Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Couple: A New God-Image January 17, 2017

gerard_francoispascalsimon-cupid_psyche_endIt is my belief that the problem of opposites…should be made the basis for a critical psychology. A critique of this sort would be of the utmost value not only in the narrower field of psychology, but also in the wider field of the cultural sciences in general. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, par. 260.

In my last post, “What is Enlightenment” I introduced the Couple archetype. One reader responded with some thoughtful observations about same-sex couples, and I look forward to exploring this rich topic in future posts. But first, I’d like to lay the psychological and spiritual foundation for the Couple archetype. The following material comes from my manuscript, The Soul’s Twins.

According to Dr. Lawrence Odermatt of the Jung Institute in Zurich, the Couple holds profound spiritual meaning for many people in today’s world. Dr. Odermatt’s research has convinced him that the Couple is, in fact, emerging from the collective unconscious as a symbol of the Self. By this he means that people today expect things from the couple relationship that were formerly expected from their God-images, or ideas about The All, and from the religions created around these images.

Dr. Odermatt cites the following as some examples of the spiritual expectations people have about relationships today. People expect the couple relationship to provide a space or place of relaxation and regeneration from the stress of work and economic pressures. This is exactly what people in the past expected from places of worship, sacred rituals, and sacred festivals and days like Beltane, Christmas and the Sabbath.

People want their couple relationship to bring emotional security and satisfaction. This has not always been true. In the past, when marriages only took place between men and women and were primarily for social and political power and financial security, people rarely hoped to be emotionally fulfilled by their marriage partners;  they did, however, expect it from their spiritual lives and practices.

People today also want their couple relationships to be containers for their spiritual and intellectual development, for their deepest yearnings and newest insights. They want the couple relationship to nurture their creativity and unique potential, to provide meaning for their lives. These functions too, have traditionally been associated with religion.

Finally, and to me, this is the most telling and pertinent expectation of all, Dr. Odermatt says that today people want partners who will confirm and accept them as unique individuals while at the same time providing them with an opportunity to merge with another so as to experience oneness, togetherness, wholeness. In other words, today the couple relationship is becoming a symbol for the creative union between humanity’s two basic drives, the two halves of the Self:

1. The drive for self-preservation is our compulsion to express our individuality. The need to find, develop and manifest our unique skills and passions in meaningful work has traditionally only been associated with and assigned to males and denied to females. In some parts of the world it still is. Nonetheless, it is inherent in all of us, regardless of gender.

2. The drive for species-preservation is our compulsion to experience oneness with another in caring, intimate relationships which nurture our creativity and bless our community with new life, whether physical, cultural, psychological, spiritual or all four. This drive has traditionally been associated with and assigned to females, and some families and cultures still discourage its expression in males in any outlet other than sexuality.

 

Humanity is evolving and here, in our time, our collective God-image is undergoing a dramatic transformation. We are imagining God as something far more balanced and complex than a superior masculine spiritual authority who is fascinated by the feminine other—whether the world of physical matter (L.mater or mother), the Mother Church, or women—while remaining separate and aloof from her. In a development prefigured two millennia ago in the beautiful myth of Psyche and Eros, we are imagining God as an inner reality: our potential for a sacred intimate union, a loving partnership between our masculine and feminine sides. This new God-image honors the masculine and feminine principles equally and in all of us as a spiritual reality. In other words, each of us is in and of God.

This way of imagining God has already had thrilling, far-reaching effects. In the social and political arena it has allowed us to consider granting people ultimate authority over what they do with their own bodies and offering full and equal opportunities to everyone regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, or sexual preferences. Such a God-image also gives contemporary religious institutions far more freedom than their predecessors had to encourage individuality and celebrate mutually meaningful relationships free from fear-based prohibitions and prejudices. And it gives religious groups permission to offer instruction on world religions, mythology, psychology, dreams, meditation techniques, and the newest scientific advances in medicine and physics because of a growing awareness that this knowledge liberates people from debilitating fears and helps them live more purposeful, meaningful lives.

The internal union between our masculine and feminine sides was anticipated by the practice of alchemy in the Middle Ages and the great wisdom traditions throughout the world before that. It was brought to our attention by Carl Jung, who likewise used the over-arching metaphors of masculine and feminine to represent every pair of opposites. Conducting our own magnum opus of uniting our inner opposites into our conscious awareness is our hope for wholeness, individuation and enlightenment.

The coniunctio in alchemy is a union of the masculine and feminine, of the spiritual and material principles, from which a perfect body arises, the glorified body after the Last Judgment, the resurrection body. This means an eternal body, or the subtle body, which is designated in alchemy as the philosopher’s stone, the lapis aethereus or invisibilis. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 158-167.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.  Psyche and Amor, also known as Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard: a symbolic butterfly hovers over Psyche in a moment of innocence poised before sexual awakening. 

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.

 

The Six C’s of the Silver Queen October 4, 2016

alchemicalK&QMy last three posts were about the psychological underpinnings of the upcoming U.S. election. In keeping with the purpose of Matrignosis, (mother-knowing), I’ve focused on the feminine principle and the importance of activating it in ourselves and society as a healthy corrective to the excesses of patriarchy. As you read this revised post which originally appeared here a year and a half ago, I hope you will examine yourself and the candidates with the aid of your right brain’s symbolic language for insights that might aid America’s advance in that direction.

A while back I wrote about a very damaging manifestation of the feminine principle sometimes called the Death Mother or Evil Queen.  Often clothed in black, this force in us represents parts of our feminine sides that have been so devalued, wounded and abused by patriarchal excesses that they are repressed into the dark, unconscious regions of our psyches.  There they become twisted, cold, vengeful and self-destructive.

In this post I want to bring some balance to our understanding of the feminine principle by addressing some of its positive qualities. But first, a few relevant words about alchemy and Greek mythology.

ALCHEMY

Dismissed by some left-brained literalists as pseudo-science, alchemy was, in fact, like mythology, a profoundly wise symbol system that sought to heal humanity’s dangerous tendency toward obsessive one-sidedness.  Employing both languages of the brain, logic and imagination, its practitioners described their work as a lengthy process of refining and uniting the King (the masculine principle symbolized by the fiery gold light of the sun), and the Queen (the feminine principle represented by the silvery watery light of the moon) in a Sacred Marriage.

The result of their union was the creation of a rare and precious form of new life called the Philosopher’s Stone. This symbolized the fullest and maturest wisdom and consciousness of which humanity is capable. Unfortunately, we are still so far from this goal that it would be laughable were it not so depressing.

MYTHOLOGY

In ancient Greece the feminine principle was celebrated in three aspects of Goddess. These can be represented by colors. The Maiden (green), Mother (red), and Crone (gray or black), represented the mysterious circle of life–birth, maturity, death and regeneration–celebrated in Lunar Mythology.  These were the dominant themes of humanity’s spirituality until the sun god’s Solar Mythology about the battle between good and evil replaced it. Today, many students of psychology, anthropology, religion, spirituality, myth and alchemy personify a missing fourth aspect between the Mother and Crone as the fully empowered Queen. I associate her with the color silver.

AnumatiIn the outer world of work, the Silver Queen is the most visible manifestation of healthy feminine authority. We see her in socially aware leaders and authorities of all kinds; for example, enterprising founders of innovative business practices that weaken the stranglehold of one-sided logic and linearity, or bold and balanced, firm and fair champions of nurturing change in any group, movement, or organization.

Individuals (male or female) with well-developed Queen energy can be effective within the confines of the kingly Solar Mythology that still dominates our culture. However, they do not imitate, limit themselves to, or promote obsessively one-sided patriarchal values. Instead, they consistently facilitate the re-emergence of the Silver Queen’s Lunar values.

My description of these values and how they manifest in people is based on Dr. Carl Jung’s observation, borne out in traditional literature throughout history, that the feminine foundation of the psyche–aka Sophia, Anima or Soul–is the source of our nourishing and transforming energies. It is only when we disown these energies that she turns her dark face to us in the form of Death Mother.

THE SIX C’S OF THE SILVER QUEEN

  • As Carer, she is there for her true self and others: she feels, gives, listens, encourages, intuits, confronts, affirms. When necessary and appropriate, she sacrifices.

  • As Container she holds and tolerates tension, conflicts, suffering, uncertainty and change without breaking or giving up.

  • As Connecter she mentors, guides and networks with other people and respects other perspectives.

  • As Communicator she speaks her truths, listens to others’ truths, and seeks to integrate otherness.

  • As Cooperator she shares her knowledge and authority without greed, prejudice, envy, abuse, or expectation of reward.

  • As Changer she trusts the transformative process and flows with evolutionary energy.

The Silver Queen in each of us has the power to bring healing balance to all of us.  May we resurrect and activate her before Death Mother and the obsessively patriarchal system that created her destroys us.

Image Credits:  Alchemical Moon and Goddess of the Moon:  Google Images

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

 

Hillary Clinton and the Feminine Archetype: Part II September 27, 2016

tumblr_m5orenMrr61rrdazqo1_r1_500“At the beginning of a new millennium, we are participating in the birth of a new evolutionary era, one with radically different aims and values from those which dominated the patriarchal era. Mythologically speaking, this new era invites the marriage of lunar and solar consciousness and the birth of the ‘child’ of a new kind of consciousness arising in the soul of humanity that would be the fruit of this union and the true ‘saviour’ of our species. . . It is a tremendously exciting, challenging and creative time to be alive.”  ~Jungian Analyst Anne Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”

An obsession with the solar archetype during the patriarchal era has conditioned us to minimize lunar consciousness. We think the resulting conflicts are inevitable. They’re not. It is possible to live with inner and outer harmony, but we just haven’t evolved that far yet. The multiple wars and societal chaos characterizing the 20th century are finally awakening us to this imbalance and forcing us to take the lunar archetype seriously.

“If we can abandon our addiction to weapons and war, directing the trillions saved on feeding, educating and caring for the children of the world, the result will be an infinitely better world and the possibility of our own survival as a species. We need to  challenge the arcane warrior ethos of governments . . .”  Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”

As Baring notes, feeding, educating and caring for the children of the world is a primary aim of lunar consciousness, and it is crucial that our governments act on this. The fact that Hillary Clinton has devoted her life to this cause is a major reason I say her feminine archetype is well activated. Consider these facts:

Hillary’s Record

Instead of signing on to a prestigious law firm after graduating from Yale, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund—focusing her career on the fundamental need for quality public education for every American child. She also worked with teenagers in adult prisons in South Carolina and families with children with disabilities in Massachusetts.

When she was appointed to the Arkansas Education Standards Committee, she investigated public schools throughout the state, listening to parents and teachers and working with a team of educators to create policy that would better prepare Arkansas students for a 21st-century economy. Before that she had already co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, which would later make huge strides in standing up for children in the welfare system.

In 1995, as first lady, she boldly declared “women’s rights are human rights” at a U.N. conference in Beijing. This was much more controversial than it sounds today. Many in the U.S. government didn’t want her to go to Beijing. Others wanted her to pick a less “polarizing” topic. I think it’s a sign of her sincere passion for this cause that she stood up for her beliefs and spoke out about human rights abuses at a time when this was not a popular stance. A Huffington Post article says,

“Globally, no candidate has done more for women’s rights than Secretary Clinton. In her time as Secretary of State, she appointed the first-ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department; oversaw the creation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security; and introduced the Global Health Initiative (GHI), investing $63 billion to help partner countries provide robust maternal and infant health services. Secretary Clinton has worked tirelessly to elevate women’s rights as the key towards economic prosperity and global stability. Her public and private initiatives have appropriated millions of dollars towards providing secondary education to young girls around the world, and tackling the obstacles that face at-risk youths.”

In 1997 she worked with Republicans and Democrats to secure health care for millions of American kids. As first lady she fought to help pass health care reform. When that failed, she worked with Republicans and Democrats to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP cut the uninsured rate of American children by half, and today it provides health care to more than 8 million kids.

As U.S. senator from New York, she supported comprehensive immigration reform legislation, co-sponsored the DREAM Act three times, and worked to expand health care access for low-income immigrant mothers and children.

Hillary’s Character

The presidential candidates are running for the highest office in a system dominated by solar consciousness and numerous examples of corruption. Ideally, we’d prefer the winner to be above ethical compromises, but as Dr. Carl Jung asserts, it is humanly impossible for any individual to exist without a moral shadow. We all have one. It therefore seems more fruitful to compare Clinton’s and Trump’s observable shadows than to hold one of them to an unattainable standard while dismissing the character flaws of the other. I’m not advocating lowering the bar. I’m facing the realities of human nature in a flawed system and only asking that we view the facts objectively and judge accordingly.

Here are the facts as cited by the Washington Post Fact-Checker site. In comparing claims made by both candidates, out of 52 rated claims made by Trump, 63 percent were rated false.  Out of 36 rated claims made by Clinton, 14 percent were rated false.

Hillary’s Personality and Likability 

“Awakening to the Feminine means becoming protective of the whole of creation; dying to all the divisive ways of looking at life and each other; being born into an utterly different vision of reality.” ~Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”

Some perceive Hillary to be harsh and overly aggressive but people who know her disagree. I attribute this to three factors. First, we are unconsciously influenced by longstanding stereotypes about what women’s roles and behavior ‘should’ look like. Second, our history and art have trained us to empathize with white men and go easier on their flaws. Third, we have few cultural models of strong, complex, confident, female leadership.

As Hillary explains in a recent post for Humans Of New York,

“It’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way. You have to communicate in a way that people say: ‘OK, I get her.’ And that can be more difficult for a woman. Because who are your models? If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens.”

unknown-3Few would disagree that Hillary has a highly activated masculine side. Good. We need that. But we also need a leader with a highly activated feminine side. The fact that Hillary has both convinces me that she is the only candidate capable of leading us safely into the new kind of consciousness required for economic prosperity and global stability.

Click here for The New York Times endorsement, “Hillary Clinton for President.”

Image Credits:  Google Images.

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

 

The Presidential Election From A Jungian Perspective September 13, 2016

unknown-3unknown-2“There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites.” ~Carl Jung, CW 9i: §178

For some time now I’ve wanted to write about the U.S.A.’s upcoming presidential election in a thoughtful, non-polarizing way, but couldn’t find a theme. I found it last week in this quote:

“The time is ripe for the unconscious and conscious dominants to meet each other.  The death of the old dominant is indicated by the fact that the king is about to die.  This corresponds to the fact that the God-image, the collective dominant of the Western psyche, is moribund.  In preparation for its death, it opens up an ancient tomb;  in other words it opens up the unconscious.  This activates the feminine principle, which had been dead and buried in the very same tomb, in the unconscious.  As the tomb is opened, the unconscious is penetrated by consciousness . . . and a revitalization occurs.” ~ Edward Edinger

Carl Jung believed that resolving the problem of opposites was the major challenge of our time. The problem is that although every human inherits the full range of human potential, we separate qualities into arbitrary categories of good and evil, right and wrong, better and worse. Those we prefer and develop are projected onto our gods and leaders.  Those we despise and reject are projected onto enemies and devils. When we act on our biases we often do great harm to ourselves, each other, and our planet.

In today’s world, two pairs of opposites present the greatest challenge: our conscious and unconscious selves, and our masculine and feminine sides. Since the ‘masculine principle’ of Logos, (logic and reason, objective interest), has consciously ruled politics and religion in the West for about 5,000 years, the ‘feminine principle’ of Eros (caring and relationship, or what Jung called ‘the great binder and loosener’), has been relegated to our unconscious lives, and women and the qualities long associated with them have been devalued and repressed.  The more obsessive we are about maintaining masculine dominance, the more money and power males and traditional societal institutions acquire and cling to, until what was originally a fresh and healthy new development turns toxic.

The King Is About to Die

As stories about the unconscious self, myths often contain a dying king. Death images also appear frequently in dreams. In essence, this motif represents the stage in the growth of an individual or society when limiting old beliefs, attitudes, and priorities must die for continued growth to occur. This is always a time of great difficulty and often of chaos.

The metaphor of the dying king is especially apt in the political arena. Consider the rebellions, revolutions and deaths that occurred before America’s founders were able to free themselves from the control of the British monarchy. Imagine how devastating it must have been to the aristocracy which had amassed great fortunes under the monarchy to lose the New World, an unbelievably valuable asset, to the new order of democracy.

Is it any wonder the British held on so tightly?  Yet in the end, our founders’ need to be free from repression won out. As a result, democracy, a brand new form of government, was born. Of course, the psychological reality that the king is about to die again does not mean democracy should die, but only that it’s time to end the imbalances and injustices which have characterized it so far.

The Unconscious and Conscious Dominants Meet

Presidential races have always been hotly contested and name-calling has always been the order of the day. And even the wisest among us are buffeted by unconscious emotions and complexes which influence our choices without our knowledge. This is why both sides in this race can have such different positions, yet each sees theirs as the ‘correct’ one that will promote democracy’s values of  ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

So what’s different about this race?  For the first time in the history of America, the unconscious dominant of the feminine principle and all it represents—symbolized by Hillary Clinton—has risen to meet the conscious dominant of the masculine principle and its patriarchal style of governing—symbolized by Donald Trump.

The pervasive argument that Clinton is no different from the corrupt males before her simply doesn’t stand up to the facts when her record is compared to Trump’s (check the facts here), or to those who preceded her as Secretary of State (check the facts here). The fact is, symbols speak louder than words. In this case, the fact that an experienced female politician has been nominated to run against a political neophyte who happens to be a powerful, white, billionaire male shows us what’s really at stake in America’s collective unconscious.

It’s very apparent to observers of cultural change that the feminine principle has been activated in collective consciousness. The question is, will we keep trying to repress it or will we open the tomb and make way for the revitalization of America?

Image Credits:  Google Images.

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

 

 

The Unseen Partner September 6, 2016

51JQhuqU2cL._SY401_BO1,204,203,200_“The time is ripe for the unconscious and conscious dominants to meet each other.  The death of the old dominant is indicated by the fact that the king is about to die.  This corresponds to the fact that the God-image, the collective dominant of the Western psyche, is moribund.  In preparation for its death, it opens up an ancient tomb;  in other words it opens up the unconscious.  This activates the feminine principle, which had been dead and buried in the very same tomb, in the unconscious.  As the tomb is opened, the unconscious is penetrated by consciousness . . . and a revitalization occurs.” ~ Edward Edinger

With this opening quote a beautiful new book, The Unseen Partner: Love & Longing in the Unconscious, prepares the reader for a unique experience of a universal story: the hero’s journey to individuation. Unique, because this personal account shared in a mythical, poetic voice is utterly original and will impact each reader differently. Universal, because beneath the art, poetry, and expertly-crafted prose is the mythic story of Everyman. Two decades in the making and released this Labor Day weekend, Diane Croft’s The Unseen Partner is a most refreshing and artful contribution to the literature on Jungian psychology.  I absolutely loved it!

By midlife, Croft had taken a predictable path to a comfortable life and successful career. Educated at Wittenberg and Harvard Universities, she became a publisher at National Braille Press. And then an unknown force invaded her conscious psyche and set her on a new path. As her press release notes, this force pulled her “into an energy field—the sacred temple at the center of the psyche—” (called the “Self” by Jung), where she captured the poetic voice she heard by means of automatic writing.

Croft explains:

“In the summer of 1996, I fell into an experience of automatic writing.  I was seated at my computer getting ready to compose a budget narrative.  Instead I wrote a few lines of verse that appeared without thinking or intention.  ‘Born in a cataclysm of cosmic violence/the lunar birth of daughter moon.’ And then a second poetry fragment appeared . . . and so it continued for three years, at roughly the same time each morning, until there were more than seven hundred odd verses.  People ask me if I heard voices.  No, I say, I just took dictation. The fingers moved and the words were typed.”

The Unseen Partner is based on 55 of these verses. Each is accompanied by an artful image that symbolizes an aspect of the individuation process. Croft’s commentary on the meaning she gleaned from the poetry and imagery is the third factor that weaves everything together into a remarkable book which is itself a creative work of art.

Here’s an example. This poem titled “Holy Ghost” features the symbolism of “the third.”  The accompanying image and commentary illustrate how these three factors work together.

Who is this three of thee and me

a holy ghost in daylight calling

stirring in my bed this night

cauldron for my troubled soul,

reminding me again and again

of the living power it holds

over my dominion.

Croft’s commentary:

Unknown“Since I was baptized Lutheran, the image of the Holy Ghost was not foreign to me, though I understood nothing of its meaning.  Since I now believe this collection is about the relationship between my conscious ego and the larger archetypal Self, then I can only say that that relationship involves a third.  Who is this three of thee and me?  In Mythology of the Soul, Baynes writes, ‘The number three is specifically associated with the creative process. . . . Every function of energy in nature has, indeed, the form of a pair of opposites, united by a third factor, their product.’ Jung identified “the third” as one of the stages of individuation: ‘The advance to the third stage means something like the recognition of the unconscious, if not actual subordination to it. . . .’  So, as I understand it, stage one equals the original state of wholeness (the pre-conscious totality), stage two represents separation and the emergence of opposites (ego consciousness), and stage three would be the union of the opposites through the agency of the Holy Ghost, now contained within the human vessel.”

This was particularly resonant to me. I don’t remember ever reading this quote by Jung before, but in Healing the Sacred Divide (2012), I used the symbolism of “the third” to illustrate the three epochs of the development of consciousness. Each of my epochs corresponds with Croft’s description of the stages of individuation. This synchronicity comes as no real surprise, for “the third,” like all the symbols treated in this marvelous book, represents an archetypal pattern residing in every psyche. Nonetheless, I had so many delicious “Aha” moments in reading it that the overall experience took on the flavor of meditating on, and with, a sacred unseen partner.

As Rumi warned, (and as Croft writes in the last line of her epilogue), “‘Don’t go back to sleep.’ Wake up and dip your cup into the living waters.”  I could not recommend The Unseen Partner more highly, and I’ll be returning to it again and again, for in it I recognize a reliable companion and guide to the living waters within me.

The Unseen Partner can be found at Amazon

Image Credits:  Book cover, Amazon.  “Friendship,” 1907, Mikalojus Konstantinos Ciurlionis, Lithuania, Wikimedia Commons.

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 II: Ego Consciousness May 24, 2016

images-2“Obviously we do not know how the ego arose in man.  We have certain myths showing how ancient man thought about this problem, and we can observe the phenomenon in very young children today.  Just as the individual child must undergo training and discipline, so too the primitive nature of man had to be housebroken and domesticated, restrained and adapted, if he was to advance in culture and in ability to control his environment.”  Esther Harding, Psychic Energy, p. 197.

Since we learned to talk, humans have told stories around the campfire about the inner life of the psyche and the mysterious archetypal energies which indwell it. We call these stories myths. With borrowed images from nature that instinctively aroused strong emotions like fear, awe, passion, wonder, greed, hope and gratitude, myths presented characters, settings, plots and themes that attempted to answer humanity’s most universal and fundamental questions:  Why are we here?  Who made us?  Why do we act the way we do? How can we stay safe? What are we supposed to do and be?

Most of these images—like the sun, the moon, mountains, trees, bears, snakes, unusual stones, springs of fresh water, thunder and lightning—still have emotional power over us. Early humans would not have understood what their fascination with these images said about them. Nonetheless, they resonated so deeply that the stories are still being told.

“Myths are concerned with origins, the fear of death, and the hope for the overcoming of death in another world.”  A.S. Byatt, Introduction to Maria Tatar’s “The Annotated Brothers Grimm,” p. xix.

Lucas_Cranach_(I)_-_Adam_and_Eve-Paradise_-_Kunsthistorisches_Museum_-_Detail_Tree_of_KnowledgeLet us imagine how the Bible’s account of our origins came about. A storyteller wonders where the first parents came from and imagines them being created by a superhuman Father God. Fondly recalling his/her own early carefree days when every need was met by doting parents (Epoch I of self-awareness), our storyteller memorializes this idyllic time in the image of the Garden of Eden, a paradise where humans and animals co-exist in harmony…. as long as everyone obeys Father God.

Early humans would have understood this rule completely.  Life was hard, and children who strayed away from camp would be in peril. Parental obedience was essential to their survival.

Other images also called to mind their instinctual need for safety. For example, a gigantic tree could be climbed when danger threatened, and its thick canopy of leaves provided cover from rain. So it made sense to situate a Tree of Life in the center of the Garden. Sometimes tribal rituals were performed around special trees to show gratitude for their protection. So far, so good.

“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.

As humans gained more control over their environments, travel and communication with other tribes exposed them to other myths with different images and new symbolic meaning. Whose stories were right and whose were wrong? Which god-images and rituals were good and which were evil? Dualistic thinking had entered the picture.

images-1This advanced the plot further. Enter the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Enter Eve who is fascinated by the luscious ripe fruit, symbolizing the psyche’s readiness for a new level of self-awareness. Enter an evil snake who represents a powerful temptation to challenge the status quo. Enter a new problem:  seeing and having to choose between opposites. Enter the consequences: after Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden, the dire implications of the problem of opposites for the future of humanity was anticipated with the symbolism of Eve giving birth to twin boys, one of whom killed the other.

The symbols speak for themselves. Disobeying the Father God by eating the fruit marked a revolutionary advance in the psyche. What Eve would not have known, and her storyteller probably barely intuited, was that in departing from the collective mentality, she became the mother of Epoch II Ego Consciousness.

“When the ego begins to develop and gains some autonomy—some power, over against the might of nature, to determine and control itself and its environment—it gradually acquires a feeling of being a separate entity.  The individual learns to differentiate between the I and the not-I, with an ever increasing emphasis of the value of the I.  That is, he becomes aware of being a self. This awareness is accompanied by an intoxicating sense of selfhood, an inner expansion of the I.  Unchecked, this will produce an inflation…

“In the outer world the ego seeks to dominate its environment and to subject all things, persons, and conditions alike to its interest.  In the inner world, as many psychic contents as possible are brought under its control, and those which cannot be dominated are suppressed. In this way a threshold is built up between the conscious and the unconscious part of the psyche.” Harding, p. 241.

mmmI’ll have more to say about this second phase of self-awareness next time. Meanwhile, keep in mind that the story isn’t over and “happily ever after” is nowhere in sight. If we are to reach our fullest potential we will need to agonize over more conflicts and ask new questions like, What new thoughts, impulses and images are arising in me? Where are they coming from? Who or what do I try to dominate?  Which aspects of my inner world do I try to suppress?

Image Credits:  Google Images:  Garden of Eden, Lucas Cranach. Quote Image courtesy of Lewis Lafontaine. 

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.

 

Perfection, or Who’s the Purest of Them All? April 19, 2016

8365_1213225978717602_2921151023910765268_nWhen one tries desperately to be good and wonderful and perfect, then all the more the shadow develops a definite will to be black and evil and destructive.

People cannot see that; they are always striving to be marvellous, and then they discover that terrible destructive things happen which they cannot understand, and they either deny that such facts have anything to do with them, or if they admit them, they take them for natural afflictions, or they try to minimize them and to shift the responsibility elsewhere. 

The fact is that if one tries beyond one’s capacity to be perfect, the shadow descends into hell and becomes the devil. For it is just as sinful from the standpoint of nature and of truth to be above oneself as to be below oneself.  It is surely not the divine will in man that he should be something which he is not, for when one looks into nature, one sees that it is most definitely the divine will that everything should be what it is.”   ~Carl Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 569.

“What?” you say?  “You mean I have to accept the bad parts of myself?  No Way!  You must be crazy.  I’m not giving in to laziness, lust, selfishness, fear, or greed.  I’ve spent a lifetime trying to be perfect.  Now you say I have to stop?  Didn’t Jesus say, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48)? Well, that’s all I’m trying to be:  perfect!”

In the Aramaic language Jesus spoke, the word perfect meant completed, or whole, not always good or spotlessly pure.  Here’s the paradox Jung was addressing and we find so difficult to accept:  to complete ourselves we have to be honest with ourselves, and this means acknowledging those things in us we think of as bad as well as the ones we consider good. We can’t be complete by accepting only half our nature. For example, by identifying solely with reason and logic, we cut off our capacity for passion, intuition, instinct, and the tender feelings of empathy and compassion. Then we start finger-pointing, name-calling, wall-building, and war mongering.

Accepting our flaws is not for the faint-hearted.  Like Christine, the innocent young singer who, in the classic Gaston Leroux novel, earnestly persuaded the Phantom of the Opera to take off his mask, we may be painfully convinced of our puny audacity in challenging the archetypal masters and mistresses of our unconscious, and we may faint at our first sight of the ugliness.  But it is only when the ugliness has been unmasked and we can see it for what it truly is that it loses its negative power over us and we can begin to learn from it.

The Phantom was certainly a dark and frightening creature, but behind that hideous face was a pure musical soul with the voice of an angel.  If Christine had refused to grant her negative animus its rightful place in her life, she would not have achieved her destiny.  Fortunately for her, instead of rejecting the Phantom she came to love him, and in the final act of lifting the mask a second time and kissing his grotesque face, her ego grew up and she developed an honest relationship with her unique Self.

Snow White had the same problem.  She was tormented again and again by her wicked stepmother, a dark, vain, and passionate feminine antagonist—psychologically the opposite, shadow side of her own conscious personality—who did everything she could to destroy the sweet passive child who knew nothing of evil.  Snow White’s trials were long and painful, but by patiently enduring them she was brought to the point where she could awaken to her masculine strengths (represented by the kiss of the prince), conquer her own evil tendencies (represented by the evil Queen), gain enough balance and maturity to stand on her own two feet, and marry her prince (the Sacred Marriage, or hieros gamos).

In the masculine hero myth, the hero kills his dragons, or inner and outer enemies, thereby earning his way to salvation.  It is true that a kind of death always precedes transformation and rebirth. However, the feminine way, which we must incorporate into our psyche as well if we wish to continue to evolve, is not to fight perceived imperfections in order to destroy them.

Rather it is a peaceful way of withdrawing, descending into our own depths, seeing, reflecting, grieving, accepting and integrating.  This happens slowly, gradually and naturally, through a diligent desire to let our immature egos die a natural death to make way for the new, the way flowers fade and wilt after they have produced seeds from which new growth will arise in the spring.

No matter how hard we may try, we’ll never be perfected in the traditional sense of the word.  But it is possible to become more aware and individuated, and thus less vulnerable to our hellish inner demons. By owning them as parts of ourselves, we’ll be less apt to project them onto others.  This is our only hope of moving ourselves and the world a little closer to our enduring ideals of peace and salvation.

Lewis Lafontaine's photo.

Quote and Image Credits:  My thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for sharing this quote and these images on Facebook. 

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.

 

 
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