Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Healing Arizona: Sophia’s Communication Style January 11, 2011

As I write this the shooting spree in Arizona which resulted in the deaths of six people, including a federal judge, and the wounding of several others — among them congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords who apparently was the primary target — is very much on my mind. Practically everyone is wondering whether America’s recent vitriolic political environment might have contributed to this tragedy.

In an October post titled, “No More Toxic Air Waves, Please,” I worried about what effect the hate-filled, divisive political rhetoric would have on the youngest and most vulnerable among us. Early reports say the suspect is a mentally unstable young man with a known grudge against the government. Perhaps he would have done something like this regardless of the political climate. But factors like the deliberate ‘targeting’ of political ‘enemies’on Sarah Palin’s website, (Rep. Giffords was among those pictured in the crosshairs), and the media’s recent movement from informing to inciting have to be considered as potential influences.

One psychological explanation for this situation has to do with the differences between left-brained and right-brained communication styles. If you’ve been following this blog you know the left-hemisphere of the brain specializes in logos — logical, objective, focused reasoning — which is associated with the masculine principle. The right hemisphere prefers mythos, i.e. analogical thinking, subjective feeling, and diffuse awareness, and is associated with the feminine principle. I’m not talking about gender. This is about the masculine and feminine in all of us.

Diffuse awareness has four primary components: listening (as opposed to influencing), appreciating (as opposed to criticizing or judging), empathizing (as opposed to unfeeling analyzing and reasoning), and questioning (as opposed to blind acceptance and/or authoritarian telling). All four qualities enhance communication, contribute to wisdom and help unveil the sacred. All are associated with the feminine.

Diffuse listening occurs when we open ourselves to otherness by relaxing our needs to be heard, admired, one-up and right. Receptivity to whatever comes our way leads us straight through appearances and preconceived notions into the heart and soul of matters. Appreciating respects differences, sees similarities, and enjoys meaningful connections. Empathy, the ability to see through another’s eyes and unite with him or her in a communion of shared understanding and caring, is born when we shift our focus from differentiating ourselves to establishing intimacy. Finally, questioning is an open, thoughtful approach to otherness — other ideas and opinions, other belief systems, and other ways of perceiving — that is not defensive, rebellious, or confrontational, but truly interested in understanding, learning and growing.

The shocking violence in Arizona has multiple causes, but I have absolutely no doubt that our cultural obsession with left-brained values is one of the most influential. Fortunately, humanity is riding a mounting tidal wave that is heading for a new level of consciousness which balances and integrates opposites. Sophia of the wise and understanding heart is entering our awareness in a very big way, and adopting her modes of thinking and communicating cannot help but bring healing changes. I can’t wait to witness their unfolding in the new decade.

 

Portrait of a Spirit Warrior May 25, 2010

According to neurologist Leonard Shlain, the development of the brain’s left hemisphere and ego consciousness “resulted in humans creating a distinction between me-in-here and world-out-there.” This detached subject/object split enhanced the skills of hunters who needed to separate themselves from the hunted and strengthened their ability to remain motionless while focusing on a single task, but this occurred at the expense of attributes like holistic awareness and emotional depth. As Shlain says, “The dispassion inherent in dualism, a viewpoint indispensable for killing, is the opposite of a mother’s binding love for her child.” Eventually, a sense of alienation from our fuller selves became the norm in most “highly civilized” Western societies.

But many indigenous cultures, for example, the Toltecs of Mexico and the Taoists of China, never discarded what William Horden calls the “magic world of the unconscious dreamtime.” Knowing that Ultimate Being consists of a unity-totality, they envisioned a new kind of spirit warrior who unites all opposites within him/herself. Five days ago I witnessed a living example of this ancient wisdom as my husband and I drove through the American southwest.

After visiting the magnificent Monument Valley National Tribal Park in Arizona, we were driving toward the Grand Canyon when we stopped at a roadside stand on the Navajo reservation. I was examining a necklace made by the lovely young woman running the stand when I heard the strange, high-pitched mewling of a predatory cat coming from somewhere behind me. Turning, I saw a man about ten yards away leading a brown and white pinto across the red clay desert dotted with silvery-gray sagebrush shrubs. Huddled in the saddle on the horse’s back was a little girl who appeared to be around two or three years old.

In an instant this idyllic scene was transformed into a life and death drama. Perhaps the child was frightened, or maybe she was just tired, but when she made the mewling sound again, the horse, which by now must have been convinced it had a bobcat on its back, erupted into frenzied bucking. I watched in horror as, enveloped in a rising dust cloud, the child was thrown off the horse’s back and the father thudded to the ground clinging to one thin leather rein.

This is where wisdom enters the picture. The father did not cry out in fright or anger. He did not let go of the rein, his only connection to the terrified animal that so easily could have trampled the tiny child. He did not jerk the rein or lash out at the horse. Rather, in slow and graceful motion, he stood, gathered up both reins, and looped them over his left shoulder as he walked calmly toward his daughter. The horse, which seconds before had been a hysterical beast, followed like a docile puppy as he led the girl to a rock and sat with her, murmuring quietly and caressing her face and long black hair with infinite tenderness. Moments later, father and daughter walked away hand in hand, the horse following peacefully, connected to them only by two thin strips of leather casually looped over the man’s left shoulder.

As I watched the father model the wisdom of the ages to his daughter and horse, memories of humans who were the irrational, emotionally overwhelmed beasts ran through my mind. In stark contrast to them, this man understood his unconscious, instinctual self. In taming and befriending it, he had replaced fear, anxiety, anger, and compulsiveness with trust, peace, compassion, and consciousness. These are his infinitely precious gifts to his family, his horse, and the world. His gift to me was the honor of standing in the presence of a spirit warrior.

 

The Feminine Side of God: Sense or Nonsense May 23, 2010

In the pre-history of our species our survival depended on hunting. The best hunters were emotionless, task-oriented, focused, and factually precise. These are qualities of the brain’s left-hemisphere. As the human brain evolved, the most successful hunters were those whose left-hemisphere qualities were more highly developed. While this was the necessary next stage in our development, it was not the final stage.

One of the most significant outcomes of the left hemisphere’s development was the emergence of the ego from the maternal matrix of primordial unconsciousness. Until the ego showed up we were unaware of ourselves as a separate species. We struggled to survive like every living thing. We acted on our instincts to mate (the instinct for sex) and find food and protect our young (the instinct for nurturance) like all creatures. We knew how to find and build shelters (the instinct for activity) in the same way foxes know how to dig dens and birds know how to build nests.

The birth of the ego marked the birth of human consciousness. The unique combination of the ego and physical developments like thumbs and the ability to walk upright eventually resulted in the strengthening of two additional instincts: the instinct for reflection and the instinct for creativity. Increasingly our specialization in these two set us apart from other animals.

With the passage of time we developed other capabilities that made us even more different. The ego created words, the basic unit of left-brained logos, and later on, alphabets. Meanwhile, we grew less dependent on symbols, the tools of right-hemisphere mythos, until eventually Judaism, Christianity, then Islam forbade people to create life-like images.

Here’s my point. Our ego creates and uses words to try to understand life’s mysteries, while our unconscious Self naturally and spontaneously creates symbols and images that bring us into a meaningful relationship with the mysteries. Both perspectives are necessary to a complete God-image and a balanced life.

But of what use were symbols to early hunters? To those of our ancestors with dominant left-hemisphere orientations, mythos thinking would have seemed like pointless, impractical nonsense. Personal meaning does not result in the kill. Imagining a web of life and being able to see how our prey fits into it does not put food on the table. What makes a hunter successful is knowing where the prey is and what its characteristics are, plus having the focus and discipline to get the job done. Thus do some left-brained dominant people still profoundly distrust mythos, women, and the “feminine” unconscious.

Luckily, humanity is still evolving. Most of us no longer find complete fulfillment in a survival mentality. We bring moral sensibility to the table. We have questions about who we are and why we’re here. We want our lives to have purpose. We are in search of our souls. To find them we’re engaging the faculties of both sides of our brains.

Thus, is the Western world returning to the Divine Feminine. But with one important difference. What we seek now is a deity of fully integrated masculinity and femininity.

 

The Marriage of Science and Religion May 16, 2010

Plato and Aristotle’s identification of the two ways of thinking I call logos and mythos was based on the human tendency to perceive and classify all phenomena into pairs of opposites. Since ancient times, the supreme pair of opposites under which we have categorized all others has been the metaphors of masculine and feminine.  When used as metaphors, these terms are not about gender or sexuality, but ways of helping us categorize related ideas.

When Jung set out to better understand the psyche he used the same metaphors to express the findings of his research. One of his major conclusions was that the psyche is a union of conscious (masculine) and unconscious (feminine). An even more ground-breaking discovery was the fundamental archetype composed of the union of the masculine and feminine. He called this archetype of wholeness the Self, with a capital S to denote its difference from the ego self, and defined it as our God-image.

Like Plato, Jung also thought of the masculine principle as logos, but he named the feminine principle Eros, after the Greek god of love. For him, logos represented all the spiritual phenomena of life (including mental discrimination, judgment, and insight), and Eros symbolized all physical phenomena, i.e. the things we mean by the term soul, including matter and our physical bodies with their instincts, emotions, and capacity to relate. While readily admitting that these concepts cannot be defined accurately or exhaustively, Jung believed they had great practical value for clarifying a field of experience that is particularly difficult to define.

One stumbling block for some Jungians is the use of the name of a masculine Greek God (Eros) for the feminine principle! This is why I prefer the term mythos, which is non-gender specific. A related issue is that associating “spiritual” phenomena with the masculine principle removes the feminine from the spiritual playing field. Today, however, science has dramatically refined these concepts with new research in brain-lateralization.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Leonard Shlain notes that the nonverbal “feminine” right hemisphere of the brain integrates feelings, recognizes images, and expresses being. More often than the word-oriented “masculine” left hemisphere it generates feeling-states like love, humor, or aesthetic appreciation, all of which are non-logical. These feeling-states are authentic experiences that are verified beyond debate by an internal voice. Among other things, they allow us to have faith in God.

In sum, associated with all that is mysterious, unconscious, felt, organic, imaginative, and personally compelling, mythos is the non-verbal way we experience the truths of spirit and soul. Moreover, using mythos to explore the enigmas of the outer and inner universes brings enormous psychological and spiritual advances because it is inherently integrating and self-validating. And it is the birthright of every brain, male and female alike.

Increasingly over the past five thousand years, we have exalted logos over mythos, repressing our “feminine” ways of thinking and imagining God in left-hemisphere ways.  But we are living in extraordinary times. With the marriage of science and religion we are unveiling our unconscious and undeveloped feminine dimensions and integrating the wisdom of Sophia, God’s feminine side.

 

 
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