Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

For the Crones May 3, 2016

The powers most capable of halting the escalation of hatred and chaos in our world today are not physical or political.  They are psychological and spiritual. They are activated in individuals whose minds are committed to seeking justice for all, whose hearts are filled with caring and compassion, and whose behavior is directed toward connecting and healing.

When everything we say and do originates from that core of love, it spreads through Indra’s diamond net and quickens the sacred spark that lives in every soul. Each of us can make this contribution to healing the separations within and between the peoples of the world.

Throughout history mothers and grandmothers have dedicated most of their energy, and often their lives, to nurturing and preserving life. Of course, many fathers and grandfathers have done the same. But women’s contributions have been educationally, financially, politically and spiritually restricted, vastly underrated, and largely taken for granted except for occasional lip service.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In a world splitting apart to birth a more evolved consciousness, the most important work we can do is to consciously respect and courageously share the blessings we’ve received from the other side of the Divide.  To that end, and because Mother’s Day is celebrated this month, I offer these questions for reflection:

  • How have my female ancestors enriched and improved my life?

  • Am I as nurturing toward others as the benevolent women in my life were and are to me?

  • How can I use my unique skills in original and authentic ways that will justify their belief in me and benefit all beings?

One of my responses to these questions is this song to the elder women who’ve made a difference in my life.  I dedicate it to crones everywhere.

 

THE YOUNG WOMEN AND MEN ADDRESS THE CRONES

To the Queens:

Sovereign and brave, you stand

firm against those who would abuse power

and labor tirelessly to bring justice to the voiceless

and downtrodden.  You protect all that is vulnerable

and foster culture and creativity. You nourish seeds

of hope and new life in our hearts. Help me

lead with caring and integrity.

To the Mothers:

Wild and free-spirited, you have raced the wind like Horse.

Like Lioness you have fearlessly forged new trails to feed your children.

Like Bear you bear your solitude by boldly entering the dark winter wilderness,

yet you always return to the world in Spring with love honed fierce by sacrifice and birthing.

Great Mother of all that exists, teach us to love our bodies and trust the cycles of our lives.

To the Wisewomen:

Understanding, intuitive and trusting, you have aided birth and befriended death.

You have borne and survived intolerable suffering on paths of deep descending;

yet, aware, authentic, and free, here you are! Still dancing among the living.

You release your attachments to desire as you weave strands of meaning.

Show me how to joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world.

To the Beloveds:

Attractive and magnetic, you receive your lovers passionately

and share the truths of your souls with honesty and intimacy.

Your acceptance and encouragement inspire heroic striving.

Your beauty and endless generosity inspire artful living.

Bless me with gracious hospitality to otherness.

To all the Crones:

You are the Wisdom Women.

We are watching you.

Please help!

Image Credits:  Google Images.

Jean’s newest book, 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 also at Amazon as well as KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

Animal Medicine: Seeing Hidden Emotions March 1, 2016

As one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, my horse Shadow ranks right up there with Jung and my dreams. Horses, like dreams, are Nature: they do not lie. People can cover their true feelings with masks, but horses do not know how to make masks. As animals of prey that have survived by being intensely alert and wary, they are easily unsettled by subtle signs of incongruence in people’s behavior. The tiniest gesture—a tentativeness in our stride, a sideways glance, a sudden intake of breath—can trigger prehistoric horsey images of predatory wolves clad in sheep’s clothing and cause them to spook.

One of the most amazing…and frustrating…things about horses is that they naturally mirror our emotions. If we are afraid, they will be afraid. If, beneath a calm exterior, we are irritable or angry, intense, anxious, sad or excitable, they will behave in accordance with the deeper reality. Shadow was especially good at this. And since I’ve always been especially good at ignoring my uncomfortable feelings, together we were a Jungian analyst’s dream and a horse trainer’s nightmare!

The first time Shadow and I took a dressage test, I was vaguely aware of feeling a tad nervous; but because I didn’t like the way that felt, I ignored it. Thirty minutes before my test was to take place, Liz, my trainer, told me to exercise him in the round pen.  This is a technique where you stand in the center of the pen and ask the horse to walk, trot, and canter around you in wide circles. This warms him up, reminds him of cues, bonds him with his trainer, consumes excess energy, and gives the trainer an opportunity to monitor his mood and correct inappropriate behavior.

I’d done this many times in the smaller pen at the stable where he lived, but he was a very young, high-strung thoroughbred and I still wasn’t very confident about his trustworthiness or my ability to handle him.  Moreover, I’d never ridden him in a horse show before. An added stressor was that we were both in a strange new setting and I was very aware that people were watching us out of curiosity.  In short, I was still a rank amateur in horse training, and here I was on stage.  I had every right to feel anxious, but I simply refused to admit it.

When Shadow started moving along the fence he couldn’t have looked more anxious; his movements were tentative and irregular and his eyes darted wildly from side to side as he looked over the fence to scan the horizon for danger. When I asked him to canter he raced around in the thick sand so quickly and recklessly that I was afraid he would fall and hurt himself.

My sweet Shadow. He's no longer with us now. He died of colic just before his 8th birthday.

My sweet Shadow died of colic ten years ago, just before his 8th birthday.

Worried, I yelled “Whoa” louder and louder, but this only got him more stirred up. I tried rushing to the side of the pen with outstretched arms to stop him, but that only made him turn around and gallop away in the opposite direction. Then suddenly the veil dropped from my eyes and I saw the full extent of my anxiety in his behavior.  Praying this would work, I stopped dead still in the center of the ring, closed my eyes, and began to breathe as slowly and deeply from my belly as I could.

As I calmed myself, his response was immediate and dramatic. Within two turns around the ring his wild pace slowed to a canter. Two more and he was trotting. A minute later he walked calmly toward me, stopped behind me, and touched his nose to my left shoulder. Whereas before my behavior had convinced him there was something to worry about, now he was equally convinced everything was fine.

This lesson affected me profoundly. Fifteen minutes with Shadow in that pen brought home something I had not mastered after years of meditation: recognizing my negative emotional states and rendering them harmless by returning to my quiet center. This skill is crucial to conflict resolution in everyday relationships, yet how many of us have acquired it? Can you imagine how different the world would be if everyone involved in international relations had a Shadow to show them their shadow?

What lessons has Our Lady of the Beasts taught you through your animal friends?

Image Credit: Top: Google Images. Bottom:  My photograph.

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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

Avatar and Cultural Transformation November 10, 2015

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet to come to birth.  The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.  Carl Jung

Culture is created by the human psyche.  Intended or not, there is a psychological dimension to every art form. This is nowhere more evident than in James Cameron’s 2009 epic science-fiction film Avatar, a personal favorite.

Avatar’s characters, symbols and themes are updated versions of archetypes featured in stories from every nation, generation, and religion throughout history. Its symbols of interconnectedness—the wormy squirmy tentacled pony tails that bond with similar anatomical appendages of bizarre beasts, and the electrochemical connections between tree roots—are imaginatively resonant of ancient Hinduism’s Diamond Net of Indra, Jung’s collective unconscious, and quantum physics’ holographic universe. And its themes of self-discovery, initiation, revolution, transformation, and redemption have been with us since the first story ever told around a fire.

This lush film eloquently depicts the transformation occurring in humanity’s heroic journey into wholeness and consciousness. It does so by contrasting an ego that succeeds by opening to otherness and change with one that fails because it refuses to grow. Indulge me for a moment as I engage in a bit of imaginative word play to illustrate my point.

The time is the mid-22nd century. The place is Pandora, (mythically, the Greek goddess whose curiosity unleashed all the evils onto the world but whose ultimate legacy was hope). Pandora is a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system that is being colonized to mine a rare mineral. The plot revolves around the expansion of the mining colony which is threatening the existence of the local tribe of natives known as Na’vi.

Corporal Jake (Biblically, Jacob was Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson who overcame adversity to become the patriarch of the Israelites) Sully is a soldier whose body is bound to a wheel chair and whose soul has been sullied—i.e. contaminated and made impure—by bitterness, self-pity, and the aggressive mind-set of his dominator culture. Yet, by the end of the story, he is transformed into a heroic Warrior and passionate Lover.

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.  Carl Jung

After undergoing training to be an avatar, Jake’s crippled body rests in a remote location while his mind inhabits a genetically engineered Na’vi body that interacts with the natives.  His bravery, his respect for princess Neytiri (who says”nay” to tyranny and is Sully’s equal, savior, and Beloved), and his receptivity to the foreign ways of her culture all lead to his redemption and the salvation of the Na’vi.

And what might the name Na’vi symbolize? This tribe has long navigated safely through a difficult world by honoring the sacred underlying patterns of life. But because the people will not capitulate to the dominator ego mentality which has destroyed Earth, their culture is in danger of extinction.

Other archetypal themes are represented by the Na’vi’s spiritual leader Mo’at, (an abbreviation of Mother Earth?) who is a blend of the Jungian archetypes of Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman, and Beloved. Her earth-based values and connections to Nature are the glue that have enabled the Na’vi to flourish thus far.  Then there’s Jake’s mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine (a saintly name if ever there was one), who symbolizes the archetypal Queen’s regard for shared authority and individual differences and the Wisewoman’s intuitive intelligence and pursuit of truth.

Finally we have a plot with the necessary obstacles every hero must overcome: the self-absorbed and self-serving ego symbolized by Selfridge, corporate administrator of the mining program; and the obsessive Warrior mentality of the head of security, Colonel Miles Quaritch (from quarantine, a place of detention? Or quarrel, an angry dispute? Or quartz, a hard rock?). Cameron’s soulless dark invader, like Lucas’s Darth Vader, has miles to go in his own journey because of his rock-hard rigidity and unrelenting itch to maintain his power regardless of the cost to anyone or anything.

So here we have a story about a brave, heroic ego vs. a rigid, fearful ego. Earthly and cosmic connectedness vs. personal self-interest.  Accepting our shadows. Opening to otherness. Learning from feminine wisdom and nature. Moving toward balance. Uniting opposites with respect and love. Using our Warrior energy to protect and empower the vulnerable. Overcoming crippling disadvantages to become a force for positive change.

This haunting story is more than just another movie.  It is a mythic reflection of us at our worst and best. Of our blind ego with its rigid and self-righteous attitudes. Of our dysfunctional dark shadow that clings to old habits and blindly fouls our planetary nest. Of our power-hungry Warrior who continues to dominate families, neighborhoods and societies.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.  Carl Jung

Our hope lies with Jake who represents the resilience, creative imagination, and heroic potential of every ego, no matter how much suffering it endures, to overcome its lethargy and choose consciousness:  consciousness of our light shadow with its unique gifts and ideals and sensitivity and care. Consciousness of our healthy Warrior with the courage to say no to ingrained attitudes and practices that produce chaos, pollution and destruction. Consciousness of the love waiting to blossom between healthy femininity and masculinity.

Image Credit:  Google Images

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.

 

For the Crones October 9, 2012

The powers most capable of halting the escalation of hatred and chaos are not political.  They are psychological and spiritual. These powers are activated in individuals whose minds are committed to seeking justice for all, whose hearts are filled with caring and compassion, and whose behavior is directed toward connecting and healing. When everything we say and do originates from that core of love, it spreads through Indra’s diamond net and quickens the sacred spark that lives in every soul. Each of us can make this contribution to healing the separations within and between the peoples of the world.

Throughout history mothers and grandmothers have dedicated most of their energy, and often their lives, to nurturing and preserving life. Of course, many fathers and grandfathers have done the same. But women’s contributions have been educationally, financially, politically and spiritually restricted, vastly underrated, and largely taken for granted except for occasional lip service.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In a world splitting apart to birth a more evolved consciousness, the most important work we can do is to consciously respect and courageously share the blessings we’ve received from the other side of the Divide.  To that end I offer these questions for reflection: “How have my female ancestors enriched and improved my life?  Am I as caring toward others as the benevolent women in my life were and are to me? How can I use my unique skills in original and authentic ways that will justify their belief in me and benefit all beings?”

One of my responses to these questions is this song to the elder women who’ve made a difference in my life.  I dedicate it to crones everywhere.

THE YOUNG WOMEN AND MEN ADDRESS THE CRONES

To the Queens:

Sovereign and brave, you stand firm against those who would abuse power

and labor tirelessly to bring justice to the voiceless and downtrodden.

You protect all that is vulnerable and foster culture and creativity.

You nourish seeds of hope and new life in our hearts.

Help me lead with caring and integrity.

To the Mothers:

Wild and free-spirited, you have raced the wind like Horse.

Like Lioness you have fearlessly forged new trails to feed your children.

Like Bear you bear your solitude by boldly entering the dark winter wilderness,

yet you always return to the world in Spring with love honed fierce by sacrifice and birthing.

Great Mother of all that exists, teach us to love our bodies and trust the cycles of our lives.

To the Wisewomen:

Understanding, intuitive and trusting, you have aided birth and befriended death.

You have borne and survived intolerable suffering on paths of deep descending;

yet, aware, authentic, and free, here you are! Still dancing among the living.

You release your attachments to desire as you weave strands of meaning.

Show me how to joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world.

To the Beloveds:

Attractive and magnetic, you receive your lovers passionately

and share the truths of your souls with honesty and intimacy.

Your acceptance and encouragement inspire heroic striving.

Your beauty and endless generosity inspire artful living.

Bless me with gracious hospitality to otherness.

To all the Crones:

You are the Wisdom Women.

We are watching you.

Please help!

 

Mothering New Life July 12, 2011

Most of us are familiar with the religious practices of prayer, fasting, good works, scripture study, service to others, regular church attendance, tithing, and so on. While their merits cannot be denied, unfortunately they do not automatically lead to lasting healthy changes in personality, behavior, or relationships. In contrast, spiritual practices based on self-discovery — such as meditation, active imagination, creative expression, symbol work, dreamwork, body work, breath work, art, depth analysis, remything our lives to honor the feminine unconscious, journaling, and ritual — bring so many personal insights that they cannot help but lead to transforming new life.

Knowing this, many religious groups today sponsor ongoing dream groups. I myself have conducted workshops for Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists. Jeremy Taylor, a Unitarian Universalist minister, has written books about understanding dreams from a psychological perspective. And John Sanford, author of Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language, was both a Jungian analyst and Episcopal priest. Such churches and religious leaders recognize that the aims of religion are compatible with those of psychology.  They understand that we need not fear our dreams, for they come to bring healing and wholeness.

For many years I helped the Rev. Greer McBryde, an Episcopal priest, work with her dreams. Like many intelligent and ambitious women, over time she had developed a more conscious and accepting relationship with her masculine archetypes than her feminine. But when she began to experience health problems and have disturbing dreams that seemed to warn of disastrous consequences if she continued to pursue her single-minded Warrior attitude and lifestyle, she realized she needed to give more time to her Earth Mother. So she took an early retirement to rest, rediscover her center, and devote her energies to her relationships with herself and her family. Some time later she sent me this dream:

I am having a baby and the full-term child is born.  It is a big baby with a full head of hair and eyes wide open.  It is full of energy and ready for life.  A nurse takes the baby from my body to clean her.  When she hands the baby back to me she is small, hairless, and very delicate with almost transparent skin.  She is so small that she fits in the palms of my hands.

Greer says of her dream, “I believe that I have given birth to a new me, and it was time for that to happen (the baby is full term).  This was not premature nor was the child in any way not ready for life.  When my nurse (the part of me that is a caretaker) returned her to me, I saw and felt how small and fragile this new life really was.  I would have to handle her very carefully and nurture her with gentleness.  That new life has been put into hands that are capable of allowing her to grow.”

Tending new life is the province of our feminine sides.  Everyone has one. This is why some men are very mothering as are many women who have never physically birthed a child. But in today’s world many healthy aspects of Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved are unconscious and undeveloped in males and females alike. As a result, even some very well-intended religious organizations don’t know how to nurture new life in individuals.  Fortunately, Dream Mother speaks to us nightly and each of us can, like Greer, learn how to listen. I wonder… could Greer’s new baby girl have signaled the birth of a new aspect of Earth Mother into her conscious life?

 

The Earth Mother Archetype May 7, 2011

The quality of being is shared by all four primary feminine archetypes, but it is a specialty of the Earth Mother. This archetype symbolizes the feminine aspect of our instinct for activity. Her partner is the Warrior. The aim of both is power and success and each uses our energy in different ways: he for doing, she for being. Of everything associated with femininity, being is perhaps most misunderstood. In the Western world we link it with passivity, indolence, powerlessness, and victimization. In an effort to avoid such stigmas, many of us overrule our natural inclinations and force ourselves to stay busy. But alone, neither kind of energy brings full success or empowerment. Only by integrating and balancing both can we attain our goals.

Our Warrior is the part of us that sees power and success in terms of becoming a perfected individual — developing our talents and skills to the highest degree so that we might make the greatest possible impact on the world through our achievements. To that end a healthy Warrior uses focused, self-disciplined energy to do, shape, influence. Since the benefits of this energy are obvious to all, it tends to be the ideal to which the collective ego aspires.

Where his emphasis is on the product, hers is on the process. She defines power and success as becoming completed through developing intimate relationships with our bodies, our unconscious selves, other people, nature, and the cycles of life. Like the fertility goddesses who carry her image, the human mothers who carry out her mission, and the planet Earth which carries life, the Earth Mother archetype creates, nurtures, births and protects new life in us.

She’s the part of us that honors the truths of our souls and our particular way of being, regardless of how different we might be. Her orientation in time is the present where she appreciates each moment and supports the activities of life without guilt about the past or anxiety for the future. She trusts our body and heeds its messages: muscle tension, changes in breathing, tiredness, a tight jaw, clenched fists, chills, sighs, goose bumps.

Her self-awareness and sensory savvy show us where to relax our wills and support otherness, how to relinquish our obsessive doing and busyness, when to let go of our children and other attachments, and when to accept life’s activity upon us instead of forcing it to serve our purposes. Her receptive beingness is actually a creative form of giving that promotes growing and becoming.

To be this receptive does not mean we are always flowing about without an anchor. It just means we have reverence for transcendent powers and uncontrollable natural forces and do not struggle needlessly against them. Earth Mother’s receptivity is as stabilizing as it is free-flowing. As David Rosen, author of The Tao of Jung says, “The Tao (the Way) is both fixed and moving at the same time.” It is fixed in its respect for the sacredness of life; it moves in accordance with the natural evolution of life.

Chu Hsi, a commentator on the Tao Te Ching, said this: “The female is one who receives something and, with it, creates. This creative principle is the most marvelous thing in the universe.” This is true feminine power.

 

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.

 

A Dream of Crones March 29, 2011

My grandmothers were not famous or brilliant or unusually talented. They were no different from other small-town, mid-western women of their generation; as teachers, they were perhaps a tad more well-educated than some, a little less sophisticated than others. They were not particularly insightful about themselves or wise in the ways of the world, but despite their learned preferences for masculine values and a masculine God, deep within the rich sub-stratas of their feminine grounds dwelled strong archetypal Queens with impeccable integrity; fiercely nurturing Earth Mothers whose alignment with the rhythms of nature taught them how to care for their families; Wisewomen with wonderful imaginations, understanding hearts, and respect for mystery; and beautiful Beloveds who knew their true worth to their families, friends, and God. Because my grandmothers loved me, they shared their wisdom and passions with me.

The lives of many, if not most of us were touched and shaped in important ways by the elder women in our families or neighborhoods. Yet, as a society, we rarely give credit to the crones or sing their praises in any public way. Indeed, in the West where youth is worshiped, the older a woman gets, the less visible she becomes. Respect for the Goddess archetype in her aspect as Crone may have disappeared from the Western world, but she remains a reality within the psyche. Many people who carefully attend to their inner life report experiencing significant encounters with wise old women, especially in dreams, but also in waking fantasies and visions. Jungians interpret these as important indications of the ego’s willingness to accept the guidance of the unconscious feminine.

The tenth dream I recorded after making the life-changing decision to take my inner life seriously indicated that I was beginning to understand the significance of the feminine unconscious. Here is an important part of that dream:

Dream # 10A: Gifts From the Crones. I am visiting a foreign, forbidden place, like a kibbutz. I feel guilty and afraid and know I will have to sneak out illegally. Dorene [a wise and admired professor friend in waking life who is married to a Jewish man] is working here. I have brought gifts for her. She is accompanied by three or four older women, grandmothers perhaps. They are sitting cross-legged on the floor dressed in flowing, earth-colored, ethnic-looking clothes. Plump and solid, with heads wrapped in turbans fashioned from natural fibers, they seem serene and benevolent. To my delight, they hold out gifts for me — small, loosely woven bags overflowing with sweet-smelling herbs and spices. I say their gifts to me are so much better than mine to them and know it to be true. I look forward to using them in the future. I want to avoid the guards at the check point at the train station, so I leave by sneaking in the back door of a dark theater and crawling through on my hands and knees. I am nervous about this surreptitious avoidance of the authorities, but full of confident, decisive energy.

Although I didn’t understand the full import of the dream at the time, today it seems very clear. Next time I’ll share my associations with it.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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