective $10,400.00 deductible!  The policies included maternity costs;  my wife had a hysterectomy in 2004.  They also included children’t dental care.  We have NO children.  By definition, we are a “married couple with no children” and our annual adjusted gross income is above $62,000.000 — the defining line to qualify for the government health care subsidy.  Affordable??

“In November of 2014 I had a bout with gastroenteritis. Severe dehydration sent me to the emergency room in a life-threatening condition.  After being hooked up to IV’s in the ER for two hours, the finance rep from the hospital came in to secure payment for my $5,200.00 deductible. Awesome. My wife gave him my credit card as I was out of it.  Eight hours later the doc told me I needed to be admitted to the hospital because my kidney function numbers were not good.  What they never mentioned was that this hospital was no longer in my network.  I left the following afternoon. The bills that arrived over the next four months totaled $6,000.00 in addition to the deductible. A friend in the medical industry went to bat for me by reviewing the hospital bills. We found charges for services and tests I never received, so the finance department offered a discount for full cash payment. I took it.  My brief visit to the hospital cost me $11,000.00 out of pocket.  Affordable??

“My wife and I have a simple lifestyle. We live in a condo, go out to dinner once a month.  Both our businesses barely survived the economic crash in ’08. We still haven’t recovered. When she had to relocate her business, costs were high, including three separate licenses to fulfill city, county, and state requirements. At the time of my hospital stay we had not taken a vacation in three years.  But we are thankful for what we have and are not complainers.

“In 2016 we received notice that our Humana HMO plans were going up.  Our savings are dwindling, yet we now have to pay $1,150.00 per month with $14,400.00 in deductibles. Two years ago we paid $450 per month. Affordable???

“Options.  We’ve shopped plans through three agents. We have the cheapest plan, a Bronze HMO. Alternatively, we could choose a catastrophic plan for $380.00 a month with $10,000.00 deductibles, but they cover very little and we’d have to pay a penalty for choosing a plan that is not ACA approved.  We think the penalty would be 3% of our adjusted gross income, but our CPA isn’t sure because the law is so convoluted. Our only other option would be to find new entry level jobs with benefits, but our income would be considerably less.  And this isn’t an easy thing to do for 55- and 59-year-olds. We’ve worked hard for 25 years to develop our clienteles and reputations.

“Now our health care costs are the biggest expense in our budget.  While I understand the overall goal of Obama’s plan to provide health care for everyone, this plan is a total failure.  In my mind, the insurance companies responded to the government getting into their business (less piece of the pie) by raising rates to make up for profit loss.  Also, the requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act are too inclusive.  Why would we pay for maternity care or children’s dental?  In the past I was rewarded for being healthy.  I only saw doctors three times in the past ten years, and those were at a Centacare and my dermatologist.  I don’t drink, smoke, or take any medications.  I am not obese.  Now I’m treated the same as an overweight, smoking alcoholic on ten different meds. Really?? Furthermore, with such high deductibles we’re less likely to consult a doctor when sick.

“My feelings are that Obama wanted the Affordable Health Care Act to be part of his administrations legacy; because it was an ego thing he pushed it through at any cost to us. The philosophical benefits to society do not justify crucifying the middle class American. There has to be a better plan. It was easy for politicians who receive lifetime health care at taxpayers’ expense to pass this law without even reading it since it was so long.  I’m angry. We are honest and hard-working. We make our own money and are trying to be responsible small business participants.  But it really is hard to watch the President vacationing in Hawaii while asking us “to tighten our belts” for the “greater good.”  I’ve watched this country go off course for too long and I think the system is irreparably flawed, with no solution in my lifetime.”

1hexagramJeanie again: I invite you to share your story and perspective.  It will surely be interesting and enlightening, especially if anyone can suggest solutions.  Knowing how divisive political issues can be, I ask only that you use diplomacy and restraint. (As if any of my amazing regular readers needed to be reminded to behave with civility!)

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.

Image Credits:  Google Images. Inner Truth: Lewis Lafontaine in Carl Jung Depth Psychology.


Affordable. Health. Care. Part I January 12, 2016


Nothing can exist without its opposite;  the two were one in the beginning and will be one again in the end. Consciousness can only exist through continual recognition of the unconscious, just as everything that lives must pass through many deaths.  ~Carl Jung CW Vol. 9i  par. 178

There’s a battle going on in my head.  I hate fights.  I hate conflict of any kind.  But I’ve been witnessing this battle every day for six weeks and I’ve decided to give you a ringside seat. First I need to set the scene so you’ll know where I am and what the fight’s about it and who the antagonists are.

The setting is the political arena as seen from the perspective of my philosophical, introverted, sensitive, non-political mind.  The issue is Affordable Health Care.  The antagonists are various aspects of my Ego, Shadow, and Higher Self. Sometimes I know who’s speaking, sometimes I don’t.

For six weeks now, ever since I had an emotionally-charged conversation with a friend after I attended a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, some of my inner characters have been having a dicey dialogue.  I wake up to their arguments. They make points throughout the day. Their themes populate my dreams and interrupt my sleep.

So why am I inviting you to view this inner drama? Here are a few of the reasons I recognize at the moment:

  1. To clarify my thoughts.

  2. To ease my conscience.

  3. To heal my conflicts.

  4. To get some sleep.

  5. To show you the kinds of challenges people face when they’re committed to self-knowledge, thinking psychologically, and living spiritually. After all, that’s the theme of this blog.

  6. Because I want to make a difference in individual and collective thinking and living.

I realize the last reason may sound a bit grandiose, but wouldn’t everyone like to think that maybe their lives made a positive difference, if only a very tiny one? In fact, isn’t there an inner archetypal force, a mysterious ‘transcendent function’ that pushes all of us, no matter how craven, to better ourselves, to rise above our ignorance and selfishness?

What but a personal experience of this function could motivate me to write a book called Healing the Sacred Divide:  Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World? What but a taste of the joy that comes from heeding its call would cause any of us to do our best at our work and build loving, intimate relationships? Would we be fully human if we cared about nothing but ourselves?  I believe we wouldn’t. Yet sometimes I still fight my mysterious task master.

imagesSo here’s what’s been going on in my head:

“But I’m a philosopher, not an activist.”

“How’s that working for you? And how’s the view from your Ivory Tower?” (Pretty sure this latter comment came from my Spiritual Bully, not the Self.)

“But I abhor politics.  What possible good is there in self-serving rants and self-righteous blame games motivated by power and greed?”

“Don’t be so cynical. You know that’s human nature. We all react instinctively to fear, and the less awareness we have, the more we project our shadows onto others to take the heat off ourselves.”

“I know. But the fear and projection seem to be getting worse. And so few people seem to see it or care, and my psychologizing can’t change that. People have to want to change.”

“So if you really care, what can you do?”

“The only thing I know how to do is write, but I know absolutely zero about this issue and the factors involved.”

“You could find out. Do some research.  Ask around.”

“I’m not interested in that kind of research.  I want to understand how our minds work and why we behave the way we do. I don’t want to read thousands of pages of boring details, know who lobbies whom to get bills vetoed or passed, or learn the depressing facts about the twisted, depressing lies politicians tell to push their personal agendas through. None of it makes any lasting difference in the end. Meanwhile, it hurts to be constantly reminded that some people who are supposedly devoted to serving our country care more about getting re-elected than easing people’s pain and suffering. That they would rather distort the truth and blame the other party than be true to their consciences.  That they may not even have consciences.”

“Hmmm.  I’m hearing some powerful anger and resistance here.  What are you really afraid of.”

“Venturing into this new arena is difficult for me. My position is unusual and I don’t want to be misunderstood or scorned. What if I can’t present my case with clarity and objectivity?  What if people hate me or think I’m arrogant or frivolous?  It’s hard enough to see and deal with my own crap. Do I have to heap more coals on my head?”

“I see. Pooor baby. You think you shouldn’t have to suffer any more. After all, look how hard you’ve worked to become a more conscious, ‘spiritual’ person! (That had to be my Spiritual Bully again.) So if that’s how you feel, why keep agonizing about whether to write about this? Why not let people with thicker skins and extroverted personalities enter this particular fray?”

Consciousness-opposites“Aaarrgh! Because nobody else seems to care what’s happening to him and it’s not fair! I can’t stand to see him suffering over this injustice. And I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try to help.”

“Well alright.  Let’s get on with it then, shall we?”

So that’s it. Next time, the full story from my friend.

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.

Image credits:  Google Images. Gustav Dore’.  Jacob Wrestles with the Angel. Vincent van Gogh.  The Starry Night.




Avatar and Cultural Transformation November 10, 2015

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet to come to birth.  The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.  Carl Jung

Culture is created by the human psyche.  Intended or not, there is a psychological dimension to every art form. This is nowhere more evident than in James Cameron’s 2009 epic science-fiction film Avatar, a personal favorite.

Avatar’s characters, symbols and themes are updated versions of archetypes featured in stories from every nation, generation, and religion throughout history. Its symbols of interconnectedness—the wormy squirmy tentacled pony tails that bond with similar anatomical appendages of bizarre beasts, and the electrochemical connections between tree roots—are imaginatively resonant of ancient Hinduism’s Diamond Net of Indra, Jung’s collective unconscious, and quantum physics’ holographic universe. And its themes of self-discovery, initiation, revolution, transformation, and redemption have been with us since the first story ever told around a fire.

This lush film eloquently depicts the transformation occurring in humanity’s heroic journey into wholeness and consciousness. It does so by contrasting an ego that succeeds by opening to otherness and change with one that fails because it refuses to grow. Indulge me for a moment as I engage in a bit of imaginative word play to illustrate my point.

The time is the mid-22nd century. The place is Pandora, (mythically, the Greek goddess whose curiosity unleashed all the evils onto the world but whose ultimate legacy was hope). Pandora is a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system that is being colonized to mine a rare mineral. The plot revolves around the expansion of the mining colony which is threatening the existence of the local tribe of natives known as Na’vi.

Corporal Jake (Biblically, Jacob was Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson who overcame adversity to become the patriarch of the Israelites) Sully is a soldier whose body is bound to a wheel chair and whose soul has been sullied—i.e. contaminated and made impure—by bitterness, self-pity, and the aggressive mind-set of his dominator culture. Yet, by the end of the story, he is transformed into a heroic Warrior and passionate Lover.

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.  Carl Jung

After undergoing training to be an avatar, Jake’s crippled body rests in a remote location while his mind inhabits a genetically engineered Na’vi body that interacts with the natives.  His bravery, his respect for princess Neytiri (who says”nay” to tyranny and is Sully’s equal, savior, and Beloved), and his receptivity to the foreign ways of her culture all lead to his redemption and the salvation of the Na’vi.

And what might the name Na’vi symbolize? This tribe has long navigated safely through a difficult world by honoring the sacred underlying patterns of life. But because the people will not capitulate to the dominator ego mentality which has destroyed Earth, their culture is in danger of extinction.

Other archetypal themes are represented by the Na’vi’s spiritual leader Mo’at, (an abbreviation of Mother Earth?) who is a blend of the Jungian archetypes of Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman, and Beloved. Her earth-based values and connections to Nature are the glue that have enabled the Na’vi to flourish thus far.  Then there’s Jake’s mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine (a saintly name if ever there was one), who symbolizes the archetypal Queen’s regard for shared authority and individual differences and the Wisewoman’s intuitive intelligence and pursuit of truth.

Finally we have a plot with the necessary obstacles every hero must overcome: the self-absorbed and self-serving ego symbolized by Selfridge, corporate administrator of the mining program; and the obsessive Warrior mentality of the head of security, Colonel Miles Quaritch (from quarantine, a place of detention? Or quarrel, an angry dispute? Or quartz, a hard rock?). Cameron’s soulless dark invader, like Lucas’s Darth Vader, has miles to go in his own journey because of his rock-hard rigidity and unrelenting itch to maintain his power regardless of the cost to anyone or anything.

So here we have a story about a brave, heroic ego vs. a rigid, fearful ego. Earthly and cosmic connectedness vs. personal self-interest.  Accepting our shadows. Opening to otherness. Learning from feminine wisdom and nature. Moving toward balance. Uniting opposites with respect and love. Using our Warrior energy to protect and empower the vulnerable. Overcoming crippling disadvantages to become a force for positive change.

This haunting story is more than just another movie.  It is a mythic reflection of us at our worst and best. Of our blind ego with its rigid and self-righteous attitudes. Of our dysfunctional dark shadow that clings to old habits and blindly fouls our planetary nest. Of our power-hungry Warrior who continues to dominate families, neighborhoods and societies.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.  Carl Jung

Our hope lies with Jake who represents the resilience, creative imagination, and heroic potential of every ego, no matter how much suffering it endures, to overcome its lethargy and choose consciousness:  consciousness of our light shadow with its unique gifts and ideals and sensitivity and care. Consciousness of our healthy Warrior with the courage to say no to ingrained attitudes and practices that produce chaos, pollution and destruction. Consciousness of the love waiting to blossom between healthy femininity and masculinity.

Image Credit:  Google Images

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.


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