Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

How Do You Find Your Center? January 7, 2020

“Each person is born with an unencumbered spot, free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry, an umbilical spot of grace where we were each touched by God. It is this spot of grace that issues peace. Psychologists call this spot the Psyche, Theologists call it the Soul, Jung calls it The Seat of the Unconscious, Hindu masters call it the Atman, Buddhists call it the Dharma, Rilke called it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qualb, and Jesus calls it The center of Our Love.

To know this spot of inwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it. This is a hard lifelong task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we begin while the nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential. We each  live in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over only to be worn back to that incorruptible spot of grace at our core.” Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo rightly notes that we each live in the midst of an ongoing tension. Part of it is caused by the natural stressors of living in a fast-paced, instant-gratification world, and part is our natural inner compulsion to grow and better ourselves. The reality is, we can’t grow without conflict or suffering. The different energies of the north and south poles need to interact to create our earth’s magnetic field. You have to contend with the different specialties of your brain’s two hemispheres as well as the realities of your inner and outer lives to resolve everyday problems.

Tension motivates change. If we can tolerate the tension of our conflicts long enough without acting rashly, our unconscious can find solutions that will further our growth. But if we ignore our tension too long without addressing it, it can create burnout and physical symptoms.

How do we address our tension? How do we find that magical, unencumbered spot of grace that issues peace? Whether we’re aware of it or not, this is a central question around which our lives revolve, but many of us are so distracted by our outer lives that we don’t stop long enough to hear the question, let alone try to answer it. To further complicate things, the answers vary from culture to culture and individual to individual. But four principles remain constant.

1. Create some personal alone time to find your center. This involves more than saying an occasional affirmation or prayer, listening to a weekly sermon, or hearing a few motivational speeches. You’ll need to be willing to delay some pursuits which your ego finds instantly gratifying in favor of ones that will bring future rewards which may be a long time coming.

2. Try different practices until you find what brings you to a place of love, joy, and peace. Pay close attention to your inner life, not only while you’re practicing, but throughout the rest of the day and coming weeks. Notice how your practice affects your emotions, moods, self-esteem, and relationships. Commit to the one or ones that make you come alive and bring you close to Spirit. Here are some I’ve tried:  writing, poetry, meditation, prayer, dreamwork, yoga, playing and listening to music, being with animals and nature, hiking, and reading. Of these, writing, dreamwork, and meditation have been the most helpful and enduring.

3. Persevere. Some practices take a longer trial period than others before you get into the groove and begin to notice beneficial effects that motivate you to continue. For example, I’ve always loved to write — letters, poetry, diaries, journals, stories, plays, etc. — but when I began to write my dissertation at the age of 39, it was far more difficult than fun. Since it was my dissertation, I forced myself to persevere. Because I had a part-time job and two children, I wrote for a few hours every night after they went to bed. Of course, this meant I had to let other responsibilities slide and my husband had to help more with the kids and household duties. At first, these changes were hard for all of us. But day by day my resistance lowered, my writing brought more pleasure, and my family grew accustomed to our new routines. By the time I finished several months later, I realized that this had been the happiest time of my adult life! Hard as it was, the moment I sat down at my typewriter, time disappeared and all my concerns dissolved until I got up again. It was pure magic.

4. Practice regularly. Daily is ideal. Set aside a time when you can be alone and concentrate for at least 20 or 30 minutes. But there’s no need to beat yourself up if you miss a few of these appointments with your soul. For example, when I first committed myself to dreamwork, I recorded and worked on dreams most mornings and totaled over 300 every year. Last weekend I finished summarizing my dreams from 2019 and my total was 119. Weeks passed when I didn’t remember and record a dream. But I’ve done this for so long that I know when I need to get serious about it again. And when I do, it always brings me back to peace and love.

What practices make your true Self come alive? If you haven’t found your center yet, may 2020 be your year of returning to that umbilical spot of grace where you were touched by God.

Image credits:  Serpentine Fire, Google Free Images, unknown. Heart Mandala, Google Free Images, Daniel B. Holeman.

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. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, which will be launched later this year.

 

The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies, by Mary Pipher January 2, 2020

Happy New Year to my dear reader friends. Thank you for following Matrignosis. May the new year bring you increasing health, prosperity, joy, and wisdom. Today a friend sent me this wonderful article by Mary Pipher. I share her sentiments and could not have said it better.  Enjoy.

We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. –Maya Angelou

The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies

–by Mary Pipher, Feb 27, 2019

This article originally appeared in the New York Times Sunday Review, on January 12th, 2019.

When I told my friends I was writing a book on older women like us, they immediately protested, “I am not old.” What they meant was that they didn’t act or feel like the cultural stereotypes of women their age. Old meant bossy, useless, unhappy and in the way. Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one, no matter her age, will admit she is old.

In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging. Our bodies and our sexuality are devalued, we are denigrated by mother-in-law jokes, and we’re rendered invisible in the media. Yet, most of the women I know describe themselves as being in a vibrant and happy life stage. We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins. Our happiness comes from self-knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy for others.

Most of us don’t miss the male gaze. It came with catcalls, harassment and unwanted attention. Instead, we feel free from the tyranny of worrying about our looks. For the first time since we were 10, we can feel relaxed about our appearance. We can wear yoga tights instead of nylons and bluejeans instead of business suits.

Yet, in this developmental stage, we are confronted by great challenges. We are unlikely to escape great sorrow for long. We all suffer, but not all of us grow. Those of us who grow do so by developing our moral imaginations and expanding our carrying capacities for pain and bliss. In fact, this pendulum between joy and despair is what makes old age catalytic for spiritual and emotional growth.

By our 70s, we’ve had decades to develop resilience. Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.

We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings.

Many women flourish as we learn how to make everything workable. Yes, everything. As we walk out of a friend’s funeral, we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues.

Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything. I visited the jazz great Jane Jarvis when she was old, crippled and living in a tiny apartment with a window facing a brick wall. I asked if she was happy and she replied, “I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.”

We may not have control, but we have choices. With intention and focused attention, we can always find a forward path. We discover what we are looking for. If we look for evidence of love in the universe, we will find it. If we seek beauty, it will spill into our lives any moment we wish. If we search for events to appreciate, we discover them to be abundant.

There is an amazing calculus in old age. As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. We experience bliss on a regular basis. As one friend said: “When I was young I needed sexual ecstasy or a hike to the top of a mountain to experience bliss. Now I can feel it when I look at a caterpillar on my garden path.”

Older women have learned the importance of reasonable expectations. We know that all our desires will not be fulfilled, that the world isn’t organized around pleasing us and that others, especially our children, are not waiting for our opinions and judgments. We know that the joys and sorrows of life are as mixed together as salt and water in the sea. We don’t expect perfection or even relief from suffering. A good book, a piece of homemade pie or a call from a friend can make us happy. As my aunt Grace, who lived in the Ozarks, put it, “I get what I want, but I know what to want.”

We can be kinder to ourselves as well as more honest and authentic. Our people-pleasing selves soften their voices and our true selves speak more loudly and more often. We don’t need to pretend to ourselves and others that we don’t have needs. We can say no to anything we don’t want to do. We can listen to our hearts and act in our own best interest. We are less angst-filled and more content, less driven and more able to live in the moment with all its lovely possibilities.

Many of us have a shelterbelt of good friends and long-term partners. There is a sweetness to 50-year-old friendships and marriages that can’t be described in language. We know each other’s vulnerabilities, flaws and gifts; we’ve had our battles royal and yet are grateful to be together. A word or a look can signal so much meaning. Lucky women are connected to a rich web of women friends. Those friends can be our emotional health insurance policies.

The only constant in our lives is change. But if we are growing in wisdom and empathy, we can take the long view. We’ve lived through seven decades of our country’s history, from Truman to Trump. I knew my great-grandmother, and if I live long enough, will meet my great-grandchildren. I will have known seven generations of family. I see where I belong in a long line of Scotch-Irish ancestors. I am alive today only because thousands of generations of resilient homo sapiens managed to procreate and raise their children. I come from, we all come from, resilient stock, or we wouldn’t be here.

By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.

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

 

A Thanksgiving Blessing November 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cult of Personality Vs. Kali: Who Will Win? November 12, 2019

In an early post from 2011 titled Qaddafi Vs. Kali: Who Will Win?, I wrote that the film Avatar highlights the differences between the heroic and immature ego. Avatar’s hero, Corporal Jake Sully, succeeds because of his bravery, receptivity to Princess Neytiri and her culture, and willingness to heed his wise and truth-pursuing mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine. His adversary, the obsessive and soulless Colonel Miles Quaritch (there’s an interesting similarity between his name and Colonel Muammar Qaddafi don’t you think?), fails because of his resistance to the Na’vi and their spiritual leader, Queen Mo’as, and his determination to destroy whatever threatens his power.

Some of you might not remember Muammar Qaddafi, so here are a few excepts from Wikipedia. Qaddafi

“…was a Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist.

“Amid the 2011 Arab Spring, protests against widespread corruption and unemployment broke out in eastern Libya. The situation descended into civil war, in which Nato intervened militarily on the side of the anti-Gaddafist National Transitional Council (NTC). The government was overthrown, and Gaddafi retreated to Sirte, only to be captured and killed by by NTC militants.

“A highly divisive figure, Gaddafi dominated Libya’s politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality….he was posthumously accused of sexual abuse. He was condemned by many as a dictator whose authoritarian administration violated human rights and financed global terrorism.”

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of cult of personality:

“A cult of personality, or cult of the leaderarises when a country’s regime – or, more rarely, an individual – uses the techniques of mass media, propaganda, the big lie, spectacle, the arts, patriotism, and government-organised demonstrations and rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and worshipful image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. A cult of personality is similar to apotheosis, except that it is established by modern social engineering techniques, usually by the state or the party in one-party states and dominant-party states. It is often seen in totalitarian or authoritarian countries.”

Is this what we’re seeing in the U.S. today? If so, why? Here’s a psychological explanation. Quaritch and Qaddafi exemplify the Old King/Warrior ego. It attains power and success with two primary strategies: first, by believing it is the supreme authority of the psyche and the center of the world around us; and second, by rejecting otherness, which in Jungian psychology is associated with the feminine unconscious. As long as we function in this mode, sharing our power and trusting the wisdom of forces we consider inferior is unthinkable.

The old ego’s belief in its superiority created, and still supports, patriarchal cultures with their hierarchies of authority. In extreme cases, hierarchies can create a cult of personality surrounding an inflated ego which fought its way to the top believing its powerful position would immunize it from the suffering and failures of those below. To someone like this, losing to the corporals of the world feels like a mortal, humiliating blow administered by a cruel enemy. Likewise, for many people, including the Biblical Job and Jung, an experience of God — the ultimate Other — as a force with far more power than our puny ego, is, in Jung’s words, an “unvarnished spectacle of divine savagery and ruthlessness” that produces shattering emotion.

In my original post about Qaddaffi, published when he was still alive, I imagined he might be feeling some uncomfortable emotions as he faced growing rebellion in Libya. Perhaps in the secret places of his soul he even questioned  his God. After all, if he who did everything right to gain such a wondrous position of power could be threatened by the loss of control of his country, what had his life been all about? This is how every ego feels when confronted with the power of repressed otherness. Losing control feels like a violation. Like utter unfairness. Like death, the ultimate feminine mystery.

In Hinduism this mystery is symbolized by an aspect of the Great Mother known as Kali, the Mistress of the Dead who reminds us that when new healing is required, the old ways must change or die. Her natural cycles of birth/death/rebirth terrify the Old King/Warrior/Ego who wants to escape the darker demands of growing up: things like aging, becoming vulnerable in relationships, being humbled by a loss of power, money, status, loved ones, or health. So he deludes himself into believing that controlling, banishing or destroying otherness proves his omnipotence and protects him from the Great Mother’s power. It doesn’t. The Old King/Ego aided the survival of our species, but the rules have changed. Now he is a dinosaur whose dominator mind-set is rapidly becoming extinct.

Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Fearful, immature egos currently control the U.S. government, hoping to delude, confuse, and attract followers via divisive tactics and a cult of personality. Stalin, Hitler, and Qadaffi did the same and lost. Why? Because humans are wired to grow into wisdom and maturity. To rise above our self-centered egos, to become less fearful and more humble and respectful. To befriend the otherness of our unconscious selves and other people, religions, races, genders, and nations. And if we can’t manage that, Kali — who lives in each of us and in the collective unconscious of our country — will force us to. It’s nature’s way.

The U.S. has been infected by the cult of personality and we are in desperate need of change. Dying to the old patriarchal ego and aiding the birth of a nation with a heroic ego is the great work to which each of us is called. What kinds of leaders will we vote into office next November? Will we, like the brave Corporal Sully, attain our heroic destiny by embracing the otherness in ourselves and others? Or will we bring the wrath of Kali down upon our nation because our egos are too frightened of the darker demands of growing up?

 

Excavating A Wounded Child with a Mother Complex November 4, 2019

Here’s another oldie, but goodie, from a few years back. Enjoy.

child-walking-on-beachMy parents have rented a vacation cabin on Lake Michigan. I’m playing by the shore and realize it’s getting dark. I look around. I’m alone. I begin walking along the water’s edge toward a distant pinpoint of light. Could that be my mother looking for me? How could she lose me? Will she find me? Will anyone find me? Will I have to live with a stranger?  Will they feed me? Could something bad happen to me? After what feels like an eternity, Daddy and Jimmy come up behind me. Daddy explains. He and Mama left the beach separately, each believing I was with the other one. I’m safe, but I want Mama! Why didn’t she come for me? Doesn’t she know how afraid I’ve been?  That I’d want her to look for me? 

This is my earliest memory, described in more depth in my book, The Bridge to Wholeness. I was three. Something new was set into motion that evening. I had become conscious of my separate existence in a very big, dark, and scary world. In their book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, Jungian analysts Massimilla and Bud Harris write:

“…early infancy is the time when the world of the family begins imprinting itself on our tiny psyches, and this is a critical time in our emotional development.  We know by now that much of a baby’s view of the world is filtered through the mother’s body and the emotional attitudes her body reflects. Of course this means that the child of a mother who is overly anxious or is resentful of the birth will feel out of adjustment psychologically, and such feelings will be the beginning of a negative mother complex.  When we grow up this way, our personality will be founded on a deep sense of anxiety, scarcity, and a mistrust of the world.  In contrast, if our mother is sufficiently gentle, loving, and emotionally secure, she will help us develop a basic sense of trust in life and in our place in the world.”

This memory resurfaced after last week’s post in which I described an example of how my mother complex influenced a relationship. Since practically everyone has mother issues of some sort—whether positive or negative, recognized or not—it seems appropriate to share more of what I’ve learned.

Every child experiences anxiety when it becomes aware of its individuality and vulnerability, and mothers vary in their ability to assuage this, our earliest wound. Good mothers are naturally gentle, patient, good-natured, affectionate, reassuring and loving. They make their children feel confident, safe and secure. Mothering can be more difficult for well-meaning women with mother complexes, jobs, other external stressors, or undeveloped “maternal instincts.”  Nonetheless, a well-intentioned woman with a powerful desire to provide loving care and ongoing reassurance can be good enough at meeting her child’s basic physical and psychological needs.

Unfortunately, many mothers are too wounded, stressed, narcissistic or oblivious to give their children enough basic nurturance.  Some are angry, jealous or resentful. Some are unstable, mentally ill or abusive. Some are not there.

My mother was more than good enough. Although anxious and emotionally fragile, she was kind, gentle and loving. I admired her, loved her, and felt loved in return. She tried hard to provide me with a safe and comfortable life, and I did feel safe until she and Daddy divorced and then he died. But when she was pregnant with me and throughout my childhood, Daddy was rarely home because he was having an affair. The strain of this plus her full-time job left her with little energy for me, physical or emotional.

I wasn’t neglected. Mama boarded women students from the nearby university in exchange for minimal rent and baby-sitting. But she was rarely available during my waking hours…and I missed her. As I grew older it got easier to lower my expectations and ignore my need for her. By the time Daddy died, I was proud of my independence and saw my ability to hide my hurt as a strength. But deep within, a three-year-old child still felt sad, lonely, deprived, and sorry for herself.

Me at 5, recovering from the measles.

Me at 5, recovering from the measles.

It’s taken years of digging through layers of rationalization and denial to see her. Besides feeling the aforementioned emotions, she tends to (1) project Mother onto self-confident and accomplished men and women she admires, (2) feel deeply disappointed and unforgiving when they fail to measure up to her ideals, and, most insidious of all, (3) assume she’s unworthy and unloveable.

I’m sharing the causes and effects of my mother complex to help others excavate theirs. Mine doesn’t compare to ones that were shaped by rejection or abuse, but this doesn’t mean I should deny my honest feelings. It’s too easy to fall into that insidious trap. Conventional wisdom urges us to toughen up, ignore our pain, and stay on the “sunny side of the street.” It advises against “self-absorbed navel-gazing” and “blaming your parents for your problems,” leading us to equate acceptance with blame.

This isn’t wisdom.  It’s escapist rationalization. I know the pain of assuming I don’t deserve to live my own life, that I must hide my true self. And I’ve experienced the exhilaration of escaping that dark prison. We can’t become the mature individuals we yearn to be until we make peace with the inner forces that made us who we are.

Image Source:  Google Images, Flickr.com. 

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

 

Gifts From Dream Mother and the Crones October 1, 2019

Respect for the Goddess archetype in her aspect as Crone may still be scarce in the Western world, but she remains a reality within the psyche. Many people who carefully attend to their inner life report experiencing significant encounters with wise old women, especially in dreams, but also in waking fantasies and visions. Jungians interpret these as important indications of the ego’s willingness to accept the guidance of the unconscious feminine which indwells us all.

Thirty years ago I made the decision to take my inner life seriously enough to work on my dreams. The tenth dream I recorded presaged a turning point in my life that would come about because of that choice. Here is a brief summary:

Dream # 10A: Gifts From the Crones.

I’m visiting a foreign, forbidden place, like a kibbutz. I feel guilty and afraid and know I will have to sneak out illegally. Dorene [a wise and admired professor friend in waking life who is married to a Jewish man] is working here and I’ve brought gifts for her. She’s with three or four older women, grandmothers perhaps. They’re sitting cross-legged on the floor dressed in flowing, earth-colored, ethnic-looking clothes. Plump and solid, with heads wrapped in turbans fashioned from natural fibers, they seem serene and benevolent.

To my surprise, they hold out gifts for me — small, loosely woven bags overflowing with sweet-smelling herbs and spices. I say their gifts to me are so much better than mine to them and know it to be true. I look forward to using them in the future.

I want to avoid the guards at the check point at the train station, so I leave by sneaking in the back door of a dark theater and crawling through on my hands and knees. I’m nervous about this surreptitious avoidance of the authorities, but full of confident, decisive energy.

Although I didn’t understand the full import of the dream at the time, today it seems clear. Here are my associations:

I’m in a place like a Jewish kibbutz (somewhere foreign and somewhat threatening to my conscious orientation: i.e., the unconscious). I’m met by an admired professor friend (symbol of my positive feminine side), and three or four crones (images of the wisdom and authority of the deep feminine). I’ve brought gifts (my strong desire to connect with, and show respect for, the contents of my unconscious); but, surprisingly, the elder women give me sweet-smelling herbs and spices (symbols of the feminine, nature-based mystery wisdom which awakens the body and its senses and brings physical and spiritual healing in natural, organic ways). The dream says I know the value of these gifts and look forward to using them in the future (I want to acquire the wisdom of the Great Mother and hope to use it wisely someday).

This dream planted the seeds for this blog some thirty years ago. It said I know (from the Greek word, gnosis, meaning knowing or knowledge, particularly intuitive, esoteric knowledge of spiritual truths) the value of these gifts. I want the wisdom of the Great Mother (from the Latin mater matrimonium) and hope to use it wisely someday.

MatriGnosis. Matrignosis means “knowing Mother wisdom.” I made up the word when I started this blog over nine years ago but Dream Mother told me long before that that the Grandmothers were giving me gifts I would use some day. And I am. To name and write this blog, and to write four books about empowering the feminine principle in humanity.

Here’s another gift from Dream Mother. The dream ends with me crawling away through a darkened theater feeling guilty and nervous, yet confident and decisive. Why was I in a theater? I didn’t know at the time, (I was in the dark) but four years later, that tiny detail inspired the title for my second book about the inner life, Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dream Work.

A third gift was a new awareness of hidden beliefs and emotions that were blocking my growth. In the dream I felt anxious and nervous about being caught by the authorities. Who were these authorities, and why was I so afraid of them?

In those days I couldn’t see the patriarchal cloud of unspoken repressive attitudes and expectations for women under which I had lived all my life. I didn’t know I was intimidated by it. But deep within I felt I was breaking the Old King’s rules (the unspoken agreement of collective culture to discount femininity and the life of the unconscious) by entering this dark and foreign land, and I was afraid of ridicule and scorn. Thirty years later this fear has not completely left me, but I’ve made much headway and I’m still determined to overcome it.

Do you see why I trust the wisdom of my dreams? My ego could never come up with this stuff all by itself. And it happens often. Our ego selves are not alone. All we have to do is turn within where our teachers are waiting to bless us.

Being known and loved by the mysterious, benevolent grandmothers confirmed my worth. It touched me deeply that they were prepared for my arrival, wanted me there, loved me as I was, and offered their gifts freely.There were no strings, no reservations, no sense I had to behave a certain way or believe certain things to be acceptable.

Yes, I received this assurance from a dream. For some, this might invalidate its worth. But this would be a grave mistake. The archetypal feminine is an actual force within humanity that contains the potential to change and heal us and our world. My willingness to cooperate with it was all that was needed to spark a process of growth that still goes on. Even now, there are times when I need the reminder that I am good enough as I am, and entitled to be loved by my maternal Source. In retrospect I believe the unconditional love of this Source is the secret power of the crones’ gifts. Tapping into it may be the ultimate meaning of life.

Photo Credits: Google Free Images, Origins unknown.

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

 

Caryatids and Queens September 17, 2019

Femininity is universally associated with beauty, softness, tenderness, receptivity, relationship, and caring. While some equate these qualities with weakness, Spirit Warriors know they make us stronger than we ever imagined possible. Of the many symbols suggesting this kind of strength, none speaks as strongly to me as the caryatid.

Caryatids are gigantic columns or pillars in the form of beautiful, fully draped females. A very old architectural device, they were originally used to support immense entablatures in sacred public buildings. In ancient times it was said that seven priestesses founded major oracle shrines. These priestesses had different names in various parts of the world. In the Middle East they were known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, hence their common usage as columns holding up temple roofs. These same pillars are referred to in Proverbs 9:1: “Wisdom [Sophia] hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” On the Acropolis at Athens, caryatids are associated with the strong and independent goddess, Artemis Caryatis, from whom they get their name.

My first glimpse of caryatids at the British Museum filled me with awe and wonder. In them I saw feminine beauty, gentleness, independence, spirituality and mystery blended with majestic, connected, sense of community, and the immovable strength and indomitable will to take a stand for social responsibility. I was looking at the Queen archetype.

A defining characteristic of the caryatid’s strength is her queenly way of serving society. She is strong enough to support huge public buildings in which many activities take place every day, but never takes on more than she can handle, never gets crushed under the weight of her responsibilities.

Nor does she claim godlike perfection and omnipotence for herself: no savior complex for her! She simply receives what she is strong enough to receive; contains what she is large enough to contain; gives what is hers to give. Her strength is not based on compulsions to prove anything or pretend to be something she is not, but on a clear understanding of the nature of her gifts, dimensions of her interior space, and limits of her strength and authority.

Like caryatids, mature Queens have a strong need to nurture their communities. They are pillars of society who are always there to listen and understand; share in pain or joy; defend the innocent, weak, vulnerable and disenfranchised; and advance culture. They have a quiet, grounded strength that does not belittle, gossip, or betray confidences. They accept without rejecting differing opinions and protect without exploiting weakness. They do not relinquish softness; rather theirs is the softness of the lioness, not the lamb. Although receptive, they are never doormats. They nurture but never smother. Theirs is the warm and life-giving receptivity of the womb, not the cold hardness of the tomb.

Caryatids and Queens stand tall and firm with eyes wide open. With steadfast devotion and resolve they support institutions and endeavors which are in everyone’s best interest. We emulate their strength when we subordinate our ego’s will to the greater good and work for the betterment of all without betraying our personal standpoints.

Historically, the feminine principle in all of us–and the women onto whom patriarchy projects it–has endured thousands of years of negative stereotypes and repression. We are fortunate to live in a time when women are finally taking positions of leadership in the mainstream of society. Some of them are very angry. Can you blame them? I, for one, cannot.

Everyone, male or female, who has ever been repressed, abused, dismissed, taken for granted, or struggled to be taken seriously and heard with respect goes through a rage stage before they grow wise enough to take responsibility for their angry shadow and attain their full wisdom and power. History shows that for people of strong character and good will, given enough time and experience, their anger over the injustices they have suffered eventually dissolves and is replaced with an ethic of care, compassion, justice, and social responsibility.

This is true both of individuals and the civilizations we produce. After all, wasn’t it the rage of our forebears at the injustices they suffered in other countries that brought most of them to America? Didn’t that rage give rise to the wisdom that drove the writing of the Declaration of Independence? Didn’t it fuel the Revolutionary War and secure the ratification of the U.S. Constitution?

Underneath our wounds, deep in our unconscious selves, every one of us contains the capacity to develop the Queen’s determination and indomitable will to do the right thing: to support, protect, and nurture everyone in our society, regardless of age, gender, race, social class, or religion. May we all, female and male alike, manifest more of this wise use of feminine strength.

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

 

 
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