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.

 

Why I Find Easter Difficult to Write About March 29, 2013

Sunrise at the Beach, Easter 2012

Sunrise at the Beach, Easter 2012

Easter is difficult for me to write about. Partly because I can’t think of anything to say I haven’t already said.  I’d love to tell you a story about my favorite Easter as a child, but I don’t have one!  We were Christians but we didn’t celebrate Easter in our house when I was growing up. Except for one year when my uncle dropped by and surprised Jimmy and me with Easter baskets. They probably had chocolate bunnies wrapped in foil, and yellow marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans, and green plastic grass. Until then I had no idea such things existed. Maybe that was my favorite Easter….

I don’t remember Daddy ever being home at Easter, although he must have been there for my tenth birthday in April.  I know he was home for at least part of that month because his mother, Grandma Benedict, had come to stay with us while he was home recuperating from his second heart attack and she made me the first birthday cake I ever had.  I remember that well! It was angel food with strawberries in it. She served it with strawberry ice cream, and everybody sang Happy Birthday to me, and I got to blow out the candles. I had never felt so important in my life.  But since Easter is on a different date every year and not all of them are in April, I can’t be certain Daddy was home for that. If he was, we would have gone to church if he was well enough, and I might even have gotten a new dress. That would probably have been my favorite Easter. But I don’t remember.

I do remember one Easter when our children were around 5 and 3 years old. Mostly I remember because my daughter still tells me it was her favorite Easter. The Easter Bunny must have noticed that we had a new sand box in the backyard because s/he brought the candy and grass in two large plastic toy dump trucks! The children played with them long after the candy was gone.

Narcissus in the North Carolina Mountains, Spring 2013

Narcissus in the North Carolina Mountains, Spring 2013

The other reason I find it difficult to write about Easter is because not everyone who reads my blog is Christian. Moreover, I don’t want to offend those who are. Because here’s the thing. I’ve been studying Jungian psychology and my inner life for 24 years. During that time, I’ve experienced enormous growth and change. For example, I’ve gone from being terrified to look at my dreams lest they show me something that was wrong with me, or that might scare me, or heaven forbid, that might predict my imminent death, to being so excited every time I remember a dream that I can’t wait to write it down and start working on it!

So here’s my point. As I’ve changed, so have my religious ideas.  Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t lost my faith.  Far from it! I’ve never been so convinced of the reality of the Great Mystery some call God, and I’ve never felt so connected to it. But I’ve discovered that the less afraid I am of the unknown “otherness” in myself, the less afraid I am of the otherness in different people, different cultures, and different religions. Best of all, the more I forgive myself for being flawed and human, the more compassion I feel for myself and others. To me, this is what religion is supposed to be about and what Jesus meant when he said the kingdom of God is within. So I find it hard to take the ideas I was taught about original sin and our need for punishment and redemption literally any more. To me, Easter is a metaphor for two corresponding realities: the miraculous birth/death/rebirth cycles of life that recur in nature every year, and the archetypal reality of our need for psychological birth/death/rebirth from out of our old unconscious and self-centered instinctual natures into new levels of understanding, awareness and compassion.

Well, I guess this wasn’t so difficult after all. If you’d like to read more, check out last year’s post called “Easter to the Soul.”  Wishing you all a happy, hopeful spring filled with greening, budding new life within and without.

You can find my latest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

What’s Really Important: Naming the Holy or Experiencing It? March 8, 2013

Andrew Harvey and Matthew Fox

Andrew Harvey and Matthew Fox

Recently I received an announcement of an upcoming series of seminars featuring Matthew Fox and Andrew Harvey.  Part one is titled, “Cosmic Christ and the New Humanity.” The live event on March 8-10 will be held on the west coast whereas I’m in the east, but people can participate online using live streaming technology.  Having attended events with both of these spirit persons in the last six months, I know this will be a deeply enriching experience so I’ve signed up.

Somehow I missed Fox’s book, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance, when it first came out in 1988, so until a few weeks ago I hadn’t realized what a huge debt I and other progressive spiritual thinkers owe to the courageous work of this spiritual pioneer. If you don’t know his story, I encourage you to check it out on Wikipedia.  Ditto Andrew Harvey.

So anyway, the term “Cosmic Christ” was new to me until I met Fox last month. I’m a bit concerned that the word “Christ” might lead people to think this seminar is only for Christians. My passion is to heal divides by raising awareness of our commonalities, so I worry about language, religious or otherwise, that might sound exclusive. This is why I use mostly psychological language in this blog: It carries far less emotional baggage.

Because of my Jungian studies I know what Fox means. The Cosmic Christ is one way of referring to our innate ability to connect with sacred energies in an inner mystical, experiential, and personally meaningful way.  Jung called this psychological reality the Self, or the “religious function.”  This archetype is universal and influences us in ways often associated with deity.

It may be helpful to think of the Self as the image of God that indwells us. Others might equate the Self with the Holy Spirit or the Christ within. Regardless of the language we use, the Self is that inner force that prods and urges and nudges us to become aware of our true natures, heal our wounds, and fulfill our God-given potential as unique spiritual beings. Incarnating the Self via the faculty of perception known as nous, or creative imagination, is how we become consciously connected to our divine Source, whatever that may be.

The word Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning anointed, a translation of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The early Christians attached this word to Jesus because they believed him to be the Messiah, a king/priest who would right the world’s wrongs. Islamic sources don’t give much importance to the concepts of kings and priests. Islam’s important figures are prophets and messengers. These terms point to the primacy of knowledge and revelation as ways of  receiving much-needed messages from Allah—itself a culture-based term, like Yaweh or God—for our spiritual and moral development.

Cosmic Christ. Christ Within. Kingdom Within. Self. Diamond Body. Messiah. Philosopher’s Stone. Buddha Nature. Prophet. Messenger. Holy Spirit. Hierophant. God-Image. Religious Function. Sacred Marriage. All these names are metaphors from various ages and cultures. All refer to the same nameless, fathomless reality: the sacredness within and our yearning to consciously enjoy its presence.

So here’s my question. Does it really matter which term we use? Not to me. And not, I assure you, to Matthew Fox or Andrew Harvey. So if you’re looking to deepen your connection with Whatever You Want to Call Whatever It Is That Connects You with Whatever You Think of as Holy, I think I can safely recommend this seminar. And if you’re interested in these ideas I encourage you to check out their books.

Christ Path Seminar link

Amazon link to Andrew Harvey

Amazon link to Matthew Fox

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found on Amazon or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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