Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The True Meaning of Christmas Stories December 10, 2019

“Stories … protect us from chaos, and maybe that’s what we, unblinkered at the end of the 20th century, find ourselves craving. Implicit in the extraordinary revival of storytelling is the possibility that we need stories — that they are a fundamental unit of knowledge, the foundation of memory, essential to the way we make sense of our lives: the beginning, middle and end of our personal and collective trajectories. It is possible that narrative is as important to writing as the human body is to representational painting. We have returned to narrative — in many fields of knowledge — because it is impossible to live without them.” ~Bill Buford, nonfiction writer and former fiction editor at The New Yorker

Here in the northern hemisphere of the Americas, ’tis the season for watching televised reruns of our favorite Christmas movies. Why do we love them so much? What is it that brings us back, again and again, to re-experience stories we’ve heard so many times? Perhaps we can get a clue from recaps of a few that stand out for me.

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” ~J.K. Rowling, novelist, screenwriter and film producer

A Christmas Story: Ralphie, a precocious, imaginative nine-year-old, wants a BB gun for Christmas but is discouraged by his mother, his teacher, and a department store Santa Claus who all fear “you’ll shoot your eye out!” After a series of episodes that depict the yearnings, humor, pathos, and disillusionment of an ordinary child growing up in a mid-century American family, Ralphie’s usually distracted and frustrated, but fundamentally loving father surprises him on Christmas morning with a BB gun. Ralphie does almost shoot his eye out, but it’s still his favorite Christmas ever!

White Christmas: Two soldier/singers enlist a sister act to assist them in helping their aging and discouraged superior officer from their military years save his failing country inn in rural Vermont by producing a Christmas musical extravaganza. Their efforts result in a spectacular show, and just as it ends, snow begins to fall. This will insure a white Christmas and a lucrative ski season for the inn.

It’s a Wonderful Life:  George Bailey’s missed opportunities and financial problems have brought him to such despair that shortly before Christmas he contemplates ending his life by jumping off a bridge. As he prepares himself, his guardian angel dives in the water and George ends up saving him. After the angel takes George through an alternative reality where he sees what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds, George returns to his present reality which he now sees through the eyes of love, joy, and gratitude for the miracle of his wonderful life.

Elf: Orphaned as an infant, Buddy grows up at the North Pole with Santa and the elves believing he’s an elf, albeit a large, awkward, and very strange one. Painfully disillusioned when he learns he’s not, he takes off for the big city and discovers his birth father, a cynical and driven workaholic who rejects him. But Buddy’s innocent, helpful nature wins the love of the woman of his dreams and transforms his father into a caring husband and father who has learned from Buddy to appreciate the important things in life.

“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” Mary Catherine Bateson, writer and cultural anthropologist

What do we learn through stories? We learn about who we are, what our souls look like and yearn for, the things that are more important to us than money or material possessions, more valuable than gold. We learn that we are lucky to be alive and loved. We learn that we want to stay present to precious moments of wonder and joy and be grateful for them.

Hope, yearning, suffering, kindness, humor, community, transformation, and love. These are archetypal themes about universal experiences and emotions. We’ve all been nine years old, hoping for that very special present. We’ve all suffered disillusionment, disappointment, regret, and despair over mistakes made and dreams unfulfilled. We’ve all been the recipients of acts of kindness and been changed by them. We’ve all experienced moments of joy, gratitude, and love for the blessings of a life we want to last forever.

And in the end, that’s what all our stories — not just Christmas stories, but also hero journey stories, myths, fairy tales, and autobiographical stories — come down to:  our basic human need for a miraculous transformational experience of being known and loved that will fulfill our soul’s yearning, bring hope, and end our suffering. Whatever our religion, the wish to improve and be conscious and mindful of the miracle of our life is the true meaning of the stories that last. Among those, the ones that remind us of this wish are the most beloved.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? What do you love most about them?

Stories are the way to capture the hopes, dreams, and visions of a culture. They are true as much as data are true. The truth of the powerful and irresistible story illustrates in a way data can’t begin to capture. It’s the stories that make you understand.” — Carl Sessions Stepp, professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” ~Joan Didion, writer and journalist

“God made man because He loves stories.” — Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Image credits:  Google images, unknown sources.

 

A Thanksgiving Blessing November 26, 2019

I began writing Matrignosis in March of 2010. This post, A Thanksgiving Blessing, was published on November 23 of that year. It was a time of renewed hope and joy at the wondrous blessing of having five grandchildren. They’re nine years older now, and I’m so thankful to be able to tell you that they’re all well and thriving. My beloved granddog Bear, is gone, but memories of him still warm my heart. We have a new granddog now, and Izzy holds a special place of her own in our hearts. 

Here’s the original post, slightly revised, from November 23 of 2010.

Years ago when The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth was first published, I presented several workshops about the differences between the life cycles of men and women. Using the model of the ancient descent myths which preceded hero myths and often featured women whose journeys followed a pattern of sacrifice, suffering, death, and rebirth — for example, the Sumerian myth of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth — I encouraged participants to reflect on how they had experienced these stages in their own lives.

My purpose was threefold. First, I wanted them to understand the differences between how their feminine and masculine sides experience life, and to know that both are valid and worthy of our attention. Second, I wanted to guide them in an experience of inner work that would expand their self-knowledge. Third, I wanted them to appreciate the repetitive nature of life’s processes so that they might acquire trust that each ending, even the death of the body, is also a threshold to a hopeful new beginning.

One memory from those workshops stands out from the others. Having experienced a lengthy and painful death-like period in the middle of my life, I was speaking about the hope and gratitude that had followed it when a psychiatrist asked me a question. “I have a client who is a deeply depressed and bitter quadriplegic,” she told us. “He can’t do anything for himself. He will spend the rest of his life this way. He is not religious. What hope can I give him about rebirth? What should he be grateful for?”

The room was silent. My first thoughts were, Who am I to be talking about rebirth when I’ve never had a death experience remotely like the one this man is suffering at this very moment? What kind of hope does he have? I had an answer, but in that moment I couldn’t think how to express it in a way that wouldn’t sound flippant. I felt very humbled and remember sharing that emotion, but have no recollection of what else I said. I’ve carried that question with me ever since and would like to answer it to the best of my ability now, just in case that doctor or patient, or someone like them, might someday find my thoughts helpful.

If you are reading this post on the day of its publication two days before Thanksgiving, I am on a plane headed for Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia, sites of some of the most horrendous killing fields on the planet. There, vast numbers of human beings suffered and died in ways I cannot imagine or bear to think about. What was left for them to be grateful for in their last moments?

Life. They had Sophia’s sacred spark of Life. Until their last breaths they had traces of sensory awareness, memories, thoughts, feelings. Perhaps they saw the sunlight sparkle on a blade of grass, felt a cool breeze, remembered the taste of chocolate ice cream or the feel of a mother’s tender touch, experienced a rush of love for their lovers, children, or grandchildren.

You and I have Life. We have the capacity to be conscious of it and present to it in this moment. We can choose to let go of the past, stop worrying about the future, and attend to what is. Here. Now. Life within us, life around us. What could be more worthy of thanks?

No matter where you are or what you are suffering, you can be present to the miracle of being alive in this precious moment, this perfect Now. May your awareness bring you hope and gratitude this Thanksgiving Day and in the days to come.

 

Hera Possession November 19, 2019

This post from September 27, 2011 is one of my top five most-read since I started this blog.  It’s time I posted it again, this time with three new paragraphs at the end!  Enjoy.

When we were in our thirties my husband and I were invited to a party at the home of a couple we’d recently met.  Halfway through the evening I was sitting on the stairs when a man I didn’t know sat beside me. As we made small talk I began to realize he was flirting with me. I’m not great at flirting so I was a bit uncomfortable, but he wasn’t saying anything the least bit offensive or inappropriate so I remained open and friendly.

After a time three women walked to the foot of the stairs, sat in a semicircle on the floor, and stared coldly and silently up at me. The hostility emanating from them was visible. I tried to include them in the conversation, but they simply sat and glared. I felt awful. I realized they must be friends of this man’s wife — perhaps one of them was his wife — who were banding together to intimidate this new female whom they saw as a threat. I had done nothing provocative, yet these women were obviously furious at me for attracting his attention.

This seemed so strange. They were not mad at the man, even though their behavior suggested he might have had an unsavory track record.  They were mad at me, a woman they didn’t even know. It didn’t seem to occur to them that they had probably been in similar situations.  They seemed to feel no kinship with me whatsoever. Our femaleness was not a basis of understanding and compassion, but grounds for suspicion and hatred.

In Greek mythology, Hera, the long-suffering, loyal wife of the powerful, philandering Zeus, was like the women at the foot of the stairs.  When Zeus deceived and seduced the innocent maiden Callisto, Hera in her jealous rage turned Callisto into a Bear which she then plotted to have Callisto’s son kill.  Zeus got off scot-free. This sort of thing happens again and again in the Greek myths. Why? Because Zeus and Hera represent archetypal patterns.

Of the seven major Greek goddesses that represent feminine archetypes, Hera is the one I’ve always liked least. Her fidelity and commitment to her husband were admirable, but she was so darned jealous and spiteful and their relationship was so filled with hostility and tension that they had no real intimacy. Moreover, her single-minded devotion to her role of wife and her power struggle with her more dominant partner in that one-sided relationship blinded her to the innocence of any woman who might unwittingly capture his notice.

“Hera possession” is a shadow of the Queen archetype. Our healthy Queen represents our potential to be sovereign over our own lives, understanding and caring partners, and cultural leaders who nurture healthy growth in others. But as long as our ego’s fragility and outward focus compel us to conform to society’s level of awareness, we will, like Hera, sacrifice everything — including opportunities for growth, relationships with friends and loved ones, and the most precious truths of our souls — to remain in the dark womb of inertia and unknowing where we can maintain our illusion of safety and status.  Like Hera, we may not be very happy there, but we will defend our position to our last breath.

And who will pay for our fearful need to conform?  Everyone. Women being jealous of other women, women not liking other women, women not wanting to mentor or learn from other women — this kind of divisiveness among women is not good for anyone, anywhere. Women will never fully break through the patriarchal glass ceiling that tries to prevent us from attaining fair and equal treatment unless we do two things.

First, we need to question and change negative gender-related attitudes by working on ourselves. I can think of at least seven goals we should work toward. If you can think of more to add to this list, let me know:

  • be more mindful of subtle forms of discrimination against you because of your gender

  • be more mindful of your attitudes and treatment of men which might unconsciously trigger your negative attitudes and behavior toward other women

  • train yourself to treat everyone with respect and fairness regardless of gender (or age, skin color, or anything else)

  • acknowledge your inherent worth and the inherent worth of all human beings

  • learn to love yourself and treat yourself with kindness, regardless of how others treat you

  • assume your rightful responsibilities at work, home, and in society; fulfill them to the best of your abilities

  • ask for the same respect and just treatment you give to others from anyone who denies it to you, regardless of their gender

Second, align yourself with wise and caring like-minded sisters and brothers who want to help. Work with them to achieve the egalitarian treatment everyone deserves. It’s bad enough when others try to diminish us. Let’s not do it to ourselves or each other.

Image credit:  Google free images, artist unknown

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

Joy Harjo: Crazy Brave October 22, 2019

“The story matrix is all energy & music. There is a luminosity that connects all of us – everything. Even the worst of us are luminous beings. We are all stories. No such thing as time. We are each other’s stories.” ~Joy Harjo

“Harjo is a magician and a master of the English language.” ~Jonah Raskin, San Francisco Chronicle 

If you’ve been following Matrignosis you know that at the age of ten I had a Big dream about the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and Silver. Years later when I discovered Jungian psychology, I began to understand Tonto’s role in that dream. Now I believe he symbolized my inner shaman, my  instinctual native intelligence that eventually led me to my passions for writing and dreamwork.

Had I not taken that dream and the intense feelings it aroused in me seriously; had I not respected my inner realities and conducted years of inner work to understand them; had I not eventually overcome my fear of putting myself out there in my writing, I would never have tapped into my creative potential, never made the contribution that only I could make.

Every psyche contains a deep well of native intelligence and creative power. We all contain an archetypal guide — Carl Jung called it the Hierophant — who can lead us there. Hierophant is a Greek word for a wise person who brings people into the presence of wholeness and holiness by interpreting universal principles and sacred mysteries. In your psyche your Hierophant equates to a form of metacognition that taps into the specialties of both hemispheres of your brain — logos and mythos — and weaves them together into a bigger, more complete perspective on life than either side alone can imagine.

To awaken your Hierophant and the destiny to which it can lead you, you have to overcome all manner of enemies and obstacles. Some — like fear, lethargy, self-criticism, self-doubt, ignorance, and pride lie within you. Others — poverty, racism, family dysfunction, social pressure to conform, lack of education, and abuse — are forced on you from without. The way to find the whole and holy place within you that is guarded by your dragons is to acquire the courage to face them all full on. You have to be brave. Crazy Brave.

Joy Harjo is a Crazy Brave Hierophant. On June 19, 2019, this internationally known award-winning poet, storyteller, activist, saxophone player, performer, author, and playwright was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate. She is the first Native American to hold this position. Born into the Mvskoke/Creek Nation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the final destination of the Trail of Tears, she has captured America’s imagination and respect by following her inner shaman past her personal dragons to her creative well.

Listen with your heart to these words from her inaugural reading as U.S. Poet Laureate:

“…when you go into the place of poetry, as a writer or a reader of poetry, you go into that place beyond time, you go into that place beyond words…and you find things there, you find yourself, you can find ancestors, you find out that those stones out there can speak, and the trees have their own language. Now the scientists are coming out with all kinds of books about this, but this is part of our old knowledge.”

Shaman knowledge. Hierophant knowledge.

Harjo’s genius lies in her ability to weave both sides of her whole and holy Self — her soul’s twins — into one creative tapestry that contains the world without and the world within, past and present, soul and spirit, logos and mythos, literal fact and gut instinct, masculine and feminine, bright side and dark shadow.

As the Judges Citation of the 2019 Jackson Prize from the Poetry Society of America declares,

“Harjo’s work speaks not only to the world we live in, but to the unseen world that moves through us, the thread that has connected us all from the start…. Harjo’s poems embody a rich physicality and movement; they begin in the ear and the eye, they go on to live and hum inside the body…. Throughout her luminous and substantial body of work, there is a sense of timelessness, of ongoingness, of history repeating; these are poems that hold us up to the truth and insist we pay attention.”

This crazy brave woman’s ability to hold both worlds together and manifest them in her work has resulted in nine books of poetry, a memoir, five CD’s of music and poetry, a one-woman show, and several plays and children’s books. You can read about her many honors and awards at the links below.

I met Joy Harjo last Thursday night when she and two other artists — multidisciplinary artist, Sook Jin Jo, and composer/performer/producer, Larry Mitchell (who also plays guitar with Joy’s band) — were introduced to local members of the Atlantic Center for the Arts, where they are currently master artists in residency.

My first experience of my Hierophant appeared in the dream of a ten year-old girl who idolized a Hollywood characterization of a fictional Native American tracker named Tonto. But now that I’ve experienced Joy Harjo’s mystical, hauntingly courageous style, in my imaginarium I see her and Tonto, two bold and proud warriors — Mvskoke/Creek and Mohawk — standing together. My personal image of my soul’s twins feels complete.

Enjoy this blessing that opens her book, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. I dedicate it to the memory of Cicero Greathouse, my dear crazy brave artist friend who will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.

Bless the poets, the workers for justice,

the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache

the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh

meaning — We will all make it through,

despite politics and wars, despite failures

and misunderstandings. There is only love.

 

Joy Harjo’s website

Joy Harjo named first Native American poet laureate

Joy Harjo Becomes The 1st Native American U.S. Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo Becomes First Native American Writer to Be Named U.S. Poet Laureate 

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

Sex, Suffering, Shadow, and Alchemical Transformation September 24, 2019

The secret of alchemy was in fact the transcendent function, the transformation of personality through the blending and fusion of the noble with the base components, of the differentiated with the inferior functions, of the conscious with the unconscious. Carl Jung, Vol. 7 of CW, par. 360.The

A friend and I have been discussing painful, life-changing experiences and what we’ve learned from them. Why do they happen? Why do they cause us and those we love so much suffering? Is there meaning in humanity’s endless suffering? The suffering of our planet? Can anything good come from it? Here are my thoughts on one of life’s biggest questions.

Jung said we have five instincts—nurturance, activity, reflection, sex, and creativity. Normally, we’re unaware of our instinctual needs, but at a deep unconscious level, our inability to fulfill them causes great suffering. The instinct for sex is associated with humanity’s desire for love and pleasure. These days, experiencing love and pleasure seems to be our top priority. Not finding it creates enormous suffering, which may be why we are so obsessed with sex. But our failure to satisfy the other instincts can also cause us to suffer. 

strong attraction to another person might initially appear to be about sex, but the love and pleasure you desire is not always or only sexual. Other instincts are also involved. You can find deep pleasure in loving yourself, others, and life. You can’t force love, and you won’t feel the real thing if your youthful need for safety, guidance, and reassurance aren’t met. So maybe there’s something about this person that involves your instinct for nurturance. Maybe your parents couldn’t give you what you needed and this fascinating person instinctively feels like someone who can.

Or maybe your attraction comes from an unfulfilled yearning to express your creative instinct. If you repressed your artistic interests in your youth because of cultural standards and pressures, your attraction to art and artists could be rooted in an unconscious desire to actualize your own creativity. Awakening that instinct will likewise provide access to untapped reservoirs of passion and pleasure.

Regardless of why you think you’re suffering or which instincts are involved, at bottom your pain is caused by your separation from your transcendent function—your true Self. What you don’t realize is that your ego’s conscious life is only the tip of your psychological iceberg. Beneath the water’s surface, you harbor memories of past experiences, forgotten thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and emotions. Deeper than that, the collective unconscious you share with every other human being contains myriad archetypes—each with different personality traits—and at least five different instincts—each with specific needs and urges. Like the inhabitants of the ocean’s depths, your unconscious entities interact with one another, and the alchemy of their interactions transforms you.

To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. Carl Jung, The Red Book, p. 249.

Facing dark inner realities is painful. From childhood you’ve unconsciously disowned traumatic experiences and memories. When they seep into your awareness, it can feel like a matter of life or death to ignore, escape, or rise above them. But anything you have repressed simmers in your unconscious where it can morph into a powerful shadow you can no longer contain. When this happens, like steam from a pressure cooker, your shadow can burst into your consciousness and instigate a personal crisis.

This is a shattering experience that can seriously mess with your life. But things will not necessarily stay this way forever. As my friend wisely wrote when we discussed these matters, “the trauma creates the roots for the drama that cannot be resolved without trauma.” Pure poetry. In fact, this scenario is typical of the Hero’s Journey.

This is not just an imagined story.  Myths are rooted in psycho-spiritual processes with transforming power. Like caterpillar whose body has to dissolve before it can morph into a beautiful new butterfly, your ego has to die to old habits and fears before your true Self can revel in the light of day.

With enough time and effort, you can acquire self-knowledge, love for yourself and others, and gratitude for the miracle of life. Even then, your suffering will not be over. Like the poor, our dragons will always be with us. But you will find comfort in the knowledge that you are taming yours and that your heroic accomplishments make a difference. In assuming the burden of your own suffering, you lighten the load carried by your loved ones, our planet, and every form of life. 

Image credits: Alchemy, from Camille Flammarion’s 1888 book L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire (“The Atmosphere: Popular Meteorology”).Google images. Butterfly, personal photo.

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

How Does Love Emerge? September 3, 2019

Creative works which make such powerful impressions that we never forget them hold valuable lessons because they always depict the themes of our soul’s journey, usually in symbols that become deeply meaningful to us. This can be true of something as simple as a folk song or as complex as a symphony.

In the early years of our marriage my husband and I saw the film Blume in Love, starring George Segal and Susan Anspach. As we used to say in the 70’s, it “blew my mind!” There on the screen was a couple I could identify with. Blume was a successful young attorney blithely immersed in his work. Nina was a sensitive, serious-minded, idealistic social worker who sought inner peace and wanted to save the world.

While these two loved each other very much, both were self-absorbed and neither had a clue about the other’s inner reality. Nina’s discovery of Blume in their bed with his secretary resulted in their divorce and initiated a painful maturing process in which Blume came to see Nina’s significance as an individual in her own right, and Nina began to empower her true self while softening and forgiving Blume for being human.

Although the plot details were different, this romantic comedy portrayed a variation on our theme and depicted the essential challenge of every couple in an intimate partnership: to learn how to love. As a shockingly innocent and ignorant product of 1950’s and 60’s social conditioning, I was finally getting it that marriage is not a happily-ever-after instant fix involving two separate individuals whose roles and feelings will never change, but a container for soul-making. Every committed relationship is, in fact, a crucible in which two souls are melted down, refined and transformed in the evolutionary fires of change.

Blume in Love showed me that both partners will make sacrifices, suffer, be tempted, and make mistakes. And if love is to grow and last, each will need to understand that the other has equal merit and deserves equal rights and respect. This is how we learn to love.

The film’s ending in which Blume and Nina are reconciled in Venice’s Piazza San Marco taught me another archetypal truth: In a relationship that survives this ordeal, both partners can experience a revitalizing new birth. Notice how this theme is symbolized by Nina’s pregnancy in the image above.

In the years since I first saw this film, I’ve had many dreams about being pregnant. Although I rarely understood them fully at the time, in retrospect I see that they signaled gestating new life of some kind that would soon emerge into my consciousness. Blume in Love made a powerful impact on me and the Self adopted its symbolism to advance my consciousness.

An earlier version of this post was originally published in January of 2012. Synchronistically, as I was writing it, my editor who was helping me prepare my book Healing the Sacred Divide for publication, sent me an e-mail containing the following quote by Adyashanti (from Emptiness Dancing). It’s a very apt ending for these musings about love and relationships:

“Most relationships start out as unconscious relationships. When the light of awakeness comes to shine inside of that relationship, the unconsciousness within it is going to be revealed. It’s very important not to spiritualize it when it gets revealed. Some people want to spiritualize their relationship instead of making it conscious. They want to make it into a spiritualized fantasy in which their partner meets all their spiritual ideas about what a relationship could be. They think they know what it’s supposed to be like, what it could be like, where it’s going to go.

“When you ease back from that, you return to something that’s very intimate and innocent, where you are finally willing to tell the truth, not to hide, not to force consciousness into some relationship agenda, but to simply let it emerge. Then you never know what it will be like at any moment —  how consciousness, awakeness, and love are going to want to emerge.”

What books and movies fascinate you? How have they helped love emerge?

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

 

A Path With Heart August 26, 2019

Here’s a spiritual truth I’ve learned through personal experience. Without self-knowledge, all the offerings of organized religion — group worship, teachings, scriptures, retreats, sacraments, guidance from helpful religious professionals — and all the correct beliefs, good intentions and divine interventions we can experience are not enough to transform us into spiritually mature beings.

Why? Because there is no such thing as spiritual maturity without psychological awareness! You can no more separate your spiritual self from the rest of your psyche than you can separate your right brain from your left and still be a whole, balanced human being.

In A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield tells the story of how he spent 10 years, many of them as a Buddhist monk, in systematic spiritual practices conducted primarily through his mind. Having had visions, revelations, and many deep awakenings and new understandings, this holy man returned to the United States to work and continue his studies in graduate school. To his surprise, he discovered that his years of meditation had helped him very little with his feelings or human relationships. In his words,

“I was still emotionally immature, acting out the same painful patterns of blame and fear, acceptance and rejection that I had before my Buddhist training; only the horror now was that I was beginning to see these patterns more clearly. I could do loving-kindness meditations for a thousand beings elsewhere but had terrible trouble relating intimately to one person here and now. I had used the strength of my mind in meditation to suppress painful feelings, and all too often I didn’t even recognize that I was angry, sad, grieving, or frustrated until a long time later. The roots of my unhappiness in relationships had not been examined, I had very few skills for dealing with my feelings or for engaging on an emotional level or for living wisely with my friends and loved ones.”

Many of us have known spiritually-oriented people who think very well of themselves yet are arrogant, mean-spirited, impatient, intolerant, critical or unloving. This common phenomenon is partly why Freud was so critical of religion. He must have asked himself many times how people who professed to love God could be so hateful to their families and neighbors; how such lofty ideals could co-exist with such lousy relationships. In the face of this perceived hypocrisy he dismissed humanity’s spiritual nature and focused on understanding the sexual instinct, the repression of which he believed to be the true source of our problems.

It would take Freud’s maverick mentee, Carl Jung, to discover the fundamental reality of our spiritual natures and understand that they cannot be fully activated and empowered unless we take our inner lives seriously and commit ourselves to owning and integrating our disowned qualities — instincts, emotions, hidden motivations, archetypal inheritance, everything. Jung had learned for himself that neither psychological nor spiritual dogma can heal our souls and transform us into spirit persons:  only consciousness can do that.

The work of this spiritual and psychological pioneer has made all the difference in my life. For a list of Jungian books you can use to begin your own program of study, check out Inner City BooksChiron Publications, Shambhala Publications, and Spring Journal and Books.

I also encourage you to check out my books, listed below. They’re all about what I’ve learned about myself and the human psyche through Jungian psychology. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you read them in chronological order, beginning with The Bridge to Wholeness, then Dream Theatres of the Soul, then Healing the Sacred Divide. The above quote, “…there is no such thing as spiritual maturity without psychological awareness,” comes from the latter book.

For me, writing is both a psychological and a spiritual practice, and I’ve grown a great deal during and in between the writing of each of my books. I’m especially excited about what I’ve learned about archetypes since my last book. The Soul’s Twins: Emancipate Your Feminine and Masculine Archetypes is particularly relevant to the gender issues our world struggles with today. Look for it from Schiffer Publications next year.

Stay conscious.

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

 
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