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.

 

The Transcendent Function January 3, 2017

gothicrayonnantrose003In the almost 7 years since I began Matrignosis, I’ve written much more about depth psychology than what I would call ‘depth spirituality.’ Perhaps because I’ve been doing in-depth studies of Jungian psychology for 27 years and feel more comfortable about my knowledge and experience of it.  Perhaps because I have no formal credentials on the subject of religion and so have left writing about it to those who do.

Either way, I’ve only hinted at depth spirituality and its connection to depth psychology, shared a few meaningful religious experiences, and occasionally addressed mysticism and religion. Yet, depth spirituality is a passion of mine and I’m feeling compelled to write more about it. So here goes.

I’ve been deeply spiritual since the age of 17 when I experienced an epiphany about some Bible verses and eagerly answered an altar call at a Billy Graham Crusade shortly afterwards. Perhaps it started before that, when, at the age of 10, I was encouraged by my Baptist paternal grandmother to kneel beside my bed and invite Jesus into my heart. Or did it happen a few months later when my minister immersed me in the baptismal font at the First Christian Church we attended?

Maybe my spiritual spark ignited when, around the age of 5, I experienced awe and wonder on a walk with my father beneath the cathedral-like canopy of a forest? Or was it earlier still at age 3 when I was lost and alone on the shores of Lake Michigan, following a faraway light that twinkled through the darkness like a star?

Regardless of when it awakened, I know for certain it didn’t begin to deepen until midlife. That’s when I experienced a crisis of faith which caused painful internal conflicts between known and previously unknown parts of myself. Gradually, taking these conflicts seriously and exploring them over a long period of time transformed my old God image of a distant and aloof heavenly father into a sacred, genderless, benevolent force which was real, present, and life-changing.

Carl Jung, whose father was a minister, experienced a similar crisis which activated the same compulsion to understand himself and participate in the Mystery of life. He called this compulsion the ‘transcendent function.’

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.

14570623_1370416899665175_267045462942779340_o

In fact, people have been encountering the transcendent function for thousands of years. Here’s what happens. Consciousness is born when we become self-aware: when we see ourselves objectively and realize we can make original choices instead of conforming and being buffeted about by unknown forces. We start out believing these forces are outside of us, in nature, other people, gods. We grow by acknowledging that they are in us, and that we project them outward to avoid taking responsibility for who we really are.

It is we who create our religions, our cultural standards, our wars, our beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad. This good/bad opposition is the source of our internal and external conflicts. We have no control over the transcendent function or when—or if—it kicks in. But if and when it does, everything changes.

The transcendent function does not proceed without aim and purpose, but leads to the revelation of the essential man. It is in the first place a purely natural process, which may in some cases pursue its course without the knowledge or assistance of the individual, and can sometimes forcibly accomplish itself in the face of opposition. The meaning and purpose of the process is the realization, in all its aspects, of the personality originally hidden away in the embryonic germ-plasm; the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, par. 780.

Self-discovery is the basis of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Taoism and the mystical traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Some practices that lead to self-discovery are introspection, meditation, contemplation, centering prayer, dreamwork, body work, active imagination, journaling, psychotherapy, art, and so on.

Our choice to explore our unconscious selves is where East meets West and Soul meets Spirit. Working together in partnership toward understanding, union and love, our divided selves can eventually merge into One. This transforming process is both depth psychology and depth spirituality. It is where Life wants to take us.

great_temple_at_honan_cantonBy means of the transcendent function we not only gain access to the ‘One Mind’ but also come to understand why the East believes in the possibility of self-liberation. If, through introspection and the conscious realization of unconscious compensations, it is possible to transform one’s mental condition and thus arrive at a solution of painful conflicts, one would seem entitled to speak of ‘self-liberation’. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, par. 784.

Image Credits: Rayonnat Gothic rose window of north transept, Notre-Dame de Paris (window was created by Jean de Chelles on the 13th century). Great Temple at Honan, Canton. (Hoi Tong Monastery on Henan Island in GuangzhouChina). Wikimedia Commons.  Quote image courtesy of Lewis LaFontaine.

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

 

The Next Step December 28, 2016

brain_power_large“Spirit and matter may well be forms of one and the same transcendental thing.” ~Carl Jung. CW 9i; par. 392.

This week between Christmas 2016 and the New Year of 2017 is the first in almost seven years that I didn’t schedule a Tuesday post on Matrignosis. I’m still trying to figure out why, but one factor is undoubtedly that I’m struggling with physical, emotional, and spiritual burnout from the presidential election and holiday preparations. As a result, I’m recovering from my second nasty bout with bronchitis in two months.

Determined to get the rest I obviously need this week, I had no conscious plans to write a post until after the new year. But this morning I awoke from a dream:

#4814 

A new government has taken over.  It is banning free speech and singling out intellectuals and other ‘undesirables’ on trumped up charges.  I’m feeling worried and frightened. Our only hope is in one extraordinary man who secretly leads a resistance group. I see his slogan, “We Will Survive” written in large bold letters on a large surface in a public place and take great hope from it.

I have to tell Fred.  He’s been distracted by work and doesn’t know this has happened. I find him and tell him with tears welling up in my eyes, “I have terrible news about the government!” I consciously add the words ‘about the government’ because I want to prepare him to hear something alarming but don’t want him to think the news is about any kind of immediate threat to our loved ones. I fear for our world.

So this is it. The core issue beneath everything I’ve been thinking and doing and trying not to think about or do in recent weeks. My intuition and feelings are in a high state of alert and as an introvert I’ve been trying to keep them under cover, both for my own protection and others. But the Self won’t allow me to ignore this any longer and sent me a dream to make me face it.

How am I going to respond to a situation that feels like a terrible threat to our country and world? How can I be sure that what I say or do will be helpful and not harmful?

cononley_09If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 132-133.

After recording my dream I reread recent posts, looking for threads that might suggest my next step, my next post.

From The Invisible Cord: “Awakening from a long sleep during which our egos have been unconscious of our inner truths, and moving into a more mature way of living and loving is what Christmas is really about.”

From The Two Sides of Surrender: “Positive surrender frees you to live to the fullest with all the life energy you have at your disposal without wasting it on denial, escapism or self-hatred.”

And, “Healthy surrender is not a victim’s descent into lethargy. It is a warrior’s ascent to compassionate action which causes the least possible harm to others. It requires…restraint until you acquire the wisdom to know what must be done.”

But when will I know what must be done? Until now, my actions have been guided by this thought:

 “Your voice is too weak for those raging to be able to hear…Thus, do not speak and do not show the God, but sit in a solitary place and sing incantations in the ancient manner.” ~Carl Jung. The Red Book, p. 284.

Perhaps this is part of the reason I could find no words for a Tuesday post this week. But I am unusually mindful of these words from The Invisible Cord:  “…all opposites, outer and inner, are bound to each other by an invisible cord which is as real and essential to us as our heartbeat.”

There is an absolute, eternal union between God and the soul of everything. The problem is that Western religion has not taught us this. Our ego over-emphasizes our individuality and separateness from God and others. ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.

Mystics like Francis and Clare lived from a place of conscious, chosen, and loving union with God. Such union was realized by surrendering to it, not by achieving it! ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.

After citing the above I wrote: “If you’re not a religious person, just replace the word “God” with any or all of these three: Life. Love. Reality. It’s all the same thing.”

Still looking for guidance, I picked up a new book I’ve been wanting to start and chose a page at random. There I read,

“We’re standing in the middle of an awesome mystery—life itself!—and the only appropriate response before this mystery is humility.  If we’re resolved that this is where we want to go—into the mystery, not to hold God and reality but to let God and reality hold us—then I think religion is finally in its proper and appropriate place.” ~Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance:  The Trinity and Your Transformation, p. 73.

‘We’re standing in the middle of an awesome mystery.’ ‘Western religion has not taught us this.’ ‘I think religion is finally in its proper and appropriate place.’

‘Show the God.’

I think you can expect more of this from me in the coming months.

Image credits:  Brain Power, Cononley_09, 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.

 

The Invisible Cord December 20, 2016

NASA map, first stars

NASA map, first stars

If you fulfil the pattern that is peculiar to yourself, you have loved yourself, you have accumulated and have abundance; you bestow virtue then because you have luster. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 502.

Beneath it all, beneath the story of Joseph and the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus born in a manger surrounded by animals, the star, the shepherds, the angels singing, the three wise kings with their three gifts. Christmas trees, lights, decorations, presents, food. Santa Claus, Rudolph, the elves, snow. Beneath all this, what is Christmas really about?  Where did this need to celebrate new life come from?

Jesus’s birth is celebrated in the middle of the coldest, darkest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Here, the Winter Solstice, which occurs on December 21 or 22, marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This was celebrated for thousands of years by our ancestors because it appeared to them as if the sun had been withdrawing since Midsummer.  Since their lives depended on hunting, gathering and growing, the longest night marked the end of the sun’s disappearance and the rebirth of light, hope, trust, and a new growing season.

But does this mean Christmas is just a pagan festival celebrating a change in the weather?  Of course not. Light, starrebirth, new life and abundance have symbolic meaning too. And symbols, rituals and celebrations address inner realities as well as outer ones.

Awakening from a long sleep during which our egos have been unconscious of our inner truths, and moving into a more mature way of living and loving is what Christmas is really about. Thus, one message of the Christmas story is that just as a brilliant star stands out from the others in the midnight sky, each of us has the potential to become an individuated, enlightened human being. And that star, that unique baby who brought kings and wise men from afar to worship in a humble manger brings another message too; one about the deep connections between all things.

Everything psychic has a lower and a higher meaning, as in the profound saying of late classical mysticism: ‘Heaven above, Heaven below, stars above, stars below, all that is above also is below, know this and rejoice.’ Here we lay our finger on the secret symbolical significance of everything psychic. ~Carl Jung; CW 5; para 77.

Trinity, Pfarrkirche St. Martinus, Oberteuringen, Bodenseekreis Deckengemälde im Chor von F. Bentele, 1876

Trinity, Pfarrkirche St. Martinus, Oberteuringen, Bodenseekreis Deckengemälde im Chor von F. Bentele, 1876

We and our world are bi-polar, which is to say, governed by the principle of opposites.  Earth has a Northern and a Southern Hemisphere. For every night there is a day. For every season of darkness is a season of light.  For every outer event there is a corresponding inner one which resonates in ways that bring joy and meaning to our lives. Thus, all opposites, outer and inner, are bound to each other by an invisible cord which is as real and essential to us as our heartbeat.

The invisible cord is a middle realm where, as Picasso explained, “Everything you can imagine is real.”  This place where all opposites merge and overlap has been called by many names depending on our perspective.  A physicist might call it the Quantum Field. A symbologist, a Mandorla.  An artist, Imagination or Muse. A Jungian, the Ego-Self axis. A religious, Holy Spirit or God.

Whatever you call it, this third place of Trinity, this realm where outer events are connected to—and symbols of—meaningful inner realities, is real. Moreover, the ongoing interactions in this realm create oneness.

And so, although each of us is a unique individual, a glowing star like no other, by means of the invisible cord we are also all bound together in unity. No part can exist without the other. We and our world, our very universe, are one gigantic bundle of connected and interacting impulses and elements, vibrations and particles. It’s called Life. And it’s all holy.

And our conscious, loving interaction with the world along that middle space is where the magic occurs. Where an idea manifests into an object. Where a symbol brings personal meaning. Where a feeling breeds a relationship of twoness which becomes a marriage of individuated oneness.

There is an absolute, eternal union between God and the soul of everything. The problem is that Western religion has not taught us this. Our ego over-emphasizes our individuality and separateness from God and others. ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.

And so we celebrate the birth of a child who became the foundation for a new religion long ago, instead of our own holy inner light and our process of awakening to it and to life: the new life we experienced last year and the new life we hope for in the coming year. And we struggle to prove our worth with outer achievements while struggling against the realities of our life, the very things which make us who we are and which, once accepted, can turn us into the enlightened being we can become.

Mystics like Francis and Clare lived from a place of conscious, chosen, and loving union with God. Such union was realized by surrendering to it, not by achieving it! ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.

If you’re not a religious person, just replace the word “God” with any or all of these three: Life. Love. Reality.  It’s all the same thing.

May this Christmas season strengthen your star and the invisible cord between all peoples of the world.

Image credits:  Wikimedia Commons. Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine for the Jung quotes and Diane Croft for the Picasso quote.

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

 

The Two Sides of Surrender December 13, 2016

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull

After last week’s post Susan wrote:

“Thank you Jeanie so much – a powerful post. Commitment to feeling our experiences, bearing our own cross and the surrender to that. I remember many years ago being very badly burned by steam on my right wrist while cooking something on the stove. I HAD to move on – there were pressing things that needed my immediate attention (it’s a long story so I’ll just give the bones of it). While I was waiting in the car later on wondering how in hell I was ever going to bear this, I also wondered how those being tortured would ever be able to withstand the pain. What went through their minds? What was it that they withstood their pain if they could? Did they surrender to that – the pain? Should I just surrender to it? I did, and the pain was GONE. I will never forget this … a true miracle …”

In a culture which idealizes competition and winning, the possibility that there could be positive side to surrender is difficult to accept. Through our ego’s dualistic, good/bad, win/lose lens, surrender is viewed in the context of a heroic battle. From this perspective it’s bad enough to lose a war, contest, or athletic event when you’ve tried your hardest, but surrendering is out of the question.  Giving up is a sign of weakness. A character flaw. A failure. A shameful loss of face.

But this is not the only way of seeing surrender. Occasionally, something unexplainable happens and our perspective changes.

The indispensable condition is that you have an archetypal experience, and to have that means that you have surrendered to life. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 972

Susan’s story suggests this different way of looking at surrender. A healthy way that promotes healing. A way taught throughout history by Sages, Spirit Persons, mystics, and psychological giants like Carl Jung.  A way not directed to the outer world, but to the universe within. Few of us discover this way until a time comes in our inner life when our heroic struggle to stay in control and press on regardless only increases our suffering. This happens when we’ve focused overlong on outer-world forms of success while ignoring the conflicting inner forms that our heart and soul require.

800px-white_flagAs long as we ignore the fact that our outer and inner goals are in conflict, our suffering will continue. Because all the money, fame, status, prestige, public and parental approval we’ve struggled to attain isn’t making us happy. And because admitting we’ve ‘failed’ to achieve the happiness we long for is too painful. So we do everything in our power to repress the realities of our hearts and souls, and that only exacerbates our suffering.

So what heals it?  What brings the “real” solution? Surrender. To the realities of our heart and soul. To the fact that we hurt and need help. That we’re miserable. That we want to make a change but are afraid of making a terrible mistake. And to every other reality we’ve hidden behind our persona of having it all together.

A religious conversation is inevitable with the devil, since he demands it, if one does not want to surrender to him unconditionally. ~Carl Jung, Liber Novus, Page 261

But this way requires extreme caution. Because like everything else, surrender is dualistic: God’s way and the Devil’s way. There are helpful and harmful ways to surrender. And it all depends on the impulses to which you surrender.

Unhealthy surrender succumbs to powerful forces from within and without that tempt you to give up living your own life or act out in negative ways. Unhealthy surrender allows others to take responsibility for your life. You stop growing, following your passions, developing your gifts, searching for your unique destiny.  Negative surrender wallows in disappointment and self-hatred. It sinks in lethargy, drowns in hopelessness.  And it can cause great damage to others in the process. For example, surrendering to your ego’s hatred and revenge by being cruel to others is no solution because your ability to give and receive love is harmed in the process.

Healthy surrender is an act of courage in which you face your suffering. Positive surrender relinquishes your ego’s need to squelch your inner realities. It gives up trying to control people and situations. It stops fighting your heart’s need for feeling, compassion and understanding, your soul’s need for creativity, passion and meaning. It gives up your ego’s pursuit of unfulfilling goals in the outer world and attends to your child’s need for love and intimacy. Positive surrender frees you to live to the fullest with all the life energy you have at your disposal without wasting it on denial, escapism or self-hatred.

450px-guiding_angel_-_tiffany_glass__decorating_company_c__1890Healthy surrender is not a victim’s descent into lethargy. It is a warrior’s ascent to compassionate action which causes the least possible harm to others. It requires a warrior’s focus, self-discipline, and self-examination. It requires patience to consider each step carefully before taking it.  Flexibility to walk a tightrope between opposites. Restraint until you acquire the wisdom to know what must be done. And accepting responsibility for the pain you cause others when you do it.

Numinosity, however, is wholly outside conscious volition, for it transports the subject into the state of rapture, which is a state of will-less surrender. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 383.

I know the healing way of surrender is available, but I don’t know why it comes to some and not others. Perhaps Susan’s story provides a clue. Perhaps a commitment to feeling empathy and compassion for the pain of others is a prerequisite. Maybe we have to take the first step.

Image credits:  Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull,  Angels for You, White Flag, all from Wikimedia Commons. Jung Quotes: Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine.

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.

 

How Do We Grow? December 6, 2016

imagesA hunger to understand the forces that aided my psycho-spiritual growth has dogged me since I first wrote about the inner life 27 years ago. Intuitively, I structured my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, around stories of painful early experiences that had influenced my life. That’s when I realized it wasn’t my intellect or will power or idealism or good intentions or good behavior or following the rules or listening to sermons or heeding other peoples’ advice that instigated my growth. It was my painful experiences. 

These were experiences I couldn’t forget because they made a powerful impression on me, created difficult questions, internal conflict, fear, self-doubt and suffering. Like, why did Daddy divorce Mama and then die?  Was it because he was bad and God punished him?  Why did the Lone Ranger shoot me in my dream at the age of 10? Why was Ken mean to me in high school? Why did I get so angry at my fiancé for fearing for my safety and wanting to protect me? Was I selfish? Insensitive? Cruel?

We all experience things like this. It’s just the way the world is, the way the human psyche is structured.

To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 249.

Painful experiences create painful emotions. Painful emotions create conflicts. Pain and conflict are notices that something isn’t working, and opportunities to try something different. Even though everything we’ve ever learned has convinced us that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. Even though we know we are perfectly justified in being the way we are. Even though it’s so wrong and unfair we just want to forget it. Pain and conflict make us realize we can keep making the same old choices or make a new choice.  It’s our choice.

Adult suffering is caused by many things: physical pain, financial deprivation, illness, accidents, fear, self-hatred, regret;  bad memories, bad parenting, bad habits, bad luck, bad experiences, bad mistakes;  conflicting thoughts, painful emotions, a mind too rigid and closed, a mind too open and easily influenced; loyalty to old belief systems combined with fear of questioning them and risking something new; losses, betrayals, temptations; and any manner of other things. But whatever the cause of suffering and whatever else it may be, suffering is also a wake-up call from our unconscious asking us to pay attention, know that we have choices, and take action.

14918779_1402325989807599_6359112785560545926_oWhen we’ve had enough of suffering and summoned the courage to do something good for ourselves instead of waiting for something or someone to remove our suffering for us, we see an array of choices. We can change our partners, doctors, teachers, churches, addictions, bodies, lifestyle, home, job. Unfortunately, if our choices originate in fear of criticism or abandonment, anger, blame, self-hatred, self-pity, stubborn self-righteousness, or a refusal to take responsibility for our lives, they will take us from bad to worse. Fortunately, we can also choose to stop ignoring and despising our suffering and do something constructive to address it. Something like conducting our own research, reading a book, taking a class, committing to a practice, writing…anything we’re drawn to that brings insights about who we really are and why.

If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 132-133.

But without the right motivation, choice and action are still not enough. Our action has to come from an honest recognition that we can’t do it alone any more. We need help. And it has to come from a humble attitude that sincerely wants and asks for help. Furthermore, our asking has to come from an attitude of surrender for the sake of love. Finally, we have to stay open and mindful enough to notice help when it arrives. It can come from anywhere: an experience that brings us to our knees.  A dream that frightens and fascinates us.  A new teacher or opportunity. A mind-blowing synchronicity between inner and outer events. A chance comment from a family member or friend. And when help comes and we know in our gut that it is beneficial and true, we have to trust our instincts, jump on board, seize it with all our being, and hang on for dear life.

This is a process with which I’m intimately familiar. Although the insights I’ve gained from studying and using Carl Jung’s practices have changed my life, I’m not just parroting his theories. What I know to be true for me is based on personal experience. Somehow in the middle of my life I started taking my life seriously. Somehow I sensed that my suffering and self-absorption, painful and humiliating as they were, had a healing purpose. Somehow I tolerated the tension of staying with it. Somehow I know others can too.

Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it is letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful at some level. But part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). If we’re not willing to let go and die to our small, false self, we won’t enter into any new or sacred space. Fr. Richard Rohr. From his online meditation, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2016.

Bon voyage.

Image credits:  Growth:  Wikimedia Commons. Jung Quote: Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine.

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.

 

Healing America’s Political Divide November 29, 2016

projections-jung-unknown-face-jungcurrents-2“The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.” ~Carl Jung, Aion, Christ: A Symbol of the Self, Pages 70-71, Para 126.

“There’ll just be four of us for Thanksgiving dinner this year. We’re a politically divided family.”~Overheard at Whole Foods Market the week before Thanksgiving.

They’re Rioting in Africa

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain
There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The french hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don’t like anybody very much!!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off
And we will all be blown away!!

They’re rioting in Africa
There’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

At 14 I was fascinated by the profundity of this song. When has the world ever been at peace?   Certainly not since Jesus preached a gospel of peace. And obviously not before that either, or else he wouldn’t have needed to preach it.

Why don’t we learn from our mistakes? Because for most of us, history is a powerless abstract concept that has nothing to do with us. But there is something with the power to change us: a painful experience of our personal shadow: our ego’s inner opposite.

The Shadow is our unconscious side, the part of us we don’t know about and don’t want to know about. It’s far more fun to blame others than face our shadows. So we unconsciously project our shadow qualities onto people who remind us of them, and we derive great pleasure from excluding, vilifying, and blaming them.

Naturally, they resent this, so in retaliation they project their shadows onto us. And there you have it. Our outer world mimics the inner conflicts between our “good guy” egos and “bad guy” shadows while we sit back enjoying our outrage and tut-tutting with pious self-righteousness. In my opinion, nobody describes this phenomenon better than my favorite minstrel bard, Kris Kristofferson.

Kris+KristoffersonJesus Was a Capricorn

Jesus was a Capricorn
He ate organic food
He believed in love and peace
And never wore no shoes

Long hair, beard and sandals
And a funky bunch of friends
Reckon we’d just nail him up
If he came down again

‘Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on
Who they can feel better than at any time they please
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on
If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me

Eggheads cussing rednecks cussing
Hippies for their hair
Others laugh at straights who laugh at
Freaks who laugh at squares

Some folks hate the Whites
Who hate the Blacks who hate the Klan
Most of us hate anything that
We don’t understand

‘Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on
Who they can feel better than at any time they please
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on
If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me

“I swear he was reading my mail when I was in my forties! His songs are still among my very favorites…I used to refer to him as “my favorite philosopher.” Still, often, I felt a twinge, and wished that he wasn’t singing about me.” Comment from a viewer of this video.

14470608_1364095146964017_1336560227455489139_n-2He was reading my mail too.

We won’t heal America’s political divide until enough of us heal our personal ones. Have you ever caught a glimpse of your unknown face? It’s easy to see. Just notice who you look down on tomorrow.

Credits:  Gratitude to Lewis LaFontaine for the quote images. They’re Rioting in Africa:  Written by Sheldon Harnick, Sheldon M. Harnick • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC. Jesus Was a Capricorn:  Written by Kris Kristofferson. Jesus Was a Capricorn lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

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.

 

 
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