Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Mandorla Consciousness: Part I June 21, 2016

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_editedWhen the human animal developed an ego our species began a long, slow separation from Nature. What was once a guilt-free ride in the unconscious maternal matrix where instinct ruled, unchallenged, became an arduous trek through the tangled jungles of guilt, self-torment, and self-doubt. For the first time we reflected on the consequences of acting on our obsessive urges. We discovered the value of planning ahead and self-restraint. And we bowed in respect to the rare members of our tribes who demonstrated the benefits of living with these new skills.

Something miraculous was happening to us. No longer were we merely crude vessels whose only aims were procreation and survival. We were evolving into consciousness.

This is the metaphorical meaning of the Old Testament story of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 1-9).

At that time all mankind spoke a single language. As the population grew and spread eastward, a plain was discovered in the land of Babylon, and was soon thickly populated. The people who lived there began to talk about building a great city,with a temple-tower reaching to the skies—a proud, eternal monument to themselves. ‘This will weld us together,’ they said…But when God came down to see the city and the tower mankind was making, he said, ‘Look! If they are able to accomplish all this when they have just begun to exploit their linguistic and political unity, just think of what they will do later! Nothing will be unattainable for them! Come, let us go down and give them different languages so that they won’t understand each other’s words!’ (The Living Bible Paraphrased. Carmel, New York: Guideposts Associates, Inc. 1971, p. 8)

In this story people are hoping to re-create the golden paradise of unity in which they luxuriated before they became self-aware. But the jealous Old Testament God has a very different perspective. He sees their wish as prideful and self-centered just as he sees Eve’s desire to know the difference between good and evil as selfish and disobedient. So he punishes them by separating them from all that feels familiar and safe and cursing them with the confusion and mistrust that naturally arise between different cultures.

But who is the “us” God refers to when he says, “…let us go down and give them different languages so that they won’t understand each other’s words”?

An even more problematic question is,“Why would God want to confuse humanity?” Could this really be the intent of an authentically benevolent deity or has another, unconscious force been shaping our ideas and stories about God?

Let’s begin with my first question. In Biblical, Apocryphal and Gnostic traditions, Sophia symbolized God’s Wisdom. In Judaism the Shechinah was God’s female persona.

Feminine wisdom was the partner of the God of logos from the beginning, but we saw less of her as the ego grew stronger in its grand march through the ages. The reason for this lies in the natural development of our psyches. If consciousness was evolution’s gift to us, dualism was its curse. Recognizing our choices gave rise to conscience and moral responsibility, and we became conflict-ridden crucibles of transformation. What had once been a unified, albeit unconscious psyche, was changing into a house divided against itself. And as we changed, our God-images changed.

This was the situation at the stage of the ego’s growth represented by the story of the Tower of Babel. We’d long been banished from Eden’s paradise of childhood innocence and had grown into conflicted teenagers. One part of us yearned to return to the comforts of unconsciousness, the other wanted to push on to express our individuality. To the young ego, both choices were profoundly attractive, and both were intolerable.

Was it a jealous God who wanted to confuse and separate humanity? Or was this God-image the creation of a confused adolescent ego? In fact, dualistic thinking was separating us from our original sense of unity and part of us wanted to preserve it by “erecting a monument” to it. But to the other part, returning to the unconscious state it associated with the maternal matrix felt like death!

So the fearful, ambitious part of our ego took the lead and aligned itself primarily with “masculine” values like toughness, goal-oriented striving, separating, clear thinking, and individuating, and projected these values onto a masculine Sky God of logos. Correspondingly it disowned “feminine” values like softness, relatedness, nurturance, tender feeling, pleasurable sensation, an understanding heart, and a restful diffuse awareness in which one is vitally present and connected to the whole. And to escape its guilt about abandoning Great Mother, it assumed “God made me do it!”

Next time, Mandorla Consciousness, Part II.

Note:  This post and the next one were originally published by the Center for Action and Contemplation under the title, The Mandorla Consciousness. Radical Grace, Summer 2012, vol. 25, no 3, p. 18.

Image Credits:  Google Images, Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

How Self-Aware Are You? Epoch I, Contd. May 17, 2016

5+too+much+of+the+animal+CW++7“Man, like the other animals, is originally simply the puppet of instinct, just as the infant is. Unless he is moved by instinct, he remains passive, even asleep. When instinct is aroused he reacts precipitately, with a characteristic all-or-none type of reaction.  He is aware, it is true, of what he does and of what happens around him. But he has no self-awareness:  psychic images flit past in his consciousness, leaving little or no trace, no residue as it were, much as a moving picture flits over the screen.  As long as the picture is being thrown upon the screen, it dominates the space;  when the light goes out the picture disappears from the screen and leaves no trace upon it.  Such is man’s consciousness before the ego develops.” ~M. Esther Harding, Psychic Energy, p. 209.

Dr. M. Esther Harding was one of Dr. Jung’s most accomplished and articulate followers.  Trained at the London School of Medicine for Women and the University of London, she worked with him in Zurich before beginning her analytical practice in 1923 New York. Her classic book, Psychic Energy:  Its Source and Its Transformation, is still an influential source for students of Jungian Psychology. Written during, and inspired by World War II, its purpose was to explore “what savage impulses, what ruthless monsters of the deep” lie beneath the cultured mask of consciousness, awaiting “a chance to seize the mastery and despoil the world!” ~Harding, p. ix.

As she explained,

“Until the first appearance of the works of Dr. C.G. Jung, the unconscious was regarded as merely the repository of forgotten or repressed experiences.  In this there could be no answer to the problem of a world in the grip of a barbaric regression. But Dr. Jung discovered and opened to all explorers another aspect of the unconscious….and found there the sources of psychological life that produce not only atavistic [ancestral] forms but also the potentialities for new development.” (p. ix,x).

During a three year period beginning in 1913, Jung experienced an intrusion of the “savage impulses” and “ruthless monsters” of the unconscious that shook him to the core and turned his world upside down.  As a practicing psychiatrist, he had a rough idea of what was happening to him, but instead of medicating himself to control his impulses and dull his pain as was the custom, he took a revolutionary approach.  He decided to allow the monsters to have their say, to heed the messages they brought him in dreams and fantasies, and to interact with them by way of active imagination.  The techniques and theories he developed, along with his transformation and healing, informed his work for the rest of his life and led to this important insight:

“Every civilized human being, whatever his conscious development, is still an archaic man at the deeper levels of his psyche.”~C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 128.

This archaic being dwells within each of us in the form of archetypes and animal instincts. The source of all our psychological energy, this being is not inherently evil any more than animals are.  It is simply the natural expression of our psychic energy as focused solely on ourselves during our earliest phase of consciousness. As I noted in my previous post, I call this Epoch I: Physical Consciousness.

13254589_1238648242842042_9128749749319303061_nWith family guidance and conditioning from societal institutions—education, religion, business, and government—this energy is gradually brought under a measure of control so that the child begins to create a mask, or persona, of acceptable attitudes and behaviors. If the persona remains unchallenged by inner (psychological) or outer (societal) forces, the child can, and often does, grow up to live out his or her life without evolving into more mature phases of consciousness. As Harding explained,

“A person whose consciousness has not grown beyond the state of the autos [Epoch I] can nevertheless undergo a process of development and refinement. The focus of his interest may shift from the more grossly physical to the aesthetic, and he may acquire all the subtleties of cultured appreciation; nevertheless, if his consciousness is oriented to the effects on himself only, he is still in the auto-erotic stage of development….

“Such a person will give the impression of being an egotist, but his egotism is not the result of a conscious determination to have his own way, of a will to power; rather it is due to his complete ignorance and unawareness of any aspect of the situation except such as effect him, or those with whom he is identified. Such a person does not realize that he is dominating his environment or demanding more than his share, and he would be amazed if he were to be made aware of the true nature of his attitude.” p. 208-9.

We all know people like this; we see them on the news every day. And if we magnify this situation from the individual to the collective, we see global implications in this observation from Harding:

“Up to the time of the rise of modern materialistic thought…the hypothesis that rational thinking could solve all the problems of the world was very widely accepted. But there remained the irrationality of man himself.  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 than he was a thousand years ago.  We are still confronted with man’s own irrational behavior and the untamed forces within his psyche.” Harding, pp. 202-3.

Call me a dreamer, but can you imagine a future when Enhancing Self-Knowledge is a key plank in the platform of a presidential candidate?  When the Department of Defense’s main priority is to defend us against the untamed forces within the psyche? America has been at the forefront of many of the world’s great advances;  why not lead in promoting consciousness, the most valuable and life-enhancing advance of all?

Image Credits: Thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for the Jungian 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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

 

How Self-Aware Are You? Epoch I: Physical Consciousness May 10, 2016

Lewis Lafontaine's photo.

“So long as the child is in that state of unconscious identity with the mother, he is still one with the animal psyche and is just as unconscious as it.

The development of consciousness inevitably leads not only to separation from the mother, but to separation from the parents and the whole family circle and thus to a relative degree of detachment from the unconscious and the world of instinct.

Yet the longing for this lost world continues and, when difficult adaptations are demanded, is forever tempting one to make evasions and retreats, to regress to the infantile…” ~Carl Jung, CW 5, Para 351

People often find Jung’s theories and writing difficult, and it’s no wonder.  He was introducing humanity to a radically different way of seeing and thinking about ourselves, and he used words and phrases in ways that only someone familiar with his work is liable to understand.

The above quote is a good example. What did Jung mean when he wrote about a child being “in that state of unconscious identity with the mother?”  What does it mean to be “one with the animal psyche?” What was he trying to say in this quote? Essentially he’s referring to a common problem that can obstruct our psychological growth.

Lioness with Cub, national Reserve, Pilaneberg, South Africa

Lioness with Cub, National Reserve, Pilaneberg, South Africa

FreudEriksonPiaget, and Kohlberg have described psychological development as a series of stages in which people exhibit typical behavior patterns and abilities.  Jung and Neumann went a step beyond in focusing on the development of consciousness itself, particularly in terms of our psychological and spiritual self-awareness.

Based on these and other developmental theories, I’ve summarized the development of consciousness in three general “epochs” of self-awareness. In this system, Epoch I is Physical Consciousness,  Epoch II is Ego Consciousness, and Epoch III is Integrated Consciousness. For most of us, the first is of relatively brief duration,  the second is quite long (the whole of life for many people), and the third sometimes does not even begin.

“In the first epoch our awareness is limited to our five senses and the forces of physical instinct:  bodily urges, unchecked emotions, and primitive images.  As infants we are like hungry wolf cubs in a vast and comforting wilderness.  We don’t question our habitat or behavior or wonder if there is any other way to be;  we simply act and react to physical stimuli without plan, reflection or guilt….Unburdened by self-consciousness and self-doubt, we are unthinkingly innocent of any wrongdoing because we have no moral code and feel no need to alter or repress anything about ourselves.”  ~J.B. RaffaHealing the Sacred Divide, pp. 20-21.

This earliest phase of life is “that state of unconscious identity with the mother,” Jung referred to:  a paradise of egoless, guiltless, free-and-easy instinctual behavior. During this magical time we are in heaven.

Disney's Peter Pan with the Lost Boys.

Disney’s Peter Pan with the Lost Boys.

“If we have a concept of time it is that we dwell in eternity.  If we have a concept of God it is this bliss of oneness that connects us to everything and makes us feel buoyantly, vitally alive. Neither good nor bad, right nor wrong, Epoch I is simply everyone’s earliest experience of being a human being.  All our future psychological and spiritual growth plays out against this primal background of immersion in a maternal ocean of innocent, unconscious, infinitely pleasurable physical life.” ~J.B. Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p.22.

Is it any wonder so many of us, like Peter Pan, continue to long for this lost world and struggle to stay young for as long as we can?  In a child, this is a natural and charming way of being, and there are people who remain in this state of harmless, guileless innocence throughout their lives.  Others grow increasingly dissatisfied with themselves as adults. And some become dysfunctional. In fact, a lack of guilt or sense of responsibility,  self-centeredness, emotional immaturity, antisocial behavior, and low impulse-control are all characteristics of sociopaths.  This is why we need egos, (organs of consciousness), and why our egos need to grow in self-awareness. At this point in history, learning to critique and control our more primitive “inner child” has become crucial to our very survival.

Mary Cassat, Mother and Child

Mary Cassat, Mother and Child

Despite humanity’s evolutionary advances, negative aspects of an Epoch I mentality still pervade contemporary society. Symptoms include:

  • a  large population of unhappy adults who cannot seem to make difficult adaptations into adulthood,

  • the temptation “to make evasions and retreats, to regress to the infantile,”

  • blaming others for our unhappiness and expecting them to make us happy,

  • obsessive glorification and pursuit of youth and physical beauty,

  • addictions to substances or behaviors that provide temporary escape from our problems and responsibilities,

  • a single-minded focus on satisfying our own instinctual needs without caring about the needs of others, and

  • self-centered, irresponsible, antisocial attitudes, words and behaviors without regard for consequences.

“The further development of the individual can be brought about only by means of symbols which represent something far in advance of himself and whose intellectual meanings cannot yet be grasped entirely.” ~Carl Jung, CW 4, Para 680

What did Jung mean by this?  I’ll address this and more as I explore the evolution of consciousness in coming posts.

Image Credits:  Thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for the Jungian quotes and deer child image, Wikipedia for the Disney image of Peter Pan, and Pinterest for the lioness and cub image.

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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

 

Three Signs of a Healthy Ego April 26, 2016

13061936_1222930674413799_1029611237442425841_n“We are entangled in the roots, and we ourselves are the roots.

We make roots, we cause roots to be, we are rooted in the soil, and there is no getting away for us, because we must be there as long as we live.

That idea, that we can sublimate ourselves and become entirely spiritual and no hair left, is an inflation.

I am sorry, that is impossible; it makes no sense.” ~Carl Jung, Kundalini Seminar, Page 29

This quote reminds me of a true story. In 1848 England, art critic John Ruskin married 18 year old Effie Gray. Five years later their marriage was annulled because Ruskin had failed to consummate it. As Effie told her father:

“He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and, finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April.”  Wikipedia  

On their wedding night John discovered that Effie had pubic hair. His malady, which by today’s standards may seem laughable, was psychological. But consider the context:  John grew up in Victorian England.  His father, John James Ruskin,

“helped to develop his son’s Romanticism. They shared a passion for the works of ByronShakespeare and especially Walter Scott…. Margaret Ruskin, an Evangelical Christian, more cautious and restrained than her husband, taught young John to read the King James Bible from beginning to end, and then to start all over again, committing large portions to memory. Its language, imagery and stories had a profound and lasting effect on his writing.” Wikipedia

A romantic, an idealist, and the only child of an evangelical Christian mother, John had so sublimated his instinctual, physical roots that it hadn’t occurred to him that his beautiful young wife’s body would be any different from the smooth, marbled statues of Greek goddesses he so admired.

By ‘sublimate’ Jung meant to unconsciously transform socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations into acceptable actions or behaviors. Freud believed this was a sign of maturity in individuals and civilization. By this means one could deflect the sexual instinct with its erotic energy into so-called “higher” and “socially useful” physical, scientific, artistic, or religious achievements.

Likewise, a person with aggressive tendencies can channel them into acceptable contact sports like football or boxing. A person with an urge to kill someone might join the military where he could justify his urge in the name of protecting his country. A literary example is provided in Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None. In this story a judge with homicidal urges gives unusually harsh sentences to guilty criminals in the name of protecting the citizens and upholding the law.

“One is only confronted with the spiritual experience when one is absolutely human.” ~Carl Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 394

images-12But Jung had higher hopes for individuals and societies.  He believed we could be transformed into psychologically whole and spiritually enlightened beings without denying our instinctual roots. And he knew that when the defense mechanism of sublimation remains unconscious, it is an obstacle to an individual’s fullest and healthiest development. Individuation only becomes possible when our egos consciously acknowledge our instincts and choose to channel them in harmless and healing ways.  To remain unconscious of them leaves them free to attain toxic extremes.

An ego which denies its entanglement in the roots of the physical body and unconscious psyche can become  dangerously inflated, capable of doing unspeakable things while believing itself to be virtuous. One can’t help but wonder what hidden evils the Spanish Inquisition‘s zealous Tomás de Torquemada was striving to deny when he had around 3,000 people tortured and executed for heresy against the Catholic Church.

The same might be asked of more contemporary political leaders like Stalin, who it is widely agreed was responsible for millions of deaths;  Hitler, who was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other victims whom he and his followers deemed socially undesirable Untermenschen (“sub-humans”);  Cambodia’s  Pol Pot whose policies were responsible for from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a 1975 population of roughly 8 million; and Saddam Hussein whose security services killed an estimated 250,000.

If we don’t start taking the human psyche far more seriously, countries including our own will continue to enable toxic, minimally conscious egos to acquire positions of far-reaching power. We can change that by learning to recognize three signs of an ego that is growing into health and consciousness:

  1. It explores its unconscious roots with an ongoing self-reflective practice;

  2. It recognizes and reins in its defense mechanisms, including projection and sublimation; and

  3. It acknowledges its shadow without allowing it to control its thoughts, words and actions.

Meanwhile, we might ask ourselves, “Does anyone in the next election show signs of an unhealthy ego?”

Image Credits:  My thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for sharing the Jungian quotes and images on his Facebook Jung site. 

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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

Following Our Symbols: Healing Our Souls March 15, 2016

My photo of a black bear raiding a bird feeder in Highlands, NC.

A black bear raiding a bird feeder in Highlands, NC.

There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man…[that] still makes up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.”~C.G. Jung

Last weekend, Elaine Mansfield and I presented a Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop to the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota about the lessons to be learned from loss and grief.  A major theme was how our culture’s one-sided emphasis on the brain’s left-hemisphere logos thinking has severely crippled the fullest development of our souls. Like Carl Jung, we believe that ignorance of right-hemisphere mythos, a way of thinking which employs imagination and symbol, undermines our hope of finding healing and meaning in our suffering.

Through sharing, writing, examples, and interactive experiences, we demonstrated how to use mythos to find meaning in the symbols from our dreams and myths. Dreams are personal myths. They come to bring healing and wholeness. Cultural myths do the same thing. If we know their language, both can guide us on our soul’s journey through and after life. As Jung noted, using this language to develop a harmonious relationship with our symbols is the first step toward wisdom.

“First we must learn to think mythologically. Powerful things happen when we touch the thinking which myths, fairy tales, and our own dreams bring to us.” ~Robert Johnson

I began studying mythos in my late forties. Every night I recorded my dreams. When I had time for reflection I consulted good symbol books for possible meanings. Occasionally I used active imagination with compelling symbols. Among these were bears. Today Bear is one of my most valued healers and guides.

Bears, in their simple willingness to shake off their unconscious sleeps, abandon the dark caves of their births and hibernations, and make their solitary ways into the forest, are associated with endings and new beginnings. They demonstrate that transitions from known to unknown are not to be feared as obstacles or punishments, but embraced as thresholds to enriched living. This lesson from my dream bears brings me peace and trust during times of change.

During hibernation bears fall into a sleep so deep that they appear to be dead; yet, wonder of wonders, they emerge from their caves in spring as if they have been resurrected, often with a new cub or two. In terms of our soul’s journey, this pertains to experiences of transformation and rebirth  that awaken us to new insights about the unconscious world beneath our ordinary awareness.

A golden bear in my collection of bear symbols.

A golden bear in my collection of bear symbols.

It was only natural that Bear would become a cherished symbol when I was compelled by unconscious forces to embark on a painful spiritual quest. Although initially devastating, my encounter with the Self within eventually brought far greater rewards than the familiar comforts I left behind. Like Bear, I too am now at home in the unknown where I love to roam the wilderness and fish for nourishment in dark, deep waters.

Many Native Americans associate bears with spiritual introspection. So do I. Bear emerged during a phase of massive psycho-spiritual house-cleaning and remodeling. I was attending weekly classes on Jungian psychology, studying books, recording my dreams, and writing down meaningful insights in my first book about psycho-spiritual development. For reasons I did not fully understand, a golden bear became a prominent symbol in that book. Just as Bear spends long periods of time in inward-focused hibernation each year, so was I thoroughly immersed in my inner world.

Some years ago a new theme, return to nature,  began to demand my attention. It manifested in ways unusual for me then: a decreased motivation to write, restlessness, attraction to the outdoors, and an alien itch for more physical activity. I recognized another threshold, another opportunity to follow Bear.

As large animals that are so human-like at the same time they are so strangely other, bears generate an awareness of, and reverence for, the instinctual life of the body and soul. In a culture such as ours, based as it is on a centuries-old tradition of valuing mind over matter and repressing the instincts, Bear reminds us that we ourselves are animals, and that, in the soul-stirring words of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Fred and me before a circus-themed costume party.

A scary bear and an affectionate bear tamer before a circus-themed costume party.

Once the golden bear called me out of unconsciousness and into awareness of the sacred place within. Now it calls me out of myself. You’ve hibernated long enough, my bears say. Come out here and find us! It’s time to explore your senses and immerse yourself in your body and nature, the final sacred place for pilgrims such as you.

What symbols have appeared in your dreams?  How have they brought healing meaning to your life’s journey?

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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

Why Do We Need The Feminine Side of God? February 23, 2016

“…we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery, of how the divine light of the soul creates a body in the womb of a woman, and how the mother shares in this wonder, giving her own blood, her own body, to what will be born.  Our culture’s focus on a disembodied, transcendent God has left women bereft, denying them the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love. What we do not realize is that this patriarchal denial affects not only every woman, but also life itself. When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life.” ~Lewellyn Vaughn-Lee (Parabola, Spring, 2016)

In the pre-history of our species we struggled to survive like every living thing. We acted on our instincts to mate (the instinct for sex) and find food and protect our young (the instinct for nurturance). We knew how to find and build shelters (the instinct for activity) in the same way foxes know how to dig dens and birds know how to build nests.

Our survival depended on hunting. The best hunters were emotionless, task-oriented, focused, and factually precise. These are qualities of the brain’s left-hemisphere. As the human brain evolved, the most successful hunters were those whose left-hemisphere qualities were more highly developed. While this improved our chances for survival, we were far from finished.

One of the most significant outcomes of the left hemisphere’s development was the emergence of the ego from the maternal matrix of primordial unconsciousness. Until the ego showed up we were unaware of ourselves as a separate species, as beings who could choose not to act on our every instinct.

The birth of the ego marked the birth of human consciousness. The unique combination of the ego and physical developments like thumbs and the ability to walk upright eventually resulted in the emergence and strengthening of two additional instincts: the instinct for reflection and the instinct for creativity. Increasingly our specialization in these two set us apart from other animals.

With the creation of words, the basic unit of left-brained logic and reason, we had new tools to aid our survival. We wondered who had created us, we told stories to explain life’s mysteries, we celebrated the mysteries with ceremonies and rituals, colorful fabrics, beautiful art and crafts. And we taught our children to do the same.

But when we created alphabets in the second millennium BCE and could record the words for future generations, a subtle change was set into motion.  The cleverest and most dominant males who saw the power of the written word began to equate their left-brained logos qualities with masculinity and maleness and used their written words to acquire power.

Eventually, the patriarchs of Judaism, Christianity, and then Islam forbade people to create life-like, ‘graven’ images (images and symbols being specialties of the brain’s right hemisphere) of God for worship. Many historians, philosophers and theologians now believe this was an effort to eradicate all signs of Goddess worship.  Gradually the bias toward left hemisphere qualities and against those of the right, especially ones not consciously understood or those seen as threats to male-dominant hierarchies, spread to include femininity and femaleness.

Our ego creates and uses words to try to understand life’s mysteries, while our unconscious Self naturally and spontaneously creates symbols and images that bring us into a meaningful relationship with the mysteries. Both genders are born with two-hemisphered brains and the capacity for both perspectives.  Each is necessary to a complete God-image and a conscious, balanced, meaningful life.  Yet some people still profoundly distrust mythos thinking, women, creativity, and anything they consider “feminine.”

“The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real, and to reveal to us the mystery, the divine purpose to being alive.” ~Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee

CorpusCallosum222Luckily, humanity is still evolving. We bring moral sensibility to the table. We no longer condone a dominator, dictator mentality. We question unjust cultural biases, economic practices, and religious beliefs, even our own. We want our lives to have meaning and purpose. We are in search of our souls. To find them we’re re-engaging the faculties of both sides of our brains in maturing ways.

Thus, is the Western world returning to the Divine Feminine, but in a newer, more conscious way. This quote from Corpus Optima provides a biological explanation:

“The corpus callosum is the connecting terminal between the two lobes, the main channel between the two hemispheres, consisting of a profuse number of neural connections. It…allows the two lobes to communicate with each other. It holds the most complex group of nerves in the human body and provides for an integrated whole brain–and consciousness. It is through the neural connections of the corpus callosum that the two hemispheres work together for wholeness.”

Now we seek a new God-image: a deity of fully conscious, fully integrated masculinity and femininity to remind us of the sacred wholeness that dwells within each of us.

Image Credit:  Brain Balance: Google Images. Corpus Collosum: Google Images.

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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

Inanna: Myth of Descent February 9, 2016

Inanna: myth of descent

Note:  Most of us are familiar with hero myths.  Today we see these “solar” myths from the patriarchal era as metaphors for the ego’s heroic efforts to conquer the “dragon” of unconsciousness and ascend into the heights of power, success, acclaim, fulfillment and enlightenment. Far fewer people are familiar with “lunar” descent myths, some of which predate the solar myths and feature women. Their themes are about loss, suffering, death and rebirth with resultant deepened self-knowledge, wisdom, compassion, trust and love.

Primitive humans probably created these myths to describe the cycles of life as it progressed through nature’s seasons, and to reassure themselves that spring’s sprouting and summer’s blossoming will always follow agriculture’s decline in the fall and apparent death in winter. But Dr. Carl Jung proved time and again that they are also stories about the life of the soul which can be of enormous comfort to individuals who find themselves in a descent phase of life.

In keeping with the onset of winter, this past December Susanne van Doorn featured a series of posts about the mythological theme of descent on her blog, Mindfunda. I was honored to be invited to write her first guest post about the Journey to the Underworld.  The following is a repost of that article.

Inanna
Jean Raffa

Today’s Guest author is Dr. Jean Raffa, a former television producer and college professor who—with the help of Jungian psychology—began following her passions for self-discovery and writing during mid-life. Jean has written several books. Her first was “The Bridge to Wholeness.” Her second book, “Dream Theatres of the Soul,” got her invited to make a keynote speech at the International Associations for the Study of Dreams in the summer of 2015. You can see her videos about this book at her YouTube channelHer newest Wilbur Award-winning book is called “Healing the Sacred Divide.”  Next week, Elaine Mansfield will write about the darkness of the descent.

On March 11-12, 2016, Jean will appear with author Elaine Mansfield at the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota for a presentation on descent, loss and grief based on the myth of Inanna.

Myth of Inanna: 3 kinds of Descent

A psychological descent can take many forms. Sometimes it shows up in strategies to escape painful present realities by regressing into past memories. We’re consumed by a bittersweet yearning for the “good old days” when we were young and innocent. Life was easy and we were on top of the world.

Inanna
Picture: viewsfromtheroof.com

 

We were a handsome Apollo, a confident football star and president of the high school student body who is trying to recapture our youth by driving a sporty new car or finding a younger wife. We were a beautiful, innocent Persephone, an entitled daughter and gifted student who has been pulled into the dark realms of obsessive binge eating, shopping sprees and plastic surgery.

A second kind of descent is forced on us by circumstances beyond our control: an accident, illness, divorce, loss of a home or job, death of a parent, child, or spouse. These can plunge us into the depths of a depression where grief and sorrow are constant companions.

Inanna
Picture: huffingtsonpost

 

Then there’s the existential descent into meaninglessness which appears uninvited at mid-life. Suddenly the beliefs and ideals that served so well in the first half of life no longer work, yet questioning them feels dangerous. Worse, we’ve met our shadow in feelings and urges we can no longer ignore and our naively positive self-image is irretrievably damaged.

Captivated by the archetypal Hero’s widely publicized and deeply satisfying rise to success, we are rarely prepared for our conflicts and losses. To an ego that has prided itself on being in control and doing everything right, it can feel as if we are adrift in a chaotic sea. Kris Kristofferson described this painful experience in his song, “Shipwrecked in the 80’s.” For some, the metaphor of falling into an abyss and plunging into what St. John of the Cross called a “dark night of the soul” is more apt.

Inanna

 

From the age of 17 I derived all the meaning I needed from my religion. Then at 37, I experienced an existential descent. On the outside it was business as usual, but inside I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Nine years later I was rescued by Jungian psychology. After committing to a regular practice of study, reading, self-reflection and dreamwork I finally began to understand what had happened. My ego had been brutally assaulted by unconscious instinctual forces within my psyche. Brutal? So it felt to me. Nonetheless my ordeal was life-serving. Without it, I would never have willingly explored my unconscious and been rewarded with the elixir of a revitalized life-force and the gold of affirming self-knowledge.

Inanna and the Descent Myth

Myths from every culture and religion are allegories of psychological and spiritual truths. In them, we can find guidance and healing meaning for our lives. Seeing the similarities between my story and the Sumerian descent myth of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, brought me great comfort.

 

Inanna
Inanna Queen of Heaven
unkown artist on easy.com

 

The first half of Inanna’s life was, like mine, fairly predictable. We both struggled to create a comfortable home, affirm our individuality, and establish our authority. Inanna accomplishes this by having a bed and a throne made for her. Then she cleverly tricks Enki, the God of Wisdom, into giving her the gifts of civilization, which she shares with the city she rules. She tops it all off (she assumes) by courting, seduction, bearing children, and fulfilling her Queenly duties.

I, too, gained knowledge through my cleverness:  enough, at least, to get a college scholarship. I earned two degrees, met, courted and married my husband, established a home, and birthed a daughter and a son. Eventually I earned a doctoral degree and a college teaching position. I’ve done it all, I thought with a measure of self-satisfaction. That’s when I learned that cleverness, knowledge, possessions and physical comfort do not define success or insure fulfillment.

My descent from Inanna’s “Great Above” to the “Great Below” began when my shadow broke into my awareness with a moral conflict between two intolerable choices.  I was profoundly tempted to break a rule that had always been sacrosanct to me, and appalled at myself for considering it. I spent sleepless nights praying to the God I had been taught to believe in, challenging beliefs that felt outdated and meaningless while fearing retribution for my audacity. I found little joy in living. My stomach hurt much of the time. I lost 20 pounds. At times I knew there was meaning in my ordeal, but my knowing provided scant relief. Mostly I felt alone and miserable. Like Inanna and Persephone, I was introduced to the dark underbelly of the unconscious beneath my naive “good girl” self-image. The shock was devastating.

Inanna is a “good girl” too:  a loving wife to Dumuzi, a mother, and a sister to Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. At mid-life Inanna descends into the underworld to, by some accounts, attend the funeral of Ereshkigal’s husband. Or was her call, “Let him come. Come, man, come!” an invitation to her animus, her unconscious masculine side?

 

Inanna
Inanna courting Dumuzi
Image: Beyondpottery.blogspot.com

 

On the way down she is humiliated by being stripped of all her earthly possessions: symbols of her beauty, success, femininity and the power she has worked so hard to attain. Humiliation is a crucial element of descent myths because crisis and suffering are the only powers that can destroy an ego’s belief in its invincibility.

The story of Inanna in body and soul

If we look for it, we will find that every detail of a myth can have psychological and spiritual meaning. For example, the number three in myths and fairy tales heralds the arrival of Mystery. Receiving three wishes, asking for help three times, or being the third and youngest child to attempt a difficult task signals our readiness for an initiation that will force us out of childhood innocence into mature responsibility and consciousness.

Inanna
I Tjing hexagram 3: Difficulty at the Beginning

 

Sure enough, three shows up in the story of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, too. At the bottom of her descent she is met by Ereshkigal who, perhaps jealous of her sister’s charmed life in the world above, has her hung naked on a meat hook where she suffers for three long days. I hung on my metaphorical meat hook for three years, plus another six during which my suffering gradually diminished.

Like Inanna’s descent, mine was a painful physical, emotional and spiritual experience. But, unwilling to give up or make a terrible mistake, I persevered in my outer life and stirred the contents of my inner world over a low, reflective fire. Ever so slowly, this alchemical opus brought about lasting changes.

My body awakened to instinctual energies I had long repressed. My ears heeded my soul’s cries of pain. My heart felt compassion. My ego’s center of gravity shifted from a place of control and resistance to a place of surrender and acceptance of forces far more powerful than my puny will. My eyes were opened to my sovereignty over my own life and my childish dependence on others dissolved. I began to make my own choices and take responsibility for them. Death took up its abode on my left shoulder and Choice on my right, each whispering daily reminders to savor every moment.

Hero myths have healing meaning too, but “happily ever after” does not tell the whole story.  Descent myths do.

On the third day, Inanna is rescued by her loyal priestess, Ninshubur, and Enki, the God of Culture, and she returns to life in the world above. There she faces new problems, but now she has the awareness to handle them with wisdom and balance. With Inanna’s help, I’m getting better at that too.

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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