Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Incarnating the Divine March 1, 2013

The Wilbur Award

The Wilbur Award

I’m writing this a day after receiving word that I’ve won the Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council for the best non-fiction book about religion for 2013. As you can imagine, I’m over the moon, bursting with joy, gratitude, love for everyone and everything, well-being, affirmation, and an extraordinarily comforting feeling of closure on a project I worked on for 19 years without knowing if anyone else would ever read or benefit from it!

Since today is the only time I have to write the next post if it is to be published at its usual time, and since I tend to be a stickler about meeting deadlines, I’ve struggled all morning to write. My intention was to wrap up my series about gender wounds, but I just couldn’t do it. I reviewed the last several posts and went through my notes in search of ideas, but my heart wasn’t in it and nothing came.

Recognizing the symptoms of an ego determined to ignore a blocked stream of energy because it believes it knows a better way, I lit the candle on my desk, rested my hands on my lap, closed my eyes, focused on my breathing, and waited for guidance. Instantly, a technique recommended by Martha Beck, author of Finding Your Way In a Wild New World, came to mind. Beck explains how focusing on your body drops you into a state of heightened receptivity she calls Wordlessness. So I lifted my hands in front of me, palms outward, and concentrated on feeling the life in them. As soon as I felt the tingling, a familiar shivery wave started at the back of my neck and spasmed down my back.

findingyourwayI’ve felt this same shivery spasm since the early 70’s. I tell this story in my book so won’t repeat it here, but what happened is that after weeks of seeking help for a troubling period of religious doubt, I experienced a mind-blowing spiritual awakening that convinced me of the physical reality and presence of the Divine. After that I often felt the shiver in church and associated it with the supernatural God of my religion. Now I know that what we often think of as supernatural is as natural as heartbeat and breath.

Fast-forward forty years. Symbol Alert! According to The Herder Dictionary of Symbols forty is the number for “expectation, preparation, penitence, fasting, and punishment.” The flood flowed for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was tempted for forty days in the wilderness, the Jews wandered for forty years in the desert, and I discover to my amazement and delight that it took forty years of preparation before I was ready to produce the book I consider my magnum opus!

Today I’m filled with the joy of having this work recognized. This is what wants to come out, what I want to celebrate with every breath, beat of my heart, and cell in my body. This morning my ego was saying:  Stick to the topic at hand. If you write about the award it might sound like bragging! And so I experienced a writer’s block, which is simply a resistance to expressing the soul’s truth. The moment I returned to the present by focusing on the life in my body, the block dissolved and the energy came through with a physical rush that felt like a tidal wave surging down my spine.

Here’s the song I want to sing: God isn’t only to be found in a church, synagogue or mosque.  Sacred life-giving energy indwells our bodies and every atom of the physical universe. And all we need to do to connect with it is get out of our heads and return to our bodies where the Divine is incarnated in us.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Portrait of a Jungian Analyst: Monika Wikman January 25, 2013

MonikaLast October I met many like-minded souls at a conference that addresses the interface between religion/spirituality and the work of Carl Jung. Monika Wikman was a major presenter. Drawn to her authenticity, integrity and vast wisdom, I bought her book, Pregnant Darkness.

Its impact on me was powerful and lasting. I wrote a review on Amazon and am sharing her quotes on my social media sites. These have been so well received that one internet friend, Stephanie Pope—a cultural mythologer and poet-essayist who publishes Mythopoetry Scholar Ezine—requested a post about Monika. This is for you, Stephanie, and all whose lives have been transformed by tending to the inner life of the soul. Here’s Monika’s extraordinary story in her own words.

“In the early 1980s my body was over-run with an aggressive stage IV ovarian cancer that had spread throughout various organs. After working with the illness for four years and seeing the illness rise and fall within a range in which I could just about eek out a life, suddenly the illness and its effects rocketed and I was told I had a few weeks to live. After years of working with the illness, and then being given the terrible two-week prognosis, I was entirely exhausted, and finally gave up. In the instant that I confessed my exhaustion to myself, and was ready to accept death, windows onto the psychoid (a transpersonal realm of autonomous energy beyond the personal psyche) spontaneously opened and I experienced a series of visions.

“Afterward, there was no sign of cancer anywhere in my body. I took medical tests the next day and for many consecutive weeks after in awe as the tests that measured for active ovarian cancer that were previously sky high, were now below the normal range. All the symptoms had vanished as well. ‘Spontaneous remission,’ the doctors said, and closed my file. Meanwhile, my heart, mind, and life were doing the opposite. They began to open, increasingly moved with gratitude and awe to the mysteries and the map and the grace between us and the autonomous energies living in the psyche and psychoid beyond ordinary consciousness. C.G. Jung’s work gave me the lens that enabled me to see these mysteries at work.”

Wikman, an embodiment of the Wisewoman archetype, went on to earn her Ph.D. from California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego, teach graduate school at California State University, Los Angeles, and graduate from the Jung-Von Franz Center for Depth Psychology in Zurich. She currently has a private practice in New Mexico as a Jungian analyst and part-time astrologer.

Wikman’s “imaginally archetypal language,” to use Stephanie’s phrase, is a particular delight to those who have experienced the transforming power of creative imagination, the hallmark of mythos thinking. With help from alchemical symbolism, she unpacks numerous examples from her dreams and those of clients and friends to demonstrate that, “Without experiences beyond the tiny mind, how isolated we become, how utterly dried up consciousness and culture become—cut off from the living root of our existence. Through reconnection with the numinosum, we can recover. It is up to us. These instinctual religious patterns living in us can search out the mysteries, find nourishment in the numinosum, and then replenish the soul, body, psyche, personality, relational life, and the planet itself.”

If you learn nothing else from Pregnant Darkness or my books and blog posts, it is my fervent wish that you learn this truth which motivates and guides my thinking, my writing, and my life: The numen—the holy, original spirit informing life—does exist. By tending to our souls we can experience it and heal the divides “between heaven and earth, human and divine, conscious and unconscious fields of awareness and between all polarities.”

It is up to us.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

An Integration of Opposites January 4, 2013

HSDcoverA major highlight of 2012 for me was that my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, made its debut in August. I am happy to say that so far it has received excellent reviews. Following is one of my favorites written this fall by playwright, actor, author, and teacher of creative writing, Joey Madia. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to him and all of you who have so graciously supported my work.

“An Integration of Opposites”: A Review of Healing the Sacred Divide by Jean Benedict Raffa (Larson Publications, 2012, larsonpublications.com), ISBN: 978-1-936012-60-2

By Joey Madia
Books, in many ways, are like people, and a bookshelf full of books could be thought of as a society in miniature. Some books look nice, but don’t offer much when you get past the cover. Some books offer some companionship in the form of a bit of new knowledge, perhaps some laughs, and a pleasant passing of time, but they are soon forgotten. Still other books are provocative, poking us in uncomfortable places and riling us up—and in the process, helping us to grow.

Then there are the books that are destined to be great. They are the books that we go to again and again. Books that are clearly the product of deep thought, extensive research, careful structure, and years of richly lived experience by their authors.
These books, unlike those that are merely passing travelers or vague acquaintances, become our friends.

Healing the Sacred Divide (subtitled “Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World”) has become my friend. It will be given a special place on my shelves once this review is complete and sent out into the world, and I anticipate going back to it again and again as I continue my journey to wholeness and spirtual health.

From its stunning cover (with art by Cicero Greathouse) depicting the mandorla (which I’ll define later) to its closing myth, Dr. Raffa’s book grabbed me and egged me on. It is a fairly dense book at 318 pages, with small type and 54 chapters, but it is also varied in its presentation and structure.
Healing the Sacred Divide is divided into two parts: The Evolution of God-Images (which sets the stage by examining the creation and promulgation of organized religion and the separation of the God and Goddess) and Nine Wisdom Gifts of an Integrated God-Image. It is this second part that constitutes the greater portion of the book.

As I mentioned, the book, although packed full of words, is sufficiently varied to prevent it from ever feeling like a dry academic tome or didactic “self-help book.” [This makes sense considering the duality of logos and mythos that runs like a river thru the text]. Dr. Raffa presents experiences, light and dark, from her personal life, for they are inextricably woven with the chapters she has written and the ideas and suggestions she presents. This personal investment over the course of decades, through family tragedy, Church struggles, and spiritual passageways fills the book with a warmth and sincerity some books in this vein lack. One gets the sense that the exercises she offers at the end of each chapter in Part 2 should at least be tried, because she’s used them herself.

Intermingled with the Nine Gifts (which are: Holistic Perception, Transforming Light, Acceptance of Shadow, Emotional Integrity, Partnership, Balance, Sovereignty, Meaning, and Mandorla Consciousness) are a series of “Cosmic Dialogues.” These, to me, were the edgiest and most difficult sections of the book as a male, to read (along with the culminating myth, which works on the same model), casting as they do the God as a traditionally driven, domineering Patriarch and Goddess as the solely Nurturing Mother. But, as Dr. Raffa suggests, I was open to the feelings I felt when the hackles came up, and I saw where the Shadow in me still needs some integration to get beyond the idea that Males being to blame for all of the heartaches, wars, and deceits in the world means that I am somehow to blame by being one. Not since reading Robert Bly’s Iron John 20 years ago have I so actively engaged with the notions of Maleness being devalued in society and how it has shaped my engagement with it, and I am more whole for having done so.

One of the keys to the process of healing the sacred divide, very much in line with Jungian ideas of embracing and integrating the Shadow (I have previously reviewed an excellent book by Erel Shalit on the subject), is the mandorla [what I have always known as the vesica piscis], that middle place where Light and Dark, Male and Female, “Good” and “Evil,” etc. overlap. It’s the spiritual analog of the Venn Diagram and the section of the overlap brings to mind the shape of the fish associated with Jesus and also the entrance to the womb.

There is a thought-provoking table of pairs on pages 50–52 that are organized around the Drive for Species-Preservation (Feminine Principle) and Drive for Self-Preservation (Masculine Principle). This distinction of Species- vs. Self-Preservation is one I had never before seen and it goes a long way toward understanding what is at work here.

Those readers familiar with Alchemy, the Hieros Gamos [sacred marriage], and Kundalini, Sophia, and other snake-based spiritual symbology will find much of interest in these layers of the text. Raffa pulls from the work of Jung, as mentioned, and also of Joseph Campbell and those from whom he learned, such as Heinrich Zimmer and the writings of Meister Eckert and Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Many chapters have an Endnotes section, which is a wonderful aide should a certain idea or “Gift” create a pull toward further research.
Division [partisanship, sexual politics, classism, etc.] is the coin of the realm in America as the November 2012 election approaches. The chasm seems to grow ever wider, marked by increased venom in the rhetoric of politicians, corporate CEOs, religious leaders, and the millions posting on Facebook and Twitter. The voices of those committed to healing the divide are being drowned in all the noise.

I hope that many, many people read, digest, and practice the exercises in Dr. Raffa’s Healing the Sacred Divide. Healing begins within, but quickly spreads to farther realms. A shift in paradigms has never been needed more.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Enlightenment in New Mexico July 31, 2012

It’s such an honor to present today’s post. It’s a review of my new book written by guest blogger, N.M. Freeman. It first appeared last week on her blog. Here’s the link. Natasha is the author of the award-nominated The Story of Q. (inspired by actual events). This book blew me away! You can read what I wrote about it in January of this year in a post titled Questioning Religion. The Story of Q contains historical facts about the origins of the Christian scriptures found in the New Testament of the Holy Bible and is recognized for contributing to the growth, further education and enlightenment of humanity. I hope you’ll check it out! And now, Natasha’s post, which she titled Enlightenment in New Mexico:

As promised, here’s my review of Dr. Jean Benedict Raffa’s stunning new book: Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other and the World. Brilliantly executed, this book is a thought provoking pleasure to read – never mind that it can, for some, be life changing. Highly, highly recommended. This review can be found in full in the Summer 2012 edition of Radical Grace (a publication for the center for action and contemplation based in Albuquerque, New Mexico). The theme of the summer edition is Unitive Consciousness.

Dr. Jean Benedict Raffa’s new book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World looks at the difference between religion and God through the lens of Jungian psychology, and speaks to the deepest spiritual seekings of the human heart.

The power in this book lies not in its ability to reveal a recognizable truth, but in the way it communicates this truth. Through memory, psychology, emotion, and the powerfully secret relevance of our dreams.

With gentle brilliance, Raffa walks us through the first 3 Epochs of psycho-spiritual development in accordance with Jungian psychology. Incredibly, each Epoch is so identifiable that we immediately recognize our own space on the development scale. This type of self-reflection is, as Raffa iterates, crucial to our ever coming to know the wholeness of God as we are born to know it.

Refreshingly, Healing the Sacred Divide tackles topics often left to the university classroom in such a way that makes them generously accessible to the mind as well as the soul. Engaging a powerful conversation about the evolution of our God-image (where it comes from and how it came to be what it is today), Raffa reveals the dysfunctions associated with the image, the how and why it often feels incomplete when presented through the orthodox and especially the fundamental religious lens. In this sense, as we learn more about ourselves, we also become powerfully privy to the truth and effect behind the reality that our patriarchal God view is as much constructed as our gender divisions – both resulting in an inability to experience wholeness on the human journey or, in a spiritual sense, as children of God.

With beautiful, bravely intelligent prose, Raffa loosens the divisions between masculine and feminine thought and reveals them for what they are: 2 realities that apart leave a disjointed experience (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually) but together make a whole. It is in the union of these two spheres or rather divisions of thought, that a sacred space is created within which spiritual growth can occur in abundance. This fascinating expose challenges us to transcend dangerous divisions of thought that can distract from our spiritual relationship with ourselves, each other, and the world, but most of all God.

Eloquently and far from overwhelmingly Raffa explores these topics within the context of our own experiences. In anecdotal form, she lays the foundation from which to explore the topics of self, ego, and even the shadow parts of our personalities (which we might not want to admit we have).

Ultimately, Healing the Sacred Divide shows us how we are already in a relationship with God – born whole – with only our fears, ego based religions, and desire or fear to conform to societal norms standing in the way. Better yet, the text invites us to not only heal, but to bridge that divide.

The psychological speak has the potential to become tedious but it never does. Raffa has woven ourselves through the text so that you spend the book understanding, reflecting, recognizing, feeling love, wisdom, and the comfort of knowing healing the sacred divide is realistic, possible. Here. Now.

On a personal note, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so moved by a book and the truth it proclaims, which is purely identifiable in and by the human experience. (And I have read many a book on this topic.)

An extremely important book, Raffa’s work/insight is the very mandorla of which she speaks.

For all, from every background and every religion, this is easily one of the most important books of 2012…and the future.

 

Circle of Dreamers July 27, 2012

Sometimes my responses to your comments are so packed with new information that I wish I’d saved them for another blog post so readers who don’t subscribe to my comments won’t miss them. This happened when I stayed up very late the other night to reply to Therese’s comments about the dream in my last post, A Solitary Dance. So I’ve decided to share my reply here instead.  She wrote as if this were her dream and these were her symbols, which is how the members of my dream groups respond to each others’ dreams. I’ve writtten this in the form of a dialogue because I want you to see the value of working on your dreams with another person or group.

Therese:  I just want to mention that I was curious about the difference between the feeling in the dream (“comforting, I wonder, I am impressed… grateful…”)  and the emotional pain evoked reflecting and associating while conscious (bone-deep, abiding pain…burden, responsibility, lonely, misunderstandings, critical, bored, solitary.”)

Me: Great insight! I hadn’t noticed the stark contrast between the feelings of my dreaming and waking selves!  A waking life event had left me feeling hurt and misunderstood the day before I had this dream, and when I wrote it down the next day the same feelings arose again.  The fact that my dream ego feels sorry for the gray man’s pain is a hint that I’m feeling sorry for myself (the gray man symbolizes the Scholar/Writer aspect of my animus); however my dream ego also feels curious,  grateful, and comforted by the presence of these inner characters in whom she places complete trust.

This is an example of how dreams compensate for waking life attitudes by presenting other perspectives. This dream was reminding me that beneath my temporary emotional reactions to day-to-day events there is a rock-bottom layer of unswerving support, comfort and trust. This is Dream Mother’s way of pointing me to a healing alternative:  I can choose to release my self-pity and move back into that place of gratitude and trust.

Therese: The setting of my living room seems significant, as does the gray robed man’s extreme stiffness.  Pain has been associated with his condition.  What else could this stiffness and pain be a symptom (symbol) for, in me?

Me: Yes, the living room setting suggests this was where I was living (psychologically) when I had the dream. And you’ve triggered the insight that the gray man’s stiffness speaks to a mental attitude I had adopted toward someone who had caused me distress.

Therese: And the pulling from his robes of a long pen, which he seemingly uses as a brace/reinforcement.  Could it also be an instrument to draw our attention (point) to an area of malaise, kidneys perhaps? something serving the function of filtering? or do I need to stretch? my backbone? structural support?  (Wow, I’ve just noticed MY lower back has begun to ache…)  My dream ego “feels sorry for” while my blonde animus feels “compassion and understanding.”  You dream an understanding of, “He knows.”  What is it that “he knows”?

Me: You’re so good at noticing dream references to the physical body. This rarely occurs to me. I do get lower back pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders sometimes. My chiropractor says they’re the result of a misalignment of the atlas, the top bone of the spine, which he corrects with gentle pressure on a spot behind my ear.  I wish it were as easy to correct my stiff-necked attitudes!  No kidney problems I know of, but the idea of strengthening my psychological filters resonates. And yes, I sit way too long at my computer and should get up and stretch more often. My dream ego feels sorry for the gray man just as my waking ego sometimes feels sorry for myself. The blonde man knows how the gray man feels without having to ask. He’s deeply intuitive because he’s suffered himself and knows how it looks and feels. This knowing is where his compassion comes from.

Therese: At the end of your associations you mention “he and I are not alone.”  What is it to be “not alone?”

Me: Two things: In the big picture I’m not alone because there’s a rapidly expanding mass of people, including yourself, Therese, whose search for self-knowledge is changing their ideas about religion as it connects them with the “kingdom of God” within. I’m also not alone as an individual because I have the company of a cast of inner archetypal characters I’ve met in my dreams whose energies are very real and present to me. Spending time with them in dreamwork,  active imagination and writing feels like coming home. So when I’m lost in anxiety, sorrow, or loneliness, recognizing these feelings reminds me who they’re coming from and takes me back “home.”

If Therese hadn’t responded to my dream with her associations I would have missed many of its nuances. Thank you, Therese, for carrying this dream around with you all day! Your comments have made me dig deeper and provided promising new areas for exploration.  And now to sleep, perchance to dream!

Photograph: Circle of Dreamers (Olmec Room, Mexico City National Anthropological Museum)

You can purchase my new book and see my video interview at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Exciting News: Watch My First Interview About Healing the Sacred Divide! July 17, 2012

Hello my dear friends.  This post is  going to be different from the others.  Instead of using the written word to share my passions with you, I have a video for you to watch.  It’s the interview about my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which was conducted on June 6th at the Book Expo America. It’s just come online and you are among the first to see it. Yaaay!  I hope you like it, and I hope you’ll pass it along to others who might be interested.  When you’re ready to watch it, click on the UTube link above.

Coincidentally, the online version of Publishers Weekly has just published a review of Healing the Sacred Divide in its Religion section.  I’m absolutely thrilled to say they’ve given it a “Thumbs Up!”  Another Yay!!  Here’s the link: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-936012-60-2

Things are getting very exciting now.  In another week I’ll begin doing book signings, lectures, and workshops.  If you’re interested in knowing when and where I’ll be appearing, you can check out my website from time to time.  And, of course, if you’re interested in having me make a presentation for your group, you can contact me through there too.

Also, to my loyal friends who are reading or have already read advance copies and offered to post reviews on Amazon, my publisher says the time has come.  So have at it!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to do this for me!  I’m told there’s a magic number of reviews — somewhere around 20 — which will attract major interest and cause an important boost in sales.  I know your kind words will make a huge difference.  While you’re there, I hope you’ll check out the wonderful review Skip Conover has already posted. 

Of course, to anyone who feels so inclined, I’d be extremely grateful if you’d add your own thoughts to Amazon! And if you don’t have a copy yet, please don’t be daunted by the fact that they only have one left!  They’ve almost sold out of the advance copies they had, but after July 30 they’ll have lots more.  Meanwhile, you can get one right away from my publisher, Larson Publications, Inc. at their web site: www.Larsonpublications.com.  Plus, you’ll find several reviews and lots of other very cool information about Healing the Sacred Divide there.

My heart is very full as I write this. I’m humbled and deeply grateful for your interest in my work, and I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you are following this blog.  Matrignosis and Healing the Sacred Divide are my gifts to you and the world, and you, my dear friends, are the world’s miraculous gifts to me!

Namaste.

 

 
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