The Couple: A New God-Image January 17, 2017
In my last post, “What is Enlightenment” I introduced the Couple archetype. One reader responded with some thoughtful observations about same-sex couples, and I look forward to exploring this rich topic in future posts. But first, I’d like to lay the psychological and spiritual foundation for the Couple archetype. The following material comes from my manuscript, The Soul’s Twins.
According to Dr. Lawrence Odermatt of the Jung Institute in Zurich, the Couple holds profound spiritual meaning for many people in today’s world. Dr. Odermatt’s research has convinced him that the Couple is, in fact, emerging from the collective unconscious as a symbol of the Self. By this he means that people today expect things from the couple relationship that were formerly expected from their God-images, or ideas about The All, and from the religions created around these images.
Dr. Odermatt cites the following as some examples of the spiritual expectations people have about relationships today. People expect the couple relationship to provide a space or place of relaxation and regeneration from the stress of work and economic pressures. This is exactly what people in the past expected from places of worship, sacred rituals, and sacred festivals and days like Beltane, Christmas and the Sabbath.
People want their couple relationship to bring emotional security and satisfaction. This has not always been true. In the past, when marriages only took place between men and women and were primarily for social and political power and financial security, people rarely hoped to be emotionally fulfilled by their marriage partners; they did, however, expect it from their spiritual lives and practices.
People today also want their couple relationships to be containers for their spiritual and intellectual development, for their deepest yearnings and newest insights. They want the couple relationship to nurture their creativity and unique potential, to provide meaning for their lives. These functions too, have traditionally been associated with religion.
Finally, and to me, this is the most telling and pertinent expectation of all, Dr. Odermatt says that today people want partners who will confirm and accept them as unique individuals while at the same time providing them with an opportunity to merge with another so as to experience oneness, togetherness, wholeness. In other words, today the couple relationship is becoming a symbol for the creative union between humanity’s two basic drives, the two halves of the Self:
1. The drive for self-preservation is our compulsion to express our individuality. The need to find, develop and manifest our unique skills and passions in meaningful work has traditionally only been associated with and assigned to males and denied to females. In some parts of the world it still is. Nonetheless, it is inherent in all of us, regardless of gender.
2. The drive for species-preservation is our compulsion to experience oneness with another in caring, intimate relationships which nurture our creativity and bless our community with new life, whether physical, cultural, psychological, spiritual or all four. This drive has traditionally been associated with and assigned to females, and some families and cultures still discourage its expression in males in any outlet other than sexuality.
Humanity is evolving and here, in our time, our collective God-image is undergoing a dramatic transformation. We are imagining God as something far more balanced and complex than a superior masculine spiritual authority who is fascinated by the feminine other—whether the world of physical matter (L.mater or mother), the Mother Church, or women—while remaining separate and aloof from her. In a development prefigured two millennia ago in the beautiful myth of Psyche and Eros, we are imagining God as an inner reality: our potential for a sacred intimate union, a loving partnership between our masculine and feminine sides. This new God-image honors the masculine and feminine principles equally and in all of us as a spiritual reality. In other words, each of us is in and of God.
This way of imagining God has already had thrilling, far-reaching effects. In the social and political arena it has allowed us to consider granting people ultimate authority over what they do with their own bodies and offering full and equal opportunities to everyone regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, or sexual preferences. Such a God-image also gives contemporary religious institutions far more freedom than their predecessors had to encourage individuality and celebrate mutually meaningful relationships free from fear-based prohibitions and prejudices. And it gives religious groups permission to offer instruction on world religions, mythology, psychology, dreams, meditation techniques, and the newest scientific advances in medicine and physics because of a growing awareness that this knowledge liberates people from debilitating fears and helps them live more purposeful, meaningful lives.
The internal union between our masculine and feminine sides was anticipated by the practice of alchemy in the Middle Ages and the great wisdom traditions throughout the world before that. It was brought to our attention by Carl Jung, who likewise used the over-arching metaphors of masculine and feminine to represent every pair of opposites. Conducting our own magnum opus of uniting our inner opposites into our conscious awareness is our hope for wholeness, individuation and enlightenment.
The coniunctio in alchemy is a union of the masculine and feminine, of the spiritual and material principles, from which a perfect body arises, the glorified body after the Last Judgment, the resurrection body. This means an eternal body, or the subtle body, which is designated in alchemy as the philosopher’s stone, the lapis aethereus or invisibilis. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Pages 158-167.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Psyche and Amor, also known as Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard: a symbolic butterfly hovers over Psyche in a moment of innocence poised before sexual awakening.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
A Lasting Solution to Terrorism December 15, 2015
“. . . today most people cannot see the beam in their own eye but are all too well aware of the mote in their brother’s. Political propaganda exploits this primitivity and conquers the naive with their own defect. The only defence (sic) against this overwhelming danger is recognition of the shadow.” ~Carl Jung
Creating a persona, or social mask, to gain acceptance from our family and groups is normal. Being accepted as part of a group is important to us, especially during adolescence, and usually well beyond. But problems arise when we grow into adulthood believing our persona is the whole story about who we are. It isn’t. Life isn’t just about what you see; it’s also what you don’t see.
Psychological realities have energy. When we deny them honest expression they become like weeds that find their way out through cracks in the foundations of our personalities. My father’s death created a crack in my psyche and I turned to religion to heal it. But instead of finding a loving Father God to keep me safe, my religion’s shadow, a judgmental God of retribution, crept in through the crack. The more I sided with and tried to emulate a gentle, forgiving god-image, the more power my punishing god-image acquired until it became an overly scrupulous spiritual bully.
My spiritual bully usually shows up in my dreams as mean, critical men, but I have occasionally dreamed of a hostile female authority figure. Once she was a Russian policewoman who tried to throw acid on my face. I knew these characters must represent something in me, but I couldn’t see how they showed up in my waking life. After a while I realized that sometimes I had negative thoughts about myself, and once in a while I could see how these thoughts brought me down and sapped my energy. But it took years of dreamwork before I knew my bully for what he is: the strategy of a fearful child trying to protect myself from more trauma. After all, my inner Orphan must have reasoned, if I punish myself, maybe God won’t punish me again!
To gain approval from the “good” God of my religion, I decided to be good too. Adopting a “good girl” persona required me to repress any “badness.” But instead of going away, some of my repressed qualities merged into a spiritual bully. My bully thought he was doing me a favor and I believed him. We thought self-criticism was good for me. We thought constant vigilance to root out the tiniest infraction would build character and keep me humble!
Perhaps it did in some ways, but in other ways this habit of negative self-thinking had the opposite effect. Constant reminders of your flaws hurt. If I’ve been feeling self-critical and someone adds to my pain by saying something hurtful, I forget that when other people hurt me it’s all about them. In this vulnerable state my Orphan can break through my persona. I know she’s arrived when I start feeling sorry for myself. Wisdom and compassion fly out the window and I feel a childish resentment. I can feel superior, self-righteous, and yes, critical. I can be thoughtless, insensitive, unsympathetic. I can be a spiritual bully.
We need to see these things because we don’t just hurt ourselves when we blanket our shadows (everything we disown about ourselves) under thick, impenetrable layers. We also hurt others. Because the longer we ignore our own darkness, the more power it acquires to become the very opposite of who our masks proclaim us to be. Thus, self-righteousness and mean-spiritedness thrive beneath Church Lady’s piety; manipulation and control fester under the martyr’s mask; self-pity, sadness and depression hide behind the clown’s face; fear and powerlessness feed the excessive violence of warriors and terrorists; and lustful desires torment those who would be obsessively chaste and pure.
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”~Carl Jung
The Western world does not recognize the shadow as a powerful entity in every individual. Most of us will admit to certain flaws, but there are others we simply cannot see. We can easily see our most despised qualities in others, and are usually happy to point them out, but rarely can we admit to their presence in us.
This is not just psychologically ignorant, but dangerous. Our inability to understand and accept our personal and cultural shadows is the reason for our prejudices, hypocrisy, thoughtlessness, cruelty, broken relationships, crime, genocide, terrorism, imperialism, war, and destruction of our environment. The only lasting contribution I as an individual can make to world health and planetary peace is to know my own shadow well enough to restrain it without projecting more darkness into a world that already has enough to destroy us all.
Politicians take note: Killing dragons in the outer world will never free humanity from terrorism and tyranny. The only lasting solution is for each of us to make peace with the enemy within. Everyone has the power to do that.
This video is from my new YouTube series called Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery. You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page,) on my website , and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.
Is Your God-Image Dysfunctional? August 14, 2012
Religious beliefs are so deeply personal and emotional that it’s taken me a very long time to be comfortable opening up about my own. Not wanting to offend or challenge anyone’s faith, I’ve preferred to focus on psychological issues. Yet, of all the topics I write about in this blog, my posts about religion seem to elicit the most interest and affirming comments.
I noticed this again at my first book-signing for “Healing the Sacred Divide” last weekend. Every time I looked up from reading a little story about a major awakening I experienced at the age of eleven, I saw people nodding and smiling in recognition. The story is about my parents advising me to tone down my show-offy behavior at a motel swimming pool lest I make the other children feel badly. There was a little girl out there who was having trouble keeping up with the rest of us, my father said. I should notice, her, think about her feelings, try to include her and make her feel better about herself.
This was a crucial moment in my development. Overcome with self-consciousness, I realized for the first time that people were not only watching, but critiquing me, possibly even feeling badly about themselves because of me. So I walked up to the little girl in the faded brown bathing suit and tentatively lied, “I like your bathing suit.” While she happily bounced away to jump off the diving board, I sat quietly in the nearest chair pondering my new knowledge. I was capable of hurting people without intending to, just by having fun and being me! Suddenly the world was filled with eyes, and I knew that all of them, including God’s were watching me.
After that I no longer associated God with the warm, happy feelings I experienced when I mastered new skills or explored the wonders of nature. God became a collection of ideas about the kind of behavior expected by an aloof, separate, powerful, all-seeing, overtly beneficent but secretly critical, gender-biased, judgmental King. If I worked very hard to please him by obeying his rules and making nice and attending church regularly I might receive his approval, protection, and salvation. If I didn’t, I’d be notified and punished. He called the shots and that’s how it was. That was fine with me. After all, he was the King of Heaven!
This is a childish, Santa Clausy image of God. Typical in the early stages of ego-development, it’s based on a child’s normal fears, vulnerability, and desire to please. My religious thinking changed considerably in the coming years, but beneath it the same childish emotional reality—the same unconscious needy attachment to the norms of my family—lived deep within me like an insecure orphan who’s afraid to leave the safety of her dark little attic room.
Instead of enabling me to let “this little light of mine” shine, as the song I learned at Vacation Bible School said I should, this God-image encouraged me to wear a rigid, carefully constructed mask that nearly smothered it. What saved it was learning that, as Ravi Ravindra wrote, “the struggle to know who I am…is the spiritual quest.” And that “To keep the flame of spiritual yearning alive is to be radically open to the present and to refuse to settle for comforting religious dogma, philosophic certainties, and social sanctions.”
The interest in my writing and talks about religious matters convinces me I haven’t been alone in my struggle to grow past this dysfunctional God-image. It’s been slow going, but self-knowledge is healing my long and painful separation from the Mystery. What’s your story?
Enlightenment in New Mexico July 31, 2012
It’s such an honor to present today’s post. It’s a review of my new book written by guest blogger, N.M. Freeman. It first appeared last week on her blog. Here’s the link. Natasha is the author of the award-nominated The Story of Q. (inspired by actual events). This book blew me away! You can read what I wrote about it in January of this year in a post titled Questioning Religion. The Story of Q contains historical facts about the origins of the Christian scriptures found in the New Testament of the Holy Bible and is recognized for contributing to the growth, further education and enlightenment of humanity. I hope you’ll check it out! And now, Natasha’s post, which she titled Enlightenment in New Mexico:
As promised, here’s my review of Dr. Jean Benedict Raffa’s stunning new book: Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other and the World. Brilliantly executed, this book is a thought provoking pleasure to read – never mind that it can, for some, be life changing. Highly, highly recommended. This review can be found in full in the Summer 2012 edition of Radical Grace (a publication for the center for action and contemplation based in Albuquerque, New Mexico). The theme of the summer edition is Unitive Consciousness.
Dr. Jean Benedict Raffa’s new book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World looks at the difference between religion and God through the lens of Jungian psychology, and speaks to the deepest spiritual seekings of the human heart.
The power in this book lies not in its ability to reveal a recognizable truth, but in the way it communicates this truth. Through memory, psychology, emotion, and the powerfully secret relevance of our dreams.
With gentle brilliance, Raffa walks us through the first 3 Epochs of psycho-spiritual development in accordance with Jungian psychology. Incredibly, each Epoch is so identifiable that we immediately recognize our own space on the development scale. This type of self-reflection is, as Raffa iterates, crucial to our ever coming to know the wholeness of God as we are born to know it.
Refreshingly, Healing the Sacred Divide tackles topics often left to the university classroom in such a way that makes them generously accessible to the mind as well as the soul. Engaging a powerful conversation about the evolution of our God-image (where it comes from and how it came to be what it is today), Raffa reveals the dysfunctions associated with the image, the how and why it often feels incomplete when presented through the orthodox and especially the fundamental religious lens. In this sense, as we learn more about ourselves, we also become powerfully privy to the truth and effect behind the reality that our patriarchal God view is as much constructed as our gender divisions – both resulting in an inability to experience wholeness on the human journey or, in a spiritual sense, as children of God.
With beautiful, bravely intelligent prose, Raffa loosens the divisions between masculine and feminine thought and reveals them for what they are: 2 realities that apart leave a disjointed experience (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually) but together make a whole. It is in the union of these two spheres or rather divisions of thought, that a sacred space is created within which spiritual growth can occur in abundance. This fascinating expose challenges us to transcend dangerous divisions of thought that can distract from our spiritual relationship with ourselves, each other, and the world, but most of all God.
Eloquently and far from overwhelmingly Raffa explores these topics within the context of our own experiences. In anecdotal form, she lays the foundation from which to explore the topics of self, ego, and even the shadow parts of our personalities (which we might not want to admit we have).
Ultimately, Healing the Sacred Divide shows us how we are already in a relationship with God – born whole – with only our fears, ego based religions, and desire or fear to conform to societal norms standing in the way. Better yet, the text invites us to not only heal, but to bridge that divide.
The psychological speak has the potential to become tedious but it never does. Raffa has woven ourselves through the text so that you spend the book understanding, reflecting, recognizing, feeling love, wisdom, and the comfort of knowing healing the sacred divide is realistic, possible. Here. Now.
On a personal note, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so moved by a book and the truth it proclaims, which is purely identifiable in and by the human experience. (And I have read many a book on this topic.)
An extremely important book, Raffa’s work/insight is the very mandorla of which she speaks.
For all, from every background and every religion, this is easily one of the most important books of 2012…and the future.