Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Is Enlightenment? January 10, 2017

mahavira_enlightenmentWhy am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Am I doing it? How can I know? Will I ever know? Is there an underlying pattern to it all?

These are some of the Big questions that philosophers, Spirit Persons, and ordinary seekers are compelled to ask and answer. Some rely solely on intellectual methods: following teachers, reading, studying, getting degrees, writing books. Some seek answers in traditional religions and ‘religious’ practices. Some experiment with various forms of self-reflection aimed at self-discovery, self-knowledge and consciousness. Some try combinations of these plus alternative practices like body work, mind-altering drugs and artistic pursuits.

As I noted in my last post, our hunger for answers to these questions is motivated by the ‘transcendent function,’ a form of archetypal energy we all inherit just by being human. As a reminder, here’s Jung’s definition:

The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the ‘transcendent function’…. This function progressively unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.

In other words, even though we think of enlightenment as a strictly spiritual pursuit, it also has psychological (mental/ emotional/intellectual) components. Further, I would argue that it has physical components. In fact, I have come to believe that enlightenment is not solely a function of any one aspect of human nature, but of the whole package.

Buddhism expresses this idea through four “Aims” or goals of human life. As I see it, each goal is met within a particular domain of human functioning. Each domain is fueled by a physical instinct and represented by a masculine and feminine archetype. These stand at either end of the pole of energy in which that instinct specializes.

To be fully functioning spirit persons, we need to awaken, activate, and heal our fullest potential—masculine and feminine—in each of these four areas. ~Jean Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 203.

Here’s my summary of these relationships:

(1) The aim of Lawful Order and Moral Virtue takes place in The Social Domain. Our social lives receive energy from our physical Instinct for Nurturance.  Psychologically, this instinct is symbolized by the King and Queen archetypes, our inner authority figures who govern our social behavior for the benefit of all.

(2) We accomplish our aim for Power and success in The Physical Domain. This goal is primarily accomplished through our Instinct for Activity. We cannot just think or will our way to success. Our bodies have to be engaged in studied, committed, goal-oriented and self-disciplined practices. For me, the Warrior and Mother archetypes represent the opposite poles of physical energy available to us in pursuit of our goals in the material world.

(3) Release from Delusion:  The Mental Domain. Our search for truth and enlightenment relies on our cognitive functioning, or intellect, which matures as we consciously activate our Instinct for Reflection and its archetypal representatives, the Scholar/Magician and Wisewoman.

(4) Love and pleasure:  The Emotional Domain.  To find emotional satisfaction in life, we need to activate our Instinct for Sex and its psychological equivalents, the Lover and Beloved archetypes. This does not necessarily require our participation in physical sex, but the aspect of our libido which specializes in this kind of energy does need to be activated. In other words, we need to experience passion, and being loved and loving in return.

Since Jung believed we have five instincts, and in keeping with his insight that the transcendent function progressively unites the opposites, I respectfully offer a fifth domain which is equally essential to enlightenment.

(5)  Perfection and Completion: The Spiritual Domain.  In my experience, spiritual growth is fueled primarily by our Instinct for Creativity: our capacity to imagine and find meaning in the inner forces which influence our journeys through life. Our creativity is symbolized by the Couple archetype, or Self, which gradually manifests in every area of our lives via the transcendent function.

I see the Couple as integrating the other four archetype pairs in a sacred marriage of fully individuated and fully related opposites.  This union activates the creative instinct and brings us into the spiritual domain and Epoch III integrated consciousness. ~Raffa, HSD, p. 203.

british_museum_room_1_enlightenmentAs you can see, the search for enlightenment cannot be compartmentalized into one domain, but requires cooperation between every part of us in every domain in which we function. I stress this point to dispel the common misconception that putting all our spiritual eggs into one basket—traditional religious participation and belief—is the only way to attain enlightenment. This obsession with using only intellect and emotion to connect with a loving God not only dismisses the sacredness of the physical body, but it ignores the fact that our actual words and behaviors can be decidedly unspiritual. Moreover, it can lead to a dangerous split between mind and body, spirit and soul.

In conclusion I would like to note that despite all the thought and energy I’ve given to the pursuit of enlightenment, I cannot say for certain what it is. As I wrote in response to a comment after last week’s post:

“I wish I knew what enlightenment is. If it’s a conscious, consistent, ongoing process of trying to understand, individuate, love, realize our true selves, and appreciate the miracle of our lives, then, perhaps all of us who do this kind of work could be considered such. I mean, we know we’re part of a process, and we’re consciously involved in it. But if enlightenment is not a process, but an end-product, then I know I’m not “there.” I keep re-hashing old stuff and coming up with new stuff to process, so in this definition, I’m only as ‘enlightened’ as my thoughts, behavior, and motivations are in this very moment!” ~Jean Raffa

Image Credits: Enlightenment: Wikimedia Commons.  

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.

 

Avatar and Cultural Transformation November 10, 2015

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet to come to birth.  The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.  Carl Jung

Culture is created by the human psyche.  Intended or not, there is a psychological dimension to every art form. This is nowhere more evident than in James Cameron’s 2009 epic science-fiction film Avatar, a personal favorite.

Avatar’s characters, symbols and themes are updated versions of archetypes featured in stories from every nation, generation, and religion throughout history. Its symbols of interconnectedness—the wormy squirmy tentacled pony tails that bond with similar anatomical appendages of bizarre beasts, and the electrochemical connections between tree roots—are imaginatively resonant of ancient Hinduism’s Diamond Net of Indra, Jung’s collective unconscious, and quantum physics’ holographic universe. And its themes of self-discovery, initiation, revolution, transformation, and redemption have been with us since the first story ever told around a fire.

This lush film eloquently depicts the transformation occurring in humanity’s heroic journey into wholeness and consciousness. It does so by contrasting an ego that succeeds by opening to otherness and change with one that fails because it refuses to grow. Indulge me for a moment as I engage in a bit of imaginative word play to illustrate my point.

The time is the mid-22nd century. The place is Pandora, (mythically, the Greek goddess whose curiosity unleashed all the evils onto the world but whose ultimate legacy was hope). Pandora is a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system that is being colonized to mine a rare mineral. The plot revolves around the expansion of the mining colony which is threatening the existence of the local tribe of natives known as Na’vi.

Corporal Jake (Biblically, Jacob was Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson who overcame adversity to become the patriarch of the Israelites) Sully is a soldier whose body is bound to a wheel chair and whose soul has been sullied—i.e. contaminated and made impure—by bitterness, self-pity, and the aggressive mind-set of his dominator culture. Yet, by the end of the story, he is transformed into a heroic Warrior and passionate Lover.

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.  Carl Jung

After undergoing training to be an avatar, Jake’s crippled body rests in a remote location while his mind inhabits a genetically engineered Na’vi body that interacts with the natives.  His bravery, his respect for princess Neytiri (who says”nay” to tyranny and is Sully’s equal, savior, and Beloved), and his receptivity to the foreign ways of her culture all lead to his redemption and the salvation of the Na’vi.

And what might the name Na’vi symbolize? This tribe has long navigated safely through a difficult world by honoring the sacred underlying patterns of life. But because the people will not capitulate to the dominator ego mentality which has destroyed Earth, their culture is in danger of extinction.

Other archetypal themes are represented by the Na’vi’s spiritual leader Mo’at, (an abbreviation of Mother Earth?) who is a blend of the Jungian archetypes of Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman, and Beloved. Her earth-based values and connections to Nature are the glue that have enabled the Na’vi to flourish thus far.  Then there’s Jake’s mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine (a saintly name if ever there was one), who symbolizes the archetypal Queen’s regard for shared authority and individual differences and the Wisewoman’s intuitive intelligence and pursuit of truth.

Finally we have a plot with the necessary obstacles every hero must overcome: the self-absorbed and self-serving ego symbolized by Selfridge, corporate administrator of the mining program; and the obsessive Warrior mentality of the head of security, Colonel Miles Quaritch (from quarantine, a place of detention? Or quarrel, an angry dispute? Or quartz, a hard rock?). Cameron’s soulless dark invader, like Lucas’s Darth Vader, has miles to go in his own journey because of his rock-hard rigidity and unrelenting itch to maintain his power regardless of the cost to anyone or anything.

So here we have a story about a brave, heroic ego vs. a rigid, fearful ego. Earthly and cosmic connectedness vs. personal self-interest.  Accepting our shadows. Opening to otherness. Learning from feminine wisdom and nature. Moving toward balance. Uniting opposites with respect and love. Using our Warrior energy to protect and empower the vulnerable. Overcoming crippling disadvantages to become a force for positive change.

This haunting story is more than just another movie.  It is a mythic reflection of us at our worst and best. Of our blind ego with its rigid and self-righteous attitudes. Of our dysfunctional dark shadow that clings to old habits and blindly fouls our planetary nest. Of our power-hungry Warrior who continues to dominate families, neighborhoods and societies.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.  Carl Jung

Our hope lies with Jake who represents the resilience, creative imagination, and heroic potential of every ego, no matter how much suffering it endures, to overcome its lethargy and choose consciousness:  consciousness of our light shadow with its unique gifts and ideals and sensitivity and care. Consciousness of our healthy Warrior with the courage to say no to ingrained attitudes and practices that produce chaos, pollution and destruction. Consciousness of the love waiting to blossom between healthy femininity and masculinity.

Image Credit:  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.

 

Understanding Archetypes October 30, 2012

After my last post, a reader asked me some questions about the Lover and Beloved archetypes.  Before I answer them I want to remind you that the whole concept of archetypes was only introduced to the West about 90 years ago and for everything we think we understand about them, there’s much more we don’t.  Here’s what I think right now.

Q:  “What is the difference between the Beloved and the true self?  Is the Beloved the true self?”

A:   As I wrote in my new book, the term Beloved connotes many different things. In your physical life it can mean the person you love above all others and with whom you enjoy sexual intimacy. Psychologically the Beloved is the beautiful, soulful, feeling, emotional, magnetic feminine aspects of our true selves that attract and inspire our masculine ego/Lover to undertake the search for love, pleasure and union. In Christianity it often refers to Jesus, or the Church, the body of Christ which is God’s beloved. Beloved can also be an encompassing term for the soul, or for all the feminine archetypes making up the feminine side of the Self, or it can mean the Self itself: our spiritual essence, the sacred Other with whom we wish to unite,  our true self, the Christ within, and so on.

Q:  “Is the Lover the one loving and the Beloved the one loved?”

A:  Essentially, yes. The Lover is the part of us that pursues love and pleasure,  (physical, and spiritual), and the Beloved is the part that receives, accepts and deserves love and pleasure.

Q:  “If our Beloved is unawakened, or not loved by our Lover, is that why the Beloved carries around all the unacknowledged feelings?”

A:   Either or both can be unawakened, which means that we will have trouble feeling and/or accepting the positive emotions of love and pleasure and will tend to look for them in the wrong places.  Until our Lover is awakened—which usually occurs when we have traumatic conflicts or experiences that compel us to acknowledge and work with our honest feelings—he will not have the passion to search for love and awaken our Beloved’s positive and tender feelings. Until he does, she will still be asleep, carrying all our unacknowledged feelings in our unconscious, and we will not have access to them.

Q:  “I thought the Shadow carried the unacknowledged feelings.”

A:  Our Shadow does include the unacknowledged feelings of the Lover and Beloved,  but it also contains unacknowledged qualities other than emotions. Some are mental, like the dogmatic Scholar’s calcified, childlike, one-sided ideas, opinions and attitudes and the immature Wisewoman’s tendency to be too gullible, receptive and permissive;  others are a combination of social, mental and behavioral, like the shadow King’s dominating, authoritarian manner.

Many who are fascinated with the psyche have tried to draw clear boundaries around the archetypes. I’ve worked for years to devise a framework that could help me understand myself, and I’m passing on what’s been useful; however, nobody knows for sure how closely our descriptions fit reality. In truth, it’s not possible to fully understand. Archetypes are unconscious patterns that we only become aware of when we project them onto Gods and Goddesses and portray in myths. The most fruitful thing we can do is observe how their energies move in us, then express them in imaginative ways. If naming them helps, good. But if writing, painting or dancing them helps more, even better! Theories can guide, but only personal experiences can heal.

Something to think about:  What does your Halloween costume this year say about your archetypal energy?  Happy Halloween!

You can purchase Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and www.larsonpublications.com.

 

Partnership Between the Scholar and Wisewoman October 19, 2012

In my last post I wrote about the Warrior and Mother archetypes. This time we’ll look at the Scholar and Wisewoman. The instinct for reflection is about the basic human “end” to be released from delusion.  There is something in all of us that wants to know and understand. Children want to see, feel, touch, taste, and smell everything.  As we grow older, if our curiosity is not stifled by too many rules and inhibitions, we want to understand why and how things work. Later still our curiosity about the world extends to the inner universe.  We just naturally feel good about ourselves when we acquire helpful new insights into our behavior because self-knowledge is its own fine reward.

The instinct for reflection is symbolized by the archetypes of Scholar and Wisewoman. The clear, piercing focus of the Scholar is motivated by the drive for self-preservation. He believes the key to our survival and self-fulfillment is the ability to reflect on life, study, acquire knowledge, and learn the secrets that will release us from our delusions. In the mandorla symbol of interlocked circles, our Scholar is the circle representing the left hemisphere of the brain, the logos that primarily processes information with focused consciousness and logical thinking by means of linear, rational, verbal thoughts and ideas. With his preference for clear discrimination and knowledge of objective phenomena, the Scholar’s specialty is the thinking of science and technology.

His archetypal partner, the part of us motivated by the drive for species-preservation, is the Wisewoman, our all-knowing mistress of the hidden arts.  Her specialties are the brain’s poorly understood right-hemisphere qualities of mythos.  The primary functions of mythos are diffuse awareness and analogical thinking. These spawn several ways of knowing: body awareness, spiritual awareness (knowledge of, and connection with, the Other), the ability to synthesize paradoxical messages from diverse sources, and the ability to create meaning from subjective experience, emotions, relationships,  intuition, gnosis, imagination, and symbols.

When the Scholar’s focus, clarity and objectivity are intentionally employed in service to exploring our unconscious depths, the Wisewoman’s intuitive connectedness, self-awareness and openness to otherness are unearthed and activated. Empowering both of these poles of the instinct for reflection strengthens our mindfulness and leads to expanding consciousness. This is a mental state of heightened awareness and receptivity to information coming to us from both the exterior and interior worlds.  Being open to both is the hallmark of partnership in the mental domain. The result of this inner marriage is the activation of the Sage archetype. Other names for this energy include mage, magician, philosopher, prophet/ess, sorcerer/ess, shaman, wizard, medicine woman/man, and wise old woman/man.

This form of archetypal energy can be identified by several specific skills. They include truth-seeker, mental juggler, light-bearer, lifelong learner, wall-wrecker (breaking through our resistance to otherness), chain-breaker (losing old habits and releasing attachments to outcomes), choice-maker, namer (of truth and reality), clown (or life-changing trickster), connector, and problem-solver.

Archetypal psychologist Carol S. Pearson says Sages have little or no need to control or change the world; they just want to understand it.  The Sage’s path is the journey to find out the truth—about ourselves, our world, and the universe.  At its highest levels, it is not simply about finding knowledge, but about becoming wise.  It is our Sage within who, like Wisdom People from every tradition in every age, resonates to the adages, “Know thyself,” “To thine own self be true,” and “That ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

The more free you feel to seek the truth, regardless of societal consequences, the more mature your Sage will be.  How badly do you want to know the truth? How powerful is your Sage?

Find Healing the Sacred Divide at www.amazon.com and http://www.larsonpublications.com

 

Remything Our Lives With Our Own Symbols April 10, 2012

The symbols and themes of dreams, legends, fairy tales and myths address realities that the soul understands, even if the conscious mind does not. For example, the legend of King Arthur features a walled city. We might be tempted to think that Camelot’s walls are nothing more than an incidental detail. So what if Camelot was surrounded by walls?  Lots of ancient cities were fortified by walls.  But as I’ve said before: Everything has meaning. Our symbols are clues to sacred mysteries.

If we look at the walled city as an important clue, we find the underlying meaning of Arthur’s story as it applied to the souls of those who lived in the place and time when it was written.  Cirlot’s Dictionary of symbols says, “Jung sees the city as a mother symbol and as a symbol of the feminine principle in general:  that is, he interprets the City as a woman who shelters her inhabitants as if they were her children…”

In the Old Testament of the Bible, cities are often spoken of as women, and in the Middle Ages, a city was one way of representing the Virgin Mary in art and architecture.  The walls that encircled cities were seen to have magical powers to protect the citizens in the same way that a mother’s womb protects her child or the enfolding branches of a tree protect a baby bear.

The walled city is no mere incidental detail in King Arthur’s story, and it ended in the only way it could.  The destruction of Camelot’s protective walls was inevitable given that this story emerged within a culture which, after a few hundred years of Roman rule, had begun to fear and scorn the Great Mother. Here is the symbolic message of this story: Not even the wisest and most benevolent King that any story teller could ever imagine could save a civilization that was systematically demolishing its feminine spiritual roots!

The negative elements of public and private myths speak to negative realities within the collective and individual psyche. What is the antidote to these powerful poisons? In his book The Mythic Imagination, psychotherapist Stephen Larsen says that conscious mythmaking is healthy and healing because it helps our egos relate to unconscious aspects of ourselves.

I think of the Wisewoman archetype as the part of us who knows when old stories that once worked for us have gone on too long, and who sends us new symbols that can ease us through the transition of change. But all the symbols in the world cannot help us if we will not help ourselves. It is up to us to notice symbols and themes that resonate, and to reshape them into new myths that will support and sustain the necessary changes. As theologian Matthew Fox has said: “Healthy people base their lives on healing, authentic stories.  Empowerment comes through the process of telling those stories.”

We cannot live the fullest meaning of our life by basing it on someone else’s story about who we are or what we should be.  Only our experiences, only our choices, only our own imagination and symbols have transforming power for us. To that end you might ask yourself these questions:  What stories have I lived by? How have they had a negative influence on me?  How have they been positive? What new symbols and themes is the Wisewoman sending my way? What emerging strengths would I want to feature in my new myth? What images might best symbolize these strengths?

 

Freedom to Feel February 3, 2012

As a young married woman I was utterly captivated by the film, Blume in Love, for reasons I didn’t understand. The same thing had happened three years earlier when I read my all-time favorite book: The Magus, by John Fowles. Why did I find it so incredibly fascinating? Did it have anything in common with Blume in Love, or were these just random coincidences? I didn’t know then. Forty years later, I do.

The Magus, published in 1966, was an instant success and is considered one of the top 100 best novels of the 20th century. The film which came out two years later is another story. This from Wikipedia: “The film was a critical disaster…Michael Caine himself has said that it was one of the worst films he had been involved in…because no one knew what it was all about. Woody Allen has made the comment that if he could live his life over again, he would do everything the same except for seeing The Magus.”

Who understood the message of The Magus in 1968? Certainly not the general public.  Even Fowles kept working on it until 1977 when he brought out a final version. Interest in psychoanalysis and mystical philosophy was growing in the West, but most of us, including women and some truly bad guys, still had the ego-driven mentality of a teenaged boy who wears the persona of a tough, white-hatted cowboy who defends the weak and is always on the side of right — even when it’s obvious to everyone else that he couldn’t be more wrong.

But the 100th monkey had hopped into a sinking canoe and we were in for a tumultuous ride down a raging river. The denizens of our collective unconscious had gained so much power that they were erupting in shocking phenomena: racial unrest, the Beatles with their Eastern religion and psychodelic drugs, the assassinations of our leaders, college sit-ins, the peace symbols and flower power of Haight-Ashbury’s hippies, the dissolving of the sexual double standard, violent protests against the Viet Nam War, and the charismatic and feminist movements.

Here’s my psychological explanation. Humanity had spent about 5,000 years developing and fine-tuning the ego, left-brained logos, and our masculine sides. All of this was a necessary part of our evolution, but then, in the first half of the 20th century, we experienced two devastating world wars, several smaller ones, and a new invention called “television.” Seeing his dark side reflected on the nightly news finally woke macho Old King Ego up. So he climbed down from his high horse and kissed Sophia, the sleeping Queen and High Priestess of the psyche who symbolizes feeling wisdom that comes from experience. We were evolving, getting back in touch with Eros, our feminine, caring, relationship-oriented side, and chaos always precedes times of great change.

So what does all hell breaking loose in Western society have to do with The Magus, Blume in Love, and me? Nicholas Urfe is near suicide due to an unauthentic life marked by unfeeling treatment of women. He’s drawn into the spell of a mysterious, magician-like man who uses a beautiful woman and an unconventional method to teach him how to feel again. Blume gets back in touch with his feelings when his desperate love for his Sophia-like divorced wife rekindles his feminine side. Like them and my society, I too was having unusual experiences that were arousing my inner feminine. Few from our generation knew what was happening, and many misused their new freedom to feel with disastrous results, but those who seized it and survived underwent life-changing initiations. Could it be that the dark Age of Unfeeling Reason is finally taking its place among the other dinosaurs of Earth’s chequered history?

 

 
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