Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Authentic Hero’s Quest June 3, 2014

Here’s another favorite of mine from August, 2011.  I hope you enjoy it.

The other day I read an article on the internet about a mostly male mindset called the “culture of honor”  which places such a high value on defending one’s reputation that it results in more risk-taking and accidental deaths. Reportedly, this way of thinking is most prevalent in small towns and rural areas of the South and West in such states as South Carolina, Wyoming, and Texas. I wondered: What myth inspires these unfortunate men to take such dangerous risks that they are killing themselves?  Why do they follow it?  I found my answer in the wisdom of two of my favorite authors: Joseph Campbell and Carol S. Pearson.

Campbell tells us that classic hero myths feature powerful male warriors who slay dragons to prove themselves and become masters of the world. Instead of recognizing this as a metaphor for the ego’s heroic struggle for consciousness, patriarchal cultures have tended to take it as a literal model for external achievement, encouraging people to climb to the tops of hierarchies where they can define what the heroic ideal is and decide who is entitled to it: usually the few. We see the dark side of this interpretation in ruthless political leaders and business moguls who deliberately spread lies and foster conflict and hatred to keep their money and power rather than trust the masses enough to share with them.

Pearson describes another unhealthy consequence: “focusing only on this [interpretation of the] heroic archetype limits everyone’s options. Many…men, for example, feel ennui because they need to grow beyond the Warrior modality, yet they find themselves stuck there because it not only is defined as the heroic ideal but is also equated with masculinity.  Men consciously or unconsciously believe they cannot give up that definition of themselves without also giving up their sense of superiority to others — especially to women.” Pearson gives the example of the main character of Owen Wister’s book, The Virginian, who leaves his bride on their wedding day to fight a duel for honor’s sake. Why? Because the only other role available to him is the victim, or antihero.

An obsession with the hero-kills-the-villain-and-rescues-the-victim plot distorts healthy heroic behavior (having the courage to fight for ourselves and change our worlds for the better) into the dangerous “culture of honor” ideal we see among the young working-class and minority men who still embrace it in many parts of the world. Isolation, impoverishment, religious fanaticism, social disenfranchisement and inadequate education all feed this mentality. The only thing apt to change it is the awareness that not everyone thinks this way and there are healthier alternatives.

Pearson’s research in the 1980’s revealed that women were rediscovering the true meaning of the dragon-slaying myth. Their story in which there are no real villains or victims — just heroes who bring new life to us all — is being adopted by males and females alike. While the timing and order may be slightly different for men and women, we all go through the same basic stages of growth in claiming our heroism.  “And ultimately for both [genders], heroism is a matter of integrity, of becoming more and more themselves at each stage in their development.” This is the Jungian path of individuation.

The heroic, self-disciplined quest to avoid the inauthentic and the superficial conquers the slumbering dragon of unconsciousness and births the courage to be true to one’s inner wisdom. An individuating person knows, in Pearson’s words, that “assertion and receptivity are yang and yin — a life rhythm, not a duality.”  Freed from the tyranny of conflict between opposites, such a person names our divisiveness and promotes care, cooperation, compassion, community and unity. Do you know someone who fits this description of an authentic hero?

Art:  Rogier Van der Weyden, St. George and the Dragon

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

 

The Shadow King and Queen November 23, 2012

A government can only be as balanced and wise, just and caring as its people.  Lenin’s goal of replacing monarchy with socialism was a well-intended but misguided attempt to incorporate the Queen’s ethic of shared authority into social governance. Unfortunately, neither the Russian nor Chinese revolution effectuated this ideal.  They merely replaced kings with dictators, made a few changes in the hierarchical structures that supported them, and repressed the populace with the same zeal as their predecessors. 

Why did these attempts to balance feminine values with masculine ones fail?  Because no matter how fancy the words or noble the ideals of the new Son-rebels, the Shadow King and Queen still ruled the collective psyche. Neither the U.S.S.R. nor China had evolved to the point where enough people were prepared to face their personal shadows, accept limits on their ego needs, or empower their inner opposite masculine and feminine sides. They did not have a strong enough sense of their healthy King and Queen archetypes to withdraw their projections from Stalin and Mao and make wiser choices. Had the populace of these countries been more psychologically aware, perhaps the noble ideals could have become a workable reality.

A more successful outcome occurred in the relationship between Great Britain and India.  For hundreds of years, the citizens of Great Britain projected their inner Kings onto physical monarchs, male and female alike, in whom they endowed all their moral authority.  These parental figures had the power of life and death over their subjects, including the people of India whom, in the way of Shadow Kings everywhere, the British monarchy invaded, conquered, and subjugated.

But then an obscure Indian lawyer named Gandhi questioned the authority of this foreign government and its regal figureheads.  Assuming the authority of his Sovereign, which was a harmonious blend of the clear-thinking, justice-oriented King and the caring, sacrificial Queen, and basing his actions on his highly developed sense of universal justice, love, and moral responsibility, he refused to bow to the kingship of Great Britain.

With his guidance, the Indian people awakened to their healthy inner Kings and Queens, rejected the monarchy and, following Gandhi’s example of non-violent civil disobedience, extricated themselves from foreign rule to become sovereign over themselves and their own country.  Insofar as they were successful in setting up a just governmental hierarchy (thus constellating the King), and accomplishing this without violence to their British brothers and sisters (non-violence being an attribute of the compassionate Queen), they demonstrated what an authentic partnership between the King and Queen looks like in the physical world.

What is it about the negative Shadows of the King and Queen that thwarts our efforts to create lawful order and moral virtue in society? The Shadow King lives in his head. He is self-absorbed, aloof, legalistic, coldly logical, and so indifferent to otherness that he’s insensitive, uncaring, and emotionally out of touch. Obsessive about self-preservation, he is hostile and destructive to others. The Shadow Queen lives in her heart. She is too accepting and tolerant, overly sensitive, unhealthily giving and sacrificial, too open to otherness, and allows tender feelings to trump reason. Obsessive about species-preservation, she fails to set and protect healthy limits and is self-destructive.

Both extremes inhabit America’s collective psyche today. They sit on both sides of the aisle, and neither political party is sufficiently cognizant of its own potential for destruction. Our country’s future does not hinge on victory for either side, but on nurturing greater psychological awareness in ourselves. It’s time we stopped obsessing about others’ shadows and started owning our own.

You can purchase Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

Giving Thanks for the Sovereign Archetype November 20, 2012

The ethical impeccability of the Sovereign archetype is not easily won or highly developed in everyone.  A passion for justice, caring, equality, honesty, and morally responsible behavior are functions of experience, education, psychological maturity, economic security, and a “religious” attitude of reverence for the miracle and mystery of life.  These qualities are rare in individuals who’ve endured persistent abuse and agonizing struggles for love, safety and survival.

The more fortunate among us undergo a natural progression from youthful immersion in the unconscious maternal matrix, to an adolescent preoccupation with self, to caring about others as much as ourselves. This development is paralleled in the story of the human race.

In the early history of our species, as in the youth of the individual, the Sovereign was often projected onto the divine Creatrix, the Great Mother of life, and reverence for her species-preserving nurturance, combined with fear of her destructive potential, was the norm in collective thinking. In many parts of the world, trust in the imminence and benevolence of her human Beloved, the god-king, reduced anxiety, fostered peaceful relations, and restrained destructive tendencies for centuries at a time.

In our adolescence, groups became more organized and attached to their unique identities, and in the manner of teen-aged gangs, some became threats to others. As the ego came to dominate the psyche, a dominator mentality co-opted entire civilizations, and fierce loyalty to a distant, partisan male God who waged war against the tribe’s enemies became the norm.  Since then, the King archetype has largely ruled alone on Psyche’s throne.  From there he still motivates our youthful struggles for independence and autonomy within and without.

Wherever the King’s will to power and resistance to change are obsessive, countless individuals suffer atrocities. But people who work to tame their instincts and minimize their ego’s obsession with him begin to remember and respect the Queen’s subtler virtues of love, forgiveness and relatedness.

In recent history, her passion for individual rights and shared authority has reemerged into collective consciousness in the form of various political experiments.  In England, for example, monarchs had unlimited power until 1215 when the barons forced King John to sign the Magna Charta granting people certain civil and political liberties.  Five hundred and fifty years later, this concept evolved into the American Constitution with its Bill of Rights.

The growth of democracy is a natural consequence of evolving consciousness. As the Queen and King archetypes mature in enough individuals, groups grow less tolerant of hatred and injustice and more intent on balancing one-sided, hierarchical systems with caring and shared authority. This is why monarchies and dictatorships are giving way to republics and democracies. We can resist inner and outer change, but the ego can no more control maturing archetypes than it can the forces of Nature. Indeed, archetypes are forces of Nature.

As Americans give thanks this holiday season for the freedoms and rights we enjoy, may we remember that we earned them by consciously integrating our inner Kings and Queens. Some may not be happy with the outcome of our recent election, but evolving archetypal forces in the collective psyche have made their priorities known and our country’s future depends on our ability to work together to heed their messages. Here is one of them:

“There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.” –Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States

Wishing us all a more conscious Thanksgiving.

You can purchase Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link or www.Larsonpublications.com.

 

Learning From 9-11, Envisioning a Better Future September 21, 2012

Last time I examined the symbols of the 9-11 terrorist attack from a symbolic and psychological perspective. Is this just so much airy-fairy hooey, or is it reasonable to consider that tragic event a portent of things to come in ourselves and the world? Are our most revered institutions not only endangered, but crumbling like the twin towers because of humanity’s ego-centric, upward-striving, linear mindset? Are we being challenged to expand our thinking and adapt to a very different world than any that has ever existed before?

Let’s look at some facts. Since 9-11, long-term financial institutions like Wachovia, Lehman Brothers, and Washington Mutual have gone bankrupt. The stock market crash of 2008 and the ensuing worldwide recession has caused significant declines in retirement portfolios, some of the largest decreases in the history of the Dow-Jones average, the failure of long-respected major corporations like General Motors, and the second highest unemployment rate since 1948.

Change is also underway in organized religion. In 1975 a Gallup poll showed that 68 percent of Americans had a great deal of confidence in the church. That began to change in the mid- to late 1980s when confidence in organized religion first fell below 60%, possibly because of  scandals involving televangelist preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. By 2001, our confidence in religion had returned to 60%, but when charges of widespread child molestation by Catholic priests and cover-ups by some in the church were revealed the following year, it dropped to 45%. Today it stands at 44%.

In college and professional sports, too, hierarchical structures are tumbling down. Just this year Penn States’s football program was severely damaged by the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and last month the world of professional cycling was rocked by revelations of illegal drug use, most notably by superstar Lance Armstrong. Both programs also saw cover-ups at the highest levels.

Finally, education and the media are likewise losing our trust. In fact, the latest results from Gallup’s June 7-10 update of its annual “Confidence in Institutions” question show that Americans’ confidence in public schools, banks, and television news is at its all-time lowest.

Politicians misuse these facts by blaming the opposite party in hopes of winning the next election instead of recognizing that both sides contain men and women with the same psychological characteristics. These are a dominant ego whose highest priority is to bolster its self-image with power and acclaim; a powerful resistance to seeing our own shadows or opening to perspectives different from our own; a strong bias against otherness; and willful blindness to the true cause of our problems: our own psychological ignorance and immaturity.

Nobody knows for certain if these trends point to a temporary pendulum swing or permanent changes in our thinking. But what I do know is that over the years my awareness has, like collective awareness, continued to expand beyond limiting perspectives once considered sacrosanct. Rigid and frightened egos will always respond to changing circumstances by burying their heads deeper in the sand, but the healthier and more flexible among us will recognize the signs and take steps to replace inadequate systems, including the habitual functioning of our  brains, with new ones that promote greater compassion, peace, prosperity, health and healing for all.

There’s more on this topic in my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

The Frightening Effects of Religious Change August 10, 2012

We live in a remarkable time characterized by revolutionary changes occurring in every aspect of human endeavor. Some are deeply disturbing, especially when they are accompanied by conflict and violence. But this does not necessarily mean the changes themselves are bad. It simply means the collective psyche has not yet grown mature enough to easily accept needed change or always accomplish it peacefully.

Take, for example, the need to enlarge our elitist and restrictive ideas about God.  Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God, says, “The very fact that, as a person, God has a gender is…limiting;  it means that the sexuality of half the human race is sacralized at the expense of the female and can lead to a neurotic and inadequate imbalance in human sexual mores.”  We have only to look at current events to see the horrific effects of this imbalance which has dominated religious thinking for over 5,000 years. And, of course, these effects are not restricted to religious matters. They pervade every societal institution and every psyche.

But change is afoot. A new psycho-spiritual awakening is inexorably seeping out of the collective unconscious and entering collective awareness. And it is beyond anyone’s capacity to stop it.  In 1987 Jean Houston wrote:

“Many of us in research and clinical psychology have recently witnessed in our research subjects and clients a remarkable activation of images of female principles, archetypes, and goddesses… The women’s movement may be the outward manifestation of what is happening on depth levels in essential, mythic, and archetypal space-time….all the evidence indicates that the feminine archetype is returning.

“Denied and repressed for thousands of years, the goddess archetype returns at a time when the breakdown of the old story leaves us desperate for love, for security for protection, for meaning. It leaves us yearning for a nurturing and cultivation of our whole being, that we might be adequate stewards of the planetary culture.”

Twenty-five years later, some people are still alarmed by this phenomenon which shakes the core of their faiths, and beneath the faiths, the dysfunctional self-images they validate. The immature ego’s resistance to integrating the feminine is the underlying explanation for how masses of “religious” people can turn their backs on injustices perpetrated against women. And not just women, but anyone whose empowerment threatens those in power. This does not just happen in remote locations and “other” religions. In fact many of our most hotly contested political debates are currently fueled by the same resistance.

So what are the highly-resisted changes that the return of the feminine archetype threatens to bring? I see two major ones.

First, there will be a gradual shift away from divisive cultural biases and toward universal compassion and social justice.  Despite the fact that so many believers do not yet comprehend the significance of these values, their souls intrinsically know them to be fundamental and will recognize them at the roots of every authentic religion.

Second, the burden of bringing psychological thinking and spiritual living into the everyday lives of the average person will be lifted from the shoulders of those committed theologians and clergy whose true passions lie in theory and not in the messy practical realities of everyday life.  With the guidance and wholehearted blessings of gifted spirit persons, the responsibility for spiritual development will be happily handed over to those to whom it truly belongs:   individual seekers who alone know what brings spiritual meaning to their lives and whose psyches contain everything they need to find it for themselves.

Scary stuff, huh? So why exactly do so many of us still resist religious change?

 

Is Arianna Huffington the New Steve Jobs of Journalism? April 17, 2012

I’ve been following the online newspaper, Huffington Post, for almost two years now and have been very impressed with the breadth and depth of its offerings. Most of all I love the positive motivations I sense coming from its writers. I have yet to run across a single mean-spirited columnist who seems more interested in creating sensation and pointing fingers than providing helpful information or offering thoughtful solutions. This is my kind of journalism, my kind of communication.

Arianna Huffington’s most recent post (April 16, 2012) is an outstanding example of what I mean.  I’d like to quote the first paragraph here.

“Just over two years ago, on March 16, 2010, to be precise, I spoke at a conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Internet designation “.com.” The panel I was on was asked to “gaze into the crystal ball” and predict what the game-changing inventions would be during the next 25 years of the Internet. One of mine was less of a prediction than a hope — that one day someone would create an app that would gauge the state of your mind, body, and spirit, then automatically offer the exact steps you would need to take to realign all three aspects of your being.”

What a stunning idea! And guess what?  She’s making it happen! She’s come up with an app called “GPS for the Soul” that’s projected to launch in June. As I was reading her article it occurred to me that she could be the new Steve Jobs of journalism:  a person whose commitment to improving her product, combined with her tireless energy in manifesting it in the most creative and helpful ways possible, and to the widest audience possible, may one day become the standard against which all other forms of journalism will be measured.

And the best news of all? She’s doing it to help us all reconnect to our physical surroundings, our loved ones, and ourselves.  In other words, her goal is to heal the disconnects in psyche and spirit that are of epidemic proportions in today’s world. As you know if you’ve been following my blog for long, this is my goal too. And it is the topic of my new book, “Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace With Ourselves, Each Other, and the World.”

I’m thrilled that Arianna Huffington is addressing the challenge to heal our divides. I’m grateful that she’s come up with a novel, practical way that will have more appeal to, and a potentially healthier impact on, the average person than any one book or blog could ever do. And I’m feeling very relieved to know I’ve not been overly naive in believing that enough of us have acquired enough consciousness to effect a life-changing shift from a very long age of darkness into a new world filled with increasing enlightenment and light.

Thank you, Ms Huffington.  May your contribution help us all grow in awareness so that someday we can become the people we’ve always wanted to be.

 

The Authentic Hero’s Quest August 26, 2011

The other day I read an article on the internet about a mostly male mindset called the “culture of honor”  which places such a high value on defending one’s reputation that it results in more risk-taking and accidental deaths. Reportedly, this way of thinking is most prevalent in small towns and rural areas of the South and West in such states as South Carolina, Wyoming, and Texas. I wondered: What myth inspires these unfortunate men to take such dangerous risks that they are killing themselves?  Why do they follow it?  I found my answer in the wisdom of two of my favorite authors: Joseph Campbell and Carol S. Pearson.

Campbell tells us that classic hero myths feature powerful male warriors who slay dragons to prove themselves and become masters of the world. Instead of recognizing this as a metaphor for the ego’s heroic struggle for consciousness, patriarchal cultures have tended to take it as a literal model for external achievement, encouraging people to climb to the tops of hierarchies where they can define what the heroic ideal is and decide who is entitled to it: usually the few. We see the dark side of this interpretation in ruthless political leaders and business moguls who deliberately spread lies and foster conflict and hatred to keep their money and power rather than trust the masses enough to share with them.

Pearson describes another unhealthy consequence: “focusing only on this [interpretation of the] heroic archetype limits everyone’s options. Many…men, for example, feel ennui because they need to grow beyond the Warrior modality, yet they find themselves stuck there because it not only is defined as the heroic ideal but is also equated with masculinity.  Men consciously or unconsciously believe they cannot give up that definition of themselves without also giving up their sense of superiority to others — especially to women.” Pearson gives the example of the main character of Owen Wister’s book, The Virginian, who leaves his bride on their wedding day to fight a duel for honor’s sake. Why? Because the only other role available to him is the victim, or antihero.

An obsession with the hero-kills-the-villain-and-rescues-the-victim plot distorts healthy heroic behavior (having the courage to fight for ourselves and change our worlds for the better) into the dangerous “culture of honor” ideal we see among the young working-class and minority men who still embrace it in many parts of the world. Isolation, impoverishment, religious fanaticism, social disenfranchisement and inadequate education all feed this mentality. The only thing apt to change it is the awareness that not everyone thinks this way and there are healthier alternatives.

Pearson’s research in the 1980’s revealed that women were rediscovering the true meaning of the dragon-slaying myth. Their story in which there are no real villains or victims — just heroes who bring new life to us all — is being adopted by males and females alike. While the timing and order may be slightly different for men and women, we all go through the same basic stages of growth in claiming our heroism.  “And ultimately for both [genders], heroism is a matter of integrity, of becoming more and more themselves at each stage in their development.” This is the Jungian path of individuation.

The heroic, self-disciplined quest to avoid the inauthentic and the superficial conquers the slumbering dragon of unconsciousness and births the courage to be true to one’s inner wisdom. An individuating person knows, in Pearson’s words, that “assertion and receptivity are yang and yin — a life rhythm, not a duality.”  Freed from the tyranny of conflict between opposites, such a person names our divisiveness and promotes care, cooperation, compassion, community and unity. Do you know someone who fits this description of an authentic hero?

 

 
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