Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Terry Pratchett on Life, Death and the Hero’s Journey March 16, 2015

Our neighbor's tabebuia tree

Our neighbor’s tabebuia tree

As I write this, it’s March 16, one day after the Ides of March.  This time of year has long been celebrated by religious observances honoring the delicate tension between Life and Death.  Poised at the end of Winter, March 15 still lies in the margins of Death. Yet, just a few days from now, Spring will arrive with its promise of rebirth and new Life.

Perhaps an intuitive awareness of the thin boundary between Life and Death is why this pair of opposites is on my mind today.  It started this morning when I took Izzie, my granddog, for a walk and was dazzled by Nature’s celebration of extravagant new colors and scents.  Then, when I returned to my computer and saw notification of someone’s retweet of a quote I posted on twitter last Thursday, I was reminded of Death.

“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.” ~Terry Pratchett

Blossoms on our lemon tree

Blossoms on our lemon tree

Sir Terry Pratchett, a writer who sold over 85 million books around the world, finally “let go” last Thursday, March 12, 2015.  Despite his diagnosis of a rare form of Alzheimer’s eight years ago, he continued to write. According to one article, last summer he completed his 41st novel in the Discworld series in which he collaborated with friend and fellow author, Neil Gaiman.

The article continues, “Just hours after he died, Death, known for his signature habit of ALWAYS SPEAKING IN CAPITALS in Pratchett’s novels, appeared on his twitter account with this news: “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”

“Death…is one of the most popular and prominent characters of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. He appears in 38 out of the 40 Discworld books published so far. In five of them, Death is a leading character.”

Yes, he was fascinated with Death, but if anyone loved and celebrated Life too, this man did.

Azaleas

Azaleas

“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.”

“So much universe, and so little time.”

Perhaps in reference to his early love for science fiction and his passion for creating comical fantasies with bizarre characters and other-worldly settings, he wrote:

“It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.”

An astute observer of human nature, a natural philosopher who asked the Big questions about Life and Death, and a moralist, Pratchett’s most endearing stylistic signature was his cheeky, yet vulnerable, irreverence:

“It’s not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing.”

“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.”

“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”~I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett

“‘And what would humans be without love?’ RARE, said Death.” ~Sourcery, Terry Pratchett

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Finally, Terry Pratchett was a terrific story-teller. Everyone likes a good story, but not all of us like the same kind of good story. For example, I know several inveterate book lovers who have no interest in mythology or some of the newer genres like science fiction and modern fantasy. I get the feeling some of them consider these to be cruder or more frivolous forms of writing than classics or “serious” contemporary writing. Being an avid fan of all three genres as well as many of the classics, I’ve often wondered why.

I think the answer lies in the parallel passions of readers and the authors whose books they adore. The great stories of mythology, for instance, generally have the most appeal for seekers oriented to philosophy, religion, and spirituality.

The same people also tend to love the works of writers like Dante’ (The Divine Comedy), Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf and Siddhartha), Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn),  and Kate Chopin (The Awakening), as well as more contemporary writers like Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet), John Fowles (The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus), and Ursula Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness and the Dispossessed).

What these books, Terry Pratchett’s books, and the people who love them have in common is that their stories were written by, and filled with, the wisdom of an individual who, having faced the terrors of Death, travels through Life in search of meaning, authenticity, self-knowledge and spiritual awakening on what Joseph Campbell called The Hero’s Journey.

Rest In Peace, Terry Pratchett. It is fitting that you left us during this season of transition from Death to new Life. The new world being born will be a bit kinder and wiser because you were in it.

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Image credits.  Small Gods/ThinkStock, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents/ThinkStock.

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.

 

What Do Dreams Have To Do With “Real” Life? Part II July 22, 2014

IndividuationandArchetypeLast time I shared a dream from over 20 years ago titled “Two Snakes in the Tree of Life.” So what did that dream have to do with “real” life?  Actually, dreams ARE real life.  They happen to everyone, even some animals.  They are facts.  We do not make them up.  They come from a place beyond Ego’s control: the unconscious.  Our unawareness of the unconscious does not negate its reality;  each dream proves its existence. When we trust it and explore its nightly dramas, ordinary life is transformed into the greatest adventure of all: living our own myth.

This is my all-time favorite dream and I’m still processing its message. It arrived shortly after I finished my first book about the inner life, The Bridge to Wholeness.  I had quit college teaching to follow my passion for writing, birthed my precious child, nurtured it through months of revisions, and was looking for a publisher. At a time when I was particularly vulnerable, this dream affirmed my choices and bolstered my courage to continue on my new path.

It is a mythic allegory about the psycho-spiritual initiation of my immature Ego (the little green snake) which had unconsciously identified with my culture’s masculine/Animus values.  It said that my destiny was to take the individuation (tree) journey through a dark and unknown way to integrate my Soul (brown female snake) into consciousness.

The Bridge to WholenessThe first stage of initiation was a slow awakening to Spirit through a lengthy immersion in the spiritual realm (hole).  This corresponded with the first half of my life when I escaped internal conflicts by immersing myself in church, the Bible, and masculine-oriented religious teachings.

The second stage began when the little green snake left the safe womb of conformity and ventured out on its own.  This was the right choice (right) for me, even though it opened me to the dangerous influence of the unconscious (left). The outer world equivalent to this plot development is that at age 37 I finally acknowledged my unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, overcame my inertia, and returned to college for my doctorate.

Act III featured an encounter with my earthy feminine Anima/Soul (brown female snake) who lived in the opposite, unconscious side of my psyche. Suddenly, her differing needs demanded equal time with Spirit.

In waking life I had come face to face with a moral dilemma, both sides of which were equally compelling, yet intolerable.  Fearful of making a terrible mistake that could have disastrous consequences, I tolerated the tension of their slow simmering in a Dark Night of the Soul for nine long years. Listening to the dialogues between Reason and Emotion, Conscious and Unconscious, Animus and Anima, Spirit and Soul, Ego and Self without giving in to my Ego’s desperate wish to escape was my salvation, for in the process, the alchemical vessel of my psyche was strengthened and empowered.

dreamtheatres2Fascinated by the strange image of the female snake biting down on the head of the little green snake, I looked for associations in Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Walker says that the serpent was originally identified with the Great Goddess and many ancient religions told stories about a male snake deity who was the Goddess’s consort.  Walker writes:

[This male snake]…gave himself up to be devoured by the Goddess.  The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex life of snakes, reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the 20th century:  that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him [italics mine] p. 904.

Bingo! This mythic image which I had never encountered before is an archetypal symbol of fertility, transformation and renewal! It appeared in my dream as a natural consequence of years of inner work and mirrored a life-changing transformation in my personality. This is why the last scene of the dream pointed not to death, but to new life. An apparent catastrophe was transformed into something sacred (rainbow) by the snakes’ bizarre embrace. The result was a more maturely individuated Ego and Animus (cowboy) and a deeply meaningful spirituality.

So my answer to,”What do dreams have to do with ‘real’ life?” is, “Everything that truly matters and is deeply real.”  They show us who we are: our greatest fears and deepest desires, our wounds and wishes, weaknesses and strengths.They tell us where we are and how to get where we want to go. They help us forgive our flaws and learn compassion for ourselves and others. They encourage our individuality and reward our healthy choices. They satisfy our soul’s yearning to be known and loved.

I still struggle daily to understand and accept myself, but thanks to my dreams and the writing through which I pour out my vital essence, I’m still evolving.  And beneath my ubiquitous self-doubt rests a solid foundation—laid by 25 years of recording and working on #4,552 dreams to date—of peaceful knowing.  My dreams tell me:  You are making a contribution only you can make. This is enough for me.

Your destiny is the result of the collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious. Carl Jung, Letters Volume I, p. 283.

Photos:  Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger is one of my favorite books by a Jungian analyst. It’s a must for the library of any serious seeker. To learn more about Jungian psychology from a layperson’s point of view check out any of my books.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Giving Thanks for the Sovereign Archetype November 20, 2012

The ethical impeccability of the Sovereign archetype is not easily won or highly developed in everyone.  A passion for justice, caring, equality, honesty, and morally responsible behavior are functions of experience, education, psychological maturity, economic security, and a “religious” attitude of reverence for the miracle and mystery of life.  These qualities are rare in individuals who’ve endured persistent abuse and agonizing struggles for love, safety and survival.

The more fortunate among us undergo a natural progression from youthful immersion in the unconscious maternal matrix, to an adolescent preoccupation with self, to caring about others as much as ourselves. This development is paralleled in the story of the human race.

In the early history of our species, as in the youth of the individual, the Sovereign was often projected onto the divine Creatrix, the Great Mother of life, and reverence for her species-preserving nurturance, combined with fear of her destructive potential, was the norm in collective thinking. In many parts of the world, trust in the imminence and benevolence of her human Beloved, the god-king, reduced anxiety, fostered peaceful relations, and restrained destructive tendencies for centuries at a time.

In our adolescence, groups became more organized and attached to their unique identities, and in the manner of teen-aged gangs, some became threats to others. As the ego came to dominate the psyche, a dominator mentality co-opted entire civilizations, and fierce loyalty to a distant, partisan male God who waged war against the tribe’s enemies became the norm.  Since then, the King archetype has largely ruled alone on Psyche’s throne.  From there he still motivates our youthful struggles for independence and autonomy within and without.

Wherever the King’s will to power and resistance to change are obsessive, countless individuals suffer atrocities. But people who work to tame their instincts and minimize their ego’s obsession with him begin to remember and respect the Queen’s subtler virtues of love, forgiveness and relatedness.

In recent history, her passion for individual rights and shared authority has reemerged into collective consciousness in the form of various political experiments.  In England, for example, monarchs had unlimited power until 1215 when the barons forced King John to sign the Magna Charta granting people certain civil and political liberties.  Five hundred and fifty years later, this concept evolved into the American Constitution with its Bill of Rights.

The growth of democracy is a natural consequence of evolving consciousness. As the Queen and King archetypes mature in enough individuals, groups grow less tolerant of hatred and injustice and more intent on balancing one-sided, hierarchical systems with caring and shared authority. This is why monarchies and dictatorships are giving way to republics and democracies. We can resist inner and outer change, but the ego can no more control maturing archetypes than it can the forces of Nature. Indeed, archetypes are forces of Nature.

As Americans give thanks this holiday season for the freedoms and rights we enjoy, may we remember that we earned them by consciously integrating our inner Kings and Queens. Some may not be happy with the outcome of our recent election, but evolving archetypal forces in the collective psyche have made their priorities known and our country’s future depends on our ability to work together to heed their messages. Here is one of them:

“There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.” –Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States

Wishing us all a more conscious Thanksgiving.

You can purchase Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

Partnership Between the King and Queen: The Sovereign November 16, 2012

The King and Queen archetypes are the primary authorities of our psyches and societies. We know of their existence because projections of them have ruled civilizations throughout human history.  If they were not part of our psychological makeup, we would not need to create them in the world. These archetypes cause people everywhere to choose and obey moral authorities who (we hope) will protect us, govern us, nurture our development, and enable us and our progeny to thrive.

Our need to create order and virtue in our social groups is a reflection of our need to develop these qualities in ourselves.  Indeed, civilization is a mirror that continuously shows us images of the myriad archetypal energies and potentials within us.  What we see in the mirror depends on the status of our inner worlds.  How we feel about the people and events we attract, and to which we are attracted, depends on how we feel about ourselves.

Occasionally, an unusually courageous and virtuous individual attracts our admiration: someone who represents the good, who stands up for what s/he believes, who speaks out against social injustice, who leads and inspires others to nurture the weak and right the wrongs;  someone like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, or Mother Teresa.  We know these people are not perfect.  Being mere mortals, they can’t be. Yet their lives take on mythic proportions because they embody living manifestations of archetypal energies lying latent in us.

People like this personify the Sovereign archetype which matures in one who is learning to blend and balance the energies of the mature King and Queen. The Sovereign, a symbol of their partnership, is an autonomous, powerful, and independent leader and ruler who understands and accepts his or her authority and moral responsibility and, through example, inspires others to do the same.

The moral authority of the Sovereign is based on a personal commitment to the King’s goal of universal justice and the Queen’s, of universal love. From the font of their combined energies flows right action that is not rigid and unyielding, but fluid, like a river of fresh water that weaves through our daily routines. Here we work to effect universal justice, there we defend our rights and the rights of those around us.  Here we respectfully follow rules and traditions that create and maintain order, there we challenge those which disregard conscience and caring.

Examples of people with mature Sovereigns are the self-reflective mothers and fathers who nurture virtue and character in their progeny. They are the teachers, principals, community protectors and benefactors, CEO’s, attorneys, judges, county and state officials and representatives, prime ministers, presidents and ambassadors who preserve and transmit traditions of truth, justice and mercy to ensure the generativity, productivity, comfort, safety, and survival of the next generation.

The Sovereign likewise promotes the healthy empowerment of our souls and spirits so that we may be free to express our individual genius. Like an officer of the law, it works to create order and virtue in us. Like a judge, it weighs evidence and corrects unhealthy imbalances.  Like a loving parent, it accepts us as we are while encouraging us to develop our potential, knowing that our masculine and feminine sides, conscious and unconscious selves, and egos and shadows are all parts of the whole, free, healthy and unique individuals we are meant to become.

How well-developed is your Sovereign?  Who carries your image of the Sovereign in the outer world? How can you become more like him or her?

You can purchase Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

Are We Better Off Today? November 5, 2012

In gratitude for my freedom and in the belief that every human being is entitled to equal rights, I dedicate this non-partisan Election Day post to my American grandmothers who made it possible for me to vote.  These women were social leaders who embodied the authority of the Queen archetype.  They were Mothers who were determined to create a better world for their children. They were Wisewomen who listened to themselves and spoke their truths.  And they were Beloveds who knew their own beauty and worth and risked the wrath of the one-sided conventional thinking of their time to demonstrate it to the world.  These videos show us what Female Spirit Warriors look like. May their numbers grow.

 

Re-Stocking and Moving On August 24, 2012

The property on which our family’s summer home sits in North Carolina was purchased over 40 years ago by my husband’s 101 year-old father and his second wife. Yes, he’s alive and living comfortably with Winn, his third wife! This amazing man is the son of a poor Italian immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island in the first decade of the 20th century. His bride-to-be, who was hand-picked for him by his brother back in Italy, arrived the next year.

Grandpa and Grandma Raffa’s four sons became well-respected citizens who led long and happy lives. After my father-in-law’s first wife Julia—my husband’s mother for whom our daughter was named—needlessly bled to death after birthing their second child, Tony eventually remarried and moved to Florida to establish a medical practice with his younger brother Nick. As far as my husband and I, our children, five grandchildren, and various in-laws who now also live in Florida are concerned, the tragedy of Julia’s death was transformed into countless miracles of new life and creative opportunity.

Tony and his second wife, Helen, found their way to the North Carolina property through friends and fell in love with it.  Each summer for many years they pulled a silver Air Stream up from Florida and lived with their children in a  nearby RV camp. From there they’d drive up the mountain, ford the bold creek, and explore this wild land.

In those days there was one small cleared site. It contained an old stone root cellar built into the mountain, a dilapidated barn, a source of fresh spring water, and an electrical hook-up for the the trailer the former residents had lived in. The clearing was surrounded by giant hemlocks, white pine, native rhododendrons, an outhouse, and wild blueberry bushes on either side of an old animal trail which wound through the woods. Helen’s discovery of an arrowhead suggested it had once been used by the Cherokee.

Beside the clearing was a huge hole 10 or 15 feet deep and dozens of yards across. The former residents had hopes of turning it into a trout pond for tourists, but despite the rains and fresh spring water that emptied into it, it never held more than a few stagnant puddles. Years later we plugged the leaks and stocked the new pond with trout. Helen was too ill to travel by then, so she never saw it. Despite Tony’s worries that it would become an “attractive nuisance” that would end in tragedy for unwary neighbor children, the pond has been a great source of pleasure, especially to our grandchildren who love to watch the trout fling themselves at food which, to them, must seem miraculously to fall like manna from heaven every summer.

We consider the trout pets and never catch or eat them, but there are those who think differently. When we return each summer there are always several missing. Last week we came across the headless body of a huge 3-year old lying in the nearby pasture. Neighbors speculate it may have been the victim of a great blue heron, or perhaps the magnificent bald eagle who’s taken up residence nearby. This is always upsetting, especially for the grandchildren, but in the end we re-stock and move on.

Carl Jung said of the violent changes that regularly occur both in the psyche and in the world,  “The grand plan on which the unconscious life of the psyche is constructed is so inaccessible to our understanding that we can never know what evil may not be necessary in order to produce good by enantiodromia, [swings in opposite directions] and what good may very possibly lead to evil.”

I find it almost impossible to judge a thing either blessing or tragedy any more. I wonder if I’ll still feel that way after the next election!

 

Which Feminine Archetypes Are Strongest In You? April 24, 2012

In my system, the feminine archetypes are the Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These images of our basic instincts serve our “feminine” drive for species-preservation and relationship. The ways we see and use their energies are transformed over time as our egos mature through three “feminine” phases: the innocent Maiden, the life-giving Mother, and the wise Crone.

In the first phase we unconsciously serve the drive to preserve our species; in the second the cycles of life force us us to become more aware of our individual needs; in the third, honoring our inner, spiritual selves becomes as important as meeting the needs of others.

Our Queen is a culture mother and the feminine sovereign of the psyche. Like the goddess Hera, a Queen in the Maiden phase automatically honors her duty to society without reflection. Her growth is usually instigated by some sort of crisis —rape or love, parenthood, illness, divorce, or loss of a loved one—which destroys the Maiden’s virgin innocence and instigates the Mother’s suffering. If she develops a conscience and learns moral responsibility she becomes a caring Crone/Queen of personal sovereignty, moral virtue, and social leadership.

The Mother archetype represents our instinct for physically serving the birth/death/rebirth life cycle.  In our unreflective Maiden phase our Mother is, like the warrior goddess Artemis and Mother Nature herself, as capable of destroying life as mothering it. In our Mother phase our Mother archetype struggles to understand and serve the needs of individuals as much as the activity of the impersonal Great Mother who gives and takes all  life. As our egos mature, the Crone Mother helps us value the life in our bodies and souls as much as life outside ourselves.

The Wisewoman is diffusely aware of, and deeply sensitive to, the maternal depths of the unconscious.  In our unreflective phase she is like Greece’s Persephone, Stephen King’s Carrie, and Walt Disnery’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Because we lack the experience and logical thought to handle the vast unknown, our Maiden can get us into trouble with archetypal powers we don’t understand and can’t control. Our transformation into the Mother phase begins when our mistakes force us to distinguish between objective facts and subjective symbols in the inner and outer worlds. Our Crone Wisewoman integrates logos with mythos to see the big picture, understand how the parts connect, and create personal meaning.

The Beloved is the magnetic principle in relationships. Our Maiden Beloved is like Aphrodite: an innocent, unconscious seductress driven to attract sexual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment by attracting and pleasing others. Our Mother phase begins when we suffer the conflict between wanting to please our lovers and wanting to discard them when they no longer please us. Our Crone Beloved is like a hospitable, emotionally authentic hostess who lives in beauty, inspires others, and gives what we could only hint at in our youthful phase: full sensory and emotional intimacy with fully respected and loved otherness.

Whereas shadow masculinity destroys otherness, shadow femininity is self-destructive. A compulsive Queen can burn us out if we give too much of ourselves. Our Mother can sabotage our relationships by being too receptive/or smothering. An obsessive Wisewoman can cause us to be depressed and overwhelmed by the unconscious. And if our egos obsess over the outer appearance of beauty, our Beloved can compel us to sacrifice the true beauty of our souls. But as we accept our feminine sides and partner them with our masculine sides, their union can give birth to a Spirit Warrior of perfected selfhood and completed relationships.

What does your attitude toward the feminine archetypes say about your ego’s maturity? How are your relationships and service to our species evolving in ways that benefit all?

 

 
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