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.

 

On Interrelatedness: No Beginning, No End March 21, 2014

Shrivatsa

Shrivatsa

Yesterday I met with my writer’s group, The Purple Pros, at the Barnes and Noble Café.   As is our custom in this group which has met for over twenty years, one of us brings a meditative reading;  another brings a topic we write about for five minutes.  Despite the fact that these activities are randomly chosen, their themes are almost always remarkably similar, if not identical.  Moreover, the same themes inevitably crop up again during our touch-in ritual. We never fail to be awed by the mystery of this synchronicity.

It happened again yesterday.  Margie lost her beloved husband several years ago. To the great joy of those who love her, she’s found love again and will soon marry a wonderful man.  To celebrate this happy occasion, I light a small candle in a sparkly gold container and read a blessing from John O’Donohue titled “For a New Beginning.”  Margie tears up as I read.  Afterwards she tells us of a synchronicity that makes this blessing especially meaningful.

Since I’ll be out of the country the day of her wedding, and since she and her fiancé are both patrons of the arts, I give her a carved wooden Endless Knot that was hand-painted by the young students at an art school we support in Bhutan, a country whose economic development is based on “gross national happiness.” I bought it there several years ago.  The tears continue to roll down her cheeks as she tells us the paint is the exact colors of her wedding!  Enclosed is this description: “In the endless knot all the lines are interrelated to each other and the knot has no beginning and no end. It symbolizes the infinite knowledge and love of Buddha to all sentient beings.  It is good to give as gift to your dear ones as an expression of your eternal love and compassion.”

Lenny’s writing assignment is to write a scene that depicts happiness that is meaningful and true to us.  Here we go again. First we celebrated Margie’s upcoming marriage ritual which is all about love and happiness; then I give her a gift from a country whose official goal is to promote happiness; now we are to write about what brings us happiness.  Usually I need time to think before I start writing; occasionally I never even get started.  This time my scene arrives immediately and fully formed. I can’t write fast enough. Only after I’m finished do I connect all the dots:  it’s about the interconnection between happiness and ritual, relationship, meaning and love.

This is what I wrote. It makes me happy just to think about it!

My granddaughters are excited about tonight’s sleepover.  They ring the doorbell then run and hide, a ritual they started in early childhood and still enjoy. I loudly lament their absence until they race from their hiding places and give me hugs and kisses.

After depositing their backpacks their first stop is my bedroom.  Sophia sorts through the makeup in my vanity drawer and picks out something to take home while Alex tries on my shoes. When she falls in love with an old pair that fit perfectly, I give them to her.

Dinner is delivery pizza consumed over a favorite video.  Dessert is freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, still warm.

The rituals continue at bedtime.  They bathe in the spa tub with bubble bath crystals and fragrant lotions. Sophia pulls the pillow cases off her favorite Swedish foam pillow. Alex asks for her glass of water.

I tuck them in and kiss them goodnight then sit at my desk on the balcony outside the same room their mother once occupied, my presence a reassurance they still crave.  Their door swings open and Sophia comes to me clutching the large furry rabbit hand-puppet I brought her from a trip to the Grand Canyon a few years ago.

“You forgot to say goodnight to Snuggle Bunny!” she says with questioning eyes as she tentatively holds out her beloved bedtime friend.  Will I still want to enact a ritual that means so much to her?  I receive Snuggle Bunny with infinite tenderness. As my fingers animate her head and arms in gestures of shy love, we three murmur our goodnights.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncEbook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

Image Source = Wikipedia:  Zeskanowana praca ręcznie wykonanej kopia ogólnie dostępnej grafiki

 

The Androgyne Archetype and Global Change in the Digital Age November 15, 2011

In response to my post, Angels and E.T’s: The Androgyne Archetype, Skip Conover wrote a comment which adds so much to this discussion that I asked him if I could republish it here. Skip is the founder of the Archetype in Action Organization. He says his first thought was to teach about Jungian Archetype, but he soon realized that *we* are the archetypes. Here’s Skip’s take on how the combined effect of the dawn of the Digital Age and the rebirth of the Androgyne archetype is creating an unprecedented cosmic awareness in human consciousness. He will happily respond to your comments.

How lucky we all are to live as we do at the Dawn of the Digital Age! This concept of the Androgyne archetype can today be seen to go well beyond the mere dichotomy of female and male. What the digital age has allowed us is the ability to see that we are all not so different after all. If I consider a few of my own possible categories, I see that I am essentially the same as every human being on the planet: living being, human being, man, husband, father and grandfather, American, Christian/Buddhist/Agnostic, etc.

As a living being I know I exist, and in that sense I am a bit luckier, because most of the life forms we know simply are, but as a Buddhist I respect all living creatures while accepting the fact that some of them must die so that I may continue. All life lives on other life. Still, I can contemplate the fact that in order for me to live out my three score and ten, I must leave behind a carnage of flocks of chickens, herds of cattle, lambs, and hogs, and remnants of screaming tomatoes.

As a human being I am thrilled with my life as one of the luckiest creatures that ever lived. I can know that I exist and understand my place in this place we call the universe. In the context of that space, our differences are truly trivial, and evaporating by the second in the Digital Age.

We live at a time when we can see back to 500,000 years after the Big Bang, when the first stars in the universe switched on, and down to the smallest particles. We can know that we are alone, both safe from aliens who could be no closer than 24 trillion miles from us but also quarantined from them. I can know that we as a species are truly alone. Science tells us that the fastest object ever created by man is the Voyager spacecraft, which was launched in 1976. It travels at 11 miles per second through deep space, but even at that speed it would take 350,000 years to reach our nearest stellar neighbor. We can know that we can conjure the speed of light, but we will never be photons, which can actually travel at that speed.

As a man, I am not so different from any other human being on the planet. Yes, I have a different gender from women, but that difference only has relevance at the time of procreation and in the privacy of our bedrooms. The marginal differences in hormones we all possess do not create such big differences, unless we conjure them ourselves, and those differences are being minimized by the Digital Age. As a husband, father and grandfather, my roles are not so very different from any other spouse, parent or grandparent throughout the world.

I had the luck to be born an American, which meant I live in a society that mostly allowed human beings to live up to their potential. But, it is not the only model for success. We see many races and religions living together successfully in many other societies, including Singapore, Malaysia, and India to name just a few notable examples. The Digital Age has opened up this type of amalgam even further. The Arab Spring is partially about young Arabs wanting to find an equilibrium; we could call it an Androgyne society. Few of them would want to leave their native land or change their religion, but they now see clearly that others have a better quality of life, and they want to push their societies toward that goal.

In 2002, a Saudi friend said to me, “You know, Skip. In 20 years Saudi Arabia will be like the States.” As I looked around me that evening, and had within view several McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Starbucks, and thousands of Chevys and Fords, I almost thought that it was like that then, but surely that view told me that he was, in a sense, right. Of course, the powers that be will resist the change, but one force they cannot slow down is the Androgyne Archetype, as you describe it.

As a spiritual person, I do not claim any strong persuasion, but my general observation is that the religions of the world, and some philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism, are really not so very different. When Muslim crazies wanted to execute someone for converting to Christianity, as is ordered in the Qu’ran, I found a mirroring passage in Deuteronomy, which many Christians think is the infallible word of God. Powerful people in control of religions have often used them to hype up their political base, and accuse followers of a different faith of being “the Other,” but the Digital Age is in the process of proving them liars too.

I could go on at great length on this topic of the Androgyne Archetype, but my point is that what we see across the world as societal upheaval is really the multifaceted distinctions we have built up over millions of years finding their level and their commonality. What primitive humans saw as the primary differences, between genders, will ultimately be subsumed by the recognition that we are all human beings on a very tiny planet, isolated by the vastness of space, and facing extinction in 4 billion years when the sun burns out. In that sense, I am cheered by the knowledge that we will have no choice but to give the Androgyne Archetype its due.

 

 
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