Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Is God? March 23, 2012

How can human beings possibly know the nature of God?  We can’t, of course. Yet ever since our species realized we were alive and part of a vast living Mystery, we’ve been trying. And whether we’re religious or not, most of us have some ideas about this Mystery.  It seems to me we look at God from three major perspectives.

Objective Facts: Using mathematics and tools like X-rays, electrocardiograms, telescopes and microscopes, Science looks for factual information about the mysterious origins, forces, and laws of physical life.

Abstract Theories: Religion interprets the Mystery of life in words, theories, symbols, scriptures, and stories about enlightened spirit persons whose wisdom, compassion, and passion for social justice bring healing and hope.

Personal Truths: Psychology encourages us to explore the mysterious workings of our hearts and minds for insights that bring awe, compassion, and self-knowledge, and to express our experience of the Sacred in creative ways that reflect our individuality.

Until very recently these three perspectives were sharply separated. Scientific investigations took place in laboratories, religious ones in places of worship, and psychological ones in consulting rooms, art studios, and asylums. Moreover, since the invention of alphabets, the viewpoints of religions have predominately shaped humanity’s God-images.

But all this is changing. The universal access to information that technology brings is closing the gaps, and our differing perspectives no longer totally  separate us from ourselves, each other, or God.  In fact, they are  merging into a deeper, more unifying vision. This is deeply disturbing to those who prefer separation to connection, simplicity to paradox, and certitude to dialogue.

However, people who seek truth and understanding above all else find it refreshing and inspiring. Why? Because the newest insights and discoveries from science, religion and psychology confirm the same intuition that spirit persons from every place and time have always shared: that a primary characteristic of the sacred Mystery is Unity in Multiplicity.

Consider the myriad forms of life on our planet. Each has a separate reality of its own yet all live together in one giant, inter-connected home. Look at the variety of religions that have sprung up over the millennia. Despite cultural differences they all speak the same language of love, compassion, tolerance, and the sanctity of life. Look at different individuals. No two are exactly alike, yet we all share the same matter, physiological systems, instinctual drives, and archetypal inheritance. And all our parts work together to help our bodies and species thrive.

Three perspectives; one Mystery. A Holy Trinity as it were. Unity in Multiplicity.

I can think of nothing more sacred than the miracle of life. Without it there would be no science, religion, or psychology. No miracles, healing, or compassion. No people with ideas about God. No God. If the nature of God is expressed in Unity in Multiplicity and we are each living, breathing participants in that Unity, then we are in God and God is in us. I wonder how things would be different if more of us shared this image of God.

 

The Space Odyssey of Projection: Part I January 10, 2012

After my post “Animal Healers” in which I said that we project our unconscious emotions onto animals, a reader wrote, “I am a bit confused about the concept of “projection” within the context of Jungian Psychology. I hear Jungians use it a lot, and I get the concept in general, but only in a vague sense. For example, I understand that we “project” our own subconscious concepts of perfection on our beloved, but I’m unsure what that means. Are Jungians saying that the world we see is simply a hologram of what our subconscious minds expect to and want to see? How do we differentiate between what is existentially in the world from a projection?”

This is a great question and I won’t be able to explain it adequately in just one post, so I’ll continue next time. Projection is one of the most difficult psychological realities of all to understand because we do it at an entirely unconscious level. Your ego believes it is the center of your psyche and that everything pretty much revolves around it. Moreover, it believes it knows exactly what you are doing, and why, at any given moment. To convince your ego that it is mistaken is akin to Copernicus and Galileo trying to convince our forebears of only a few centuries ago that contrary to the evidence of their eyes, the sun does not revolve around the Earth and there is an unimaginably vast universe beyond the bowl of the sky with contents and influences yet to be discovered.

It is no coincidence that during the second half of the 20th century people throughout the world became fascinated with science fiction novels, television shows and films like War of the Worlds, Star Trek, Star Wars, E.T. and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Freudian and Jungian psychology were entering collective awareness in a big way during that era, and a major discovery was the reality of the unconscious self. With our growing awareness of an unknown inner universe came a parallel interest in the outer one.

The idea that we might contain potentially dangerous unknown contents made us extremely uncomfortable. Since these unconscious phenomena were still inaccessible to our egos, we dealt with our anxiety by imagining and exploring ideas about aliens and space ships and planetary wars going on somewhere outside ourselves and the known world. “As above, so below,” as the ancient saying goes. To put it another way, “As without, so within.” Whether or not space aliens are physical realities remains to be seen; but there is no doubt they symbolize psychological realities.

This is an example of projection. Jung said (Volume 6, paragraphs 783 and 784 of the Collective Works) that a projection is a transferral of our own unconscious contents onto another person or object. It is an automatic process that happens to everyone and is not under our ego’s conscious control. When we project our negative unconscious contents onto others we make them responsible for our discomfort, flaws, or problems. This helps us get rid of painful, incompatible contents. We do the same with positive contents of which our egos are still unaware. Then we make those onto whom we have projected them responsible for our happiness or salvation. Thus do we demonize others in whom we see our negative contents and create God-images out of entities, real or imagined, onto whom we project our positive contents. This, of course, is how wars, love affairs, and religions are formed.

Next time I’ll give some examples of what projection looks like in everyday life. Meanwhile you might want to ask yourself who you demonize, who you love, and why.

 

The True Hero’s Journey December 20, 2011

At the age of ten I dreamed the Lone Ranger shot me. This big dream about my hero was more real than any other I’ve ever had. I was devastated to think he hated me so much he wanted to kill me and I couldn’t understand why. I had practically worshiped him, his beautiful horse Silver, and his trusty partner Tonto; yet he shot me! The injustice of this was intolerable!

One thing I’ve come to understand is that this dream spoke to my childhood image of God as a heroic male and my growing sense that I was unworthy because I was a female. In 195o’s America God was a He, history was still about males, and females could not be bosses, ministers, presidents or heroes.

That new awareness was very painful to my ten-year-old heart, and I tried my best to suppress it for many years; but ultimately, belatedly, it forced me to take myself as seriously as I took my loved ones, to search for my truths, and to connect with God in ways that were personally meaningful instead of entrusting this most crucial of my soul’s tasks to others — especially others who did not value me because of my gender. It also inspired my creativity. My struggle to understand and empower femininity and the feminine side of the Sacred Mystery is at the core of everything I write.

A second message of this dream was the inevitability of death. While being alone most of the time I wasn’t in school or church seemed normal to me at ten, my dream said that unconsciously I was feeling very vulnerable and insecure. I could be left alone to make my way through a dangerous world, I could be victimized, I could die. When my father died a few months later this suspicion became a certainty and my trust in my hero/God was shattered. Apparently I knew something no one else did: the heavenly hero everyone thought of as perfect was secretly untrustworthy, unjust and cruel.

I tried to repress this awareness too, but it was nevertheless a bedrock reality that fueled my determination to do everything I could to stay on God’s good side! Ignoring my wounded Persephone, I concentrated on developing my Athena, the brave, noble and wise defender of patriarchy! And I got pretty good at being heroic in the outer world of ambition, achievement and work.

So it was a bit of a shock to realize at mid-life was that I was copying a surface version of the hero myth  that emphasizes external trappings of power and success and ignores the inner life. Beneath the image of the independent, white-hatted cowboy on a white horse who rides off in search of bad buys to kill with his silver bullets is a much deeper meaning that is also the deeper meaning of  every authentic religion: True heroism, the kind that lasts and makes a difference in the world, is the ability to rein in the ego, lasso and befriend our shadow, learn compassion, and embolden our true Self so we can care for others in ways that are beneficial to all. In conforming to a mold that didn’t honor my inner realities I was betraying myself and the Great Mystery we call God.

Here is the message I want to convey:  We don’t have to settle for dysfunctional God-images or self-images. Acquiring the consciousness to recognize our wounds and complete our souls so we can serve our communities with compassion is the true Hero’s Journey. This is a spiritual path anyone can take.

 

How’s Your God-Image Working For You? December 13, 2011

Our ideas about God come from us. For approximately the last 5,000 years the West and Near East have projected our masculine archetypes onto a male God who is a

1) King: superior, all-powerful and morally judgmental;

2) Warrior: partial to and protective of our particular tribe or culture while rejecting our enemies;

3) Magician/Scholar: supernatural and all-knowing; and

4) Lover: passionately in love with us, His Beloveds.

So what does this say about the status of the psyches and societies that envision God this way? An ego with a purely masculine God-image has rejected the sacred power of femininity because it is afraid of and hostile to the feminine side of the psyche.  Of course, this makes about as much sense as obsessing over the qualities of the left-hemisphere of our brains and repressing the equally valuable “God-given” qualities of the right-hemisphere.

Who in their right mind would deliberately do such a thing? This is the point, of course. The fact is, we’re not in our “right” mind because Western culture has essentially rejected the qualities of the right brain! Since the time of Aristotle, our egos have been so enamored of our left-hemisphere logos ability to process information with clear reason, discrimination of details, and logical, “objective” thinking that we’ve disdained the far more mysterious and uncontrollable processes of the right hemisphere.

The right hemisphere specializes in mythos. This analogical mode of thinking emphasizes seeing the whole picture instead of discriminating between details;  connecting instead of separating;  completing oneself through intimate relationships instead of proving oneself through perfected work;  finding meaning in images, symbols and intuitions instead of only words and provable facts; personal, subjective realities instead of objective ones;  inner events instead of outer ones; values and tender emotions instead of pure reason; and the physical, instinctual realities of our bodies instead of the traditional mental processes associated with intelligence.  As you may have guessed, right-brain attributes are generally associated with femininity.

But why does it have to be either/or for the ego? Why have we rejected these qualities—or at the very least seen them as “inferior” to left-brained qualities—for so long instead of simply accommodating both? It’s really very simple. Like all mammals, humans begin life as helpless, instinctual creatures. But we have egos, and our egos want to control our primitive instincts so we can stay safe and gain more control over the terrifying powers of Mother Nature. After all, if you can’t manage your hunger you’ll eat your entire fall harvest by Christmas; then what will you eat for the rest of the winter?

Poor little egos. We just want to be more conscious and in control so we can feel more safe in a terrifying world. The last thing we want is to fall back (backslide?) into unconsciousness and powerlessness. So we obsess over left-hemisphere (Western?) thinking and disown the more “primitive” right brain. We project masculinity onto a remote, separate, all-powerful spirit and project femininity onto physical women who we strip of as much power as we can. Thus have we created societies run by power-driven leaders who are afraid of their own shadows, can’t get along with each other, and use and abuse women and all who are weak, vulnerable or different from the things our egos identify with.

How conscious is that? How conscious are you? How integrated is your brain? How integrated is your God-image?

 

Fear of Retribution December 6, 2011

The fear of God’s retribution has haunted me most of my life. I believe it arrived at the age of 11 when my father died of his third heart attack. Since he had divorced my mother three months earlier to marry another woman, I must have concluded that death was God’s punishment for betraying Mama and leaving us. Of course, I received a little help from my religious training on that assumption; after all, the Old Testament god was a punishing god.

Soon I began to ask the big questions about the meaning of life and gravitated toward religion which appeared to have some answers. By 17 I was hooked, and over the next ten years I read the New Testament of the Christian Bible three times. Its words were very comforting, and gradually my god-image of retribution morphed into one of love. Consciously, that is.

But here’s the thing: It’s not just about what you see; it’s also what you don’t see. My conscious belief that God was about love, not punishment, did not convince the wounded child whose fear of retribution never went away. In fact, the more I sided with a gentle, forgiving god-image and disowned its opposite, the more power my punishing, masculine god-image acquired until it became an overly scrupulous spiritual bully whose job was to criticize and repress me. And this hidden character in my inner cast of players began to influence me in equal measure to his opposite with one important difference: he did it without my awareness!

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 my bully took advantage of it. Instead of focusing on my good qualities and reminding me of my worth and lovableness, he’s the part of me that delights in emphasizing my mistakes and flaws.

He thinks he’s doing me a favor. After all, you know the saying, “Pride goeth before a fall.” He believes self-criticism is good for me and constant awareness of how “bad” I am will keep me humble! And therefore safe from God’s retribution.   But thinking we’re bad, hiding our light, and squelching our soul’s truths lest we attract God’s wrath or upset others are not good uses of our precious time on Earth. Might as well crawl into bed and pull the covers over our head.

Our soul’s reason for being is to live fully, love wastefully, and become all we have the potential to be.  That’s hard to do when we’re being pushed around by a spiritual bully. So how do we handle that negative inner voice? I choose to believe my Wisewoman, who, after 22 years of dreamwork, I can now hear in waking life. She’s the alpha mare who says to my spiritual bully stallion when he gets too inflated, “I hear you, buddy, but I’m not buying what you’re selling. I think it’s time you got a new job. How about helping me follow my bliss instead of criticizing me for being human?”

Taking our inner characters and disowned realities seriously is a choice to live our life fully instead of trying to kill it. What was Wisdom’s response when I finally saw my bully and started challenging his authority? Failure? A bolt of lightning? Loss of love? Abandonment? No. Actually, it was more like, “You go, girl!”

 

Dream Symbol: The King January 22, 2011

Did you ever dream about a king or other powerful leader and wonder why? Throughout history kings and queens in the outer world have represented the mysterious force that creates and sustains life. This force has two basic drives: self-preservation (masculine) and species preservation (feminine).

The drive for self-preservation compels us to promote our individuality, protect our physical lives, and guarantee the prosperity of the “tribe” on which we depend for survival.  The King archetype is a symbol of this drive. In terms of our inner growth, Jung saw the King as a symbol of individuation, or becoming differentiated from our social groups.  Together, the King and Queen represent the masculine and feminine authorities of the psyche.

We enhance our chances for survival when everyone agrees to certain guidelines and standards that encourage orderly, responsible behavior. To that end we look to leaders with strong King archetypes to devise, enact, and enforce rules. Healthy King energy uses clear and logical  thinking to create fair and just rules in systems of hierarchical authority. Unhealthy King energy is either too obsessive or passive to truly care about others and therefore wreaks havoc in families, schools, businesses, churches, and nations.

Examples of men upon whom we project the King archetype include leaders at the top of social hierarchies such as fathers, school principals, CEO’s, generals, presidents, ministers, priests, and popes; historical kings such as Caesar, Louis XIV, and Henry VIII; mythical god-images associated with kingly authority like Zeus, Thor, Hades, and King Neptune; and kings in stories and legends like King Midas, King Arthur, The Fisher King, The Lion King and his negative counterpart Scar.

Women with well-developed King energy include Maat, Egypt’s goddess of justice, truth, and law; Themis, the Greek goddess of equity, law, and peace; the Cherokee’s Grandmother Spider; Japan’s Sun Goddess Amaterasu; and human women like Cleopatra, Catherine de’ Medici, Catherine the Great, Mary Queen of Scots, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton, Judge Judy, and decisive, authoritarian, rule-oriented mothers.

Dream themes associated with our King address rules, crimes, morality, authority, order, leadership, and individuation. Two King dreams are especially auspicious.  An old King dying to make way for a new one says we’ve outgrown our childish dependence on outer authorities and are assuming our personal authority.  A wedding between a King and Queen suggests the conscious integration of our inner opposites.

Dream symbols that refer to our King include all the examples above plus other powerful authorities like dictators, governors, prison guards, police men and women, judges, lions (the king of beasts) and stallions. We learn more about the strength and health of our King energy by noticing the way these dream figures treat us and others, and by how our dream ego feels and behaves when we are in their presence or in positions of leadership ourselves.

In waking life, the problems we experience as leaders and the way we feel about and respond to those with authority over us can be traced directly to the maturity of our personal King and Queen. It is important to integrate both forms of energy into our awareness so we can choose the best possible leaders,and so we ourselves can live, speak and lead with wisdom and benevolence.

Has a King ever showed up in your dreams?  I’d love to hear about it.

 

The Winter Holy Days From A Cosmic Perspective December 28, 2010

It is holiday season in many parts of the planet, and God and Goddess are sitting on their lawn thrones observing the many rituals their children on Earth have created to celebrate their Mystery. There are preparations: lists drawn up, duties assigned, purchases made, rehearsals attended. Spaces are beautified. Bodies are adorned. There are pageants and processions, concerts and recitals, parties, meals, gifts. There are ceremonies with prayers, offerings, readings, teachings, and pronouncements. There are altars, flowers, candles, plants, art, holy objects, sacred images, special vessels. There is food, music, color, texture, scent, darkness and light. And in the hearts of some participants, there are quickenings of sacred meaning.

God glances at Goddess. He can see that she has something on her mind. “You aren’t enjoying this as much as I am, are you? What’s the matter?”

“Well, the reverence and beauty and good intentions are very heartwarming. I adore our children when they’re like this. They’re trying so hard. But for some of them, none of this is making any difference.” Goddess gestures to several spots on Earth. “Look at that place of worship over there. And those over there. And those. I see some hearts glowing with promising light, but do you see how many are almost completely smothered in darkness? I’m hurting for them, the ones for whom the traditional rituals are just duty, habit, entertaining diversions, or social occasions. Some of them don’t even want to be there. They aren’t experiencing Us. For them, the rituals have no meaning. And if there’s no meaning, there’s no transformative power.”

God nods and sighs. “Yes, you’re right. You’re so good at looking beneath externalities to the heart and soul of things. That’s always been your specialty.”

Goddess continues. “It’s just so sad to see how they’re so focused on the past and so worried about the future that they’re numb to the present. They don’t even see their fear, their anxiety, their lack of joy and passion, their hopelessness. They come to these events wanting to feel something, some spark of inspiration or hope, and so many of them leave with nothing but disappointment and guilt. Look at them just sitting there, repeating words that mean nothing to them. Smiling at people they don’t even like. Worrying about whether or not they’re wearing the right clothes or saying the right things. They’re acting, not being true to themselves. Why don’t they pay attention to what really feels sacred to them?

“That one over there should be out hiking. The only meaningful connection she ever felt to Us was on a mountaintop. And him? He should be writing the original music that’s playing in his head right now. It’s the only thing that inspires and excites him, yet he’s too busy doing things he hates to do the one thing he loves.

“And that couple. She’s a brilliant teacher; he’s a gifted therapist. They’re mature spirit persons with so much to offer. They’re dying to be of service, but there are no opportunities for them in their place of worship. Why don’t they create some new rituals with symbols and myths that speak personally to them and invite people with similar interests to participate? Don’t they get it that they don’t have to betray you to honor me? Most of them have no problem with loving both of their physical parents. Don’t they know they can love us both at the same time too? Don’t they know they honor us both by honoring the life in their bodies, their creativity, the true gifts of their souls that we gave them at birth? Their passions? Their genuine spiritual needs? Don’t they understand that they worship us every time they love and nurture new life in themselves and each other?”

Goddess begins to cry. “My poor, poor children. Some of them try so hard to please you by keeping up appearances. But how many of them will leave their bodies without ever appreciating the life in them? Without enjoying the beauty and diversity of that exquisite planet? Without knowing themselves? Without discovering their passions? Without creating anything original or fulfilling their purposes or fully living their unique lives? It’s such a tragic waste!”

Sadly, tenderly, God holds Goddess as she weeps for her lost children, the Orphans who will never know the love of their Divine Mother.

 

 
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