Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Sophia’s Contribution to Mature Spirituality June 26, 2012

Our feminine drive for species-preservation compels us to establish intimate relationships based on authentic feeling. We can express this drive in healthy and/or unhealthy ways. When our behavior is motivated by an unconscious compulsion to get our way, and when we place the best interests of others secondary to this need, our relationships grow dysfunctional. When we experience and act on tender feelings and a patient willingness to respect the differences of others, our relationships heal.

The same is true of religions. When serving the ego’s needs takes precedence over people’s feelings, religions perpetuate dysfunction, but when understanding and accepting have top priority, religions heal. The thing that makes one expression of spirituality mature and the other immature is the presence or absence of benevolent feeling.  As Gregg Braden says, “The feeling is the prayer.” And God is not the only one who hears this prayer. Everyone around us soaks it up.

In Ego and Archetype Jungian Edward Edinger writes, “At a certain point in psychological development, usually after an intense alienation experience, the ego-Self axis suddenly breaks into conscious view….The ego becomes more aware, experientially, of a transpersonal center to which the ego is subordinate…. Whenever man consciously encounters a divine agency which assists, commands, or directs, we can understand it as an encounter of the ego with the Self.”

Such a breakthrough to our spiritual core is the function of a loving force that simply cannot ignore our earnest and heartfelt request.  As a mother will break through any barriers to her child, so will Sophia break through our ego’s resistance to tender feeling. It is the experience of this love and compassion, not the idea of it, that transforms us.  Rashan D’Angelo writes, “Love is a direct experience of God.”

In Jung and the Lost Gospels, Stephen Hoeller says, “When people cease to experience God, they are forced to believe in him…and belief is a commodity subject to loss. The inner sense of God is a quality of the deeper psyche and not of reason…. [T]he prevailing religious emphasis on faith over interior experience… requires ‘a sacrifice of feeling….’ Mature spirituality, it would seem, requires more than faith.” The divisiveness and separation we see all around us is not caused by any one religion or belief system.  It is caused by individuals:  by people like you and me who are so out of touch with their true needs and tenderest feelings that they can’t feel them in themselves or respect them in others!

The antidote to the cruel shadows of ourselves, our cultures, and our religions is to face our vulnerable emotions instead of pretending and acting tough. To do that, we will need to respect our feminine sides and the women onto whom we project them. Feeling does not automatically make one emotionally wise or spiritually mature, but it is a necessary beginning, for without it, religion is nothing more than meaningless verbal exercises and empty social rituals. This produces an emotionally repressed shadow characterized by a dogmatic fervor that can be machine-like in its relentless destruction of anything it sees as an enemy to belief.

What steps can you take to harmonize your true feelings with your spiritual hunger?  Your spiritual beliefs?  How might the world be different if we allowed ourselves to feel what we feel (especially our fear and hurt) and learned how to express our feelings in appropriate ways without hurting anyone? How would it be different if we taught our children to do the same?

Order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at Larson Publications.


How Do You Know When You’re On The Right Side? May 15, 2012

We’ve been watching an outstanding Showtime series called The Borgias about an infamous Italian family in the 1400’s and 1500’s. The plot revolves around the father, Rodrigo, who became Pope Alexander VI in 1492, his favorite son, Cesare, whom Rodrigo made a cardinal, and Cesare’s beautiful and gentle sister Lucrezia. What makes the show so fascinating is the frank exploration of the dual nature of all three. On one side, Rodrigo is a devoted family man and Christian. On the other, he is absolutely ruthless in his search for power and wealth to the point that he authorizes the elimination of many enemies, some of whom Cesare kills for him. Remember, Rodrigo is the Pope and these things really happened. Talk about the original crime family!

From a psychological perspective, we see that all three characters act from the masculine drive for self-preservation and the feminine drive for species-preservation. Let’s look at the feminine drive: the inborn need that compels us to establish intimate relationships with others. Rodrigo dearly loves his courtesan mistress and mother of his children. He loves his other mistresses. He loves his children, enjoys their company, and consults their wisdom, and when Lucrezia has a son by her husband’s stable boy, Rodrigo is filled with joy and welcomes his grandson wholeheartedly into the family.

Cesare, too, loves his parents and his sister. He also loves a beautiful woman with whom he wants to make a life. And he trusts and is even somewhat fond of the family’s sinister enforcer, Micheletto. In the early stages of Lucrezia’s marriage, despite being repeatedly brutalized by her husband, she tries to be kind to him, and she dearly loves her family, lover and son. She also involves herself in civic projects to better the lives of Rome’s poorest and most disenfranchised citizens. All these are healthy ways of expressing the drive for species-preservation.

The problem for all three is that their masculine drive for self-preservation is so obsessive that while it serves their own family well for a while, in all but Lucrezia it overshadows their feminine drive so thoroughly that they feel no compassion whatever for anyone outside their immediate family or love interests.  Even there, it shows up occasionally, for example, in Cesare’s jealousy and hatred for his brother Juan.

We all have both drives, and we all express both in healthy and unhealthy ways. This is what I mean about having dual natures. No individual is all good or all bad. The same is true of governments and religions. When religious and political leaders are obsessed with fulfilling their own unconscious, unmet needs for power and influence they, like Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia, perpetuate dysfunction; but when their compulsion to serve themselves is balanced with a sincere desire to serve others they become forces for peace, healing, and the thriving of all. The thing that makes one behavior healthy and the other unhealthy is simply this: the presence or absence of genuinely benevolent feeling…for the human family and for every form of life. 

As Gregg Braden says, “The feeling is the prayer.”  It is not our good intentions, or what we think of ourselves, or how we vote, or where we worship, or what we believe and say that proves we’re on the “right” side and connects us to the Ultimate Good. It’s the genuine caring that motivates what we say and do. It’s the compassion. It’s the love. Only when feeling and living with love is our sincere, heart-felt prayer and an equally powerful force in our behavior can we be assured we’re on the side of Right.


Loving Wastefully November 6, 2010

I first heard the term loving wastefully in a speech by John Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop who sees this kind of love as an attribute of God. Like Jesus, this spiritual pioneer who has long been an outspoken proponent of feminism, gay rights, and racial equality has severely upset the applecarts of many traditional believers by actually practicing what he preaches. So much so, that he has received 16 death threats: all from Christians. What’s wrong with this picture?

I know; I’m preaching to the choir in this blog. So instead of ranting on about something we all agree on, I’ll try to add something new to the mix. What we fail to realize when we raise incredulous eyebrows in a not-so-subtle display of self-righteousness is that there’s nothing really new or unusual about the illogic of people believing in love and living with hate. In fact, if we stop to think about it, most of us know and regret times we have acted in hateful ways and felt secretly justified in it.

The reason for this is psychological ignorance, or unconsciousness. We humans simply can’t see ourselves objectively in the same way we can see others. In our well-intentioned desire to transcend our limitations and become better people, we gravitate toward groups, activities and ideals which we hope will inspire and heal us. We try to make sacrifices without complaining; we try to give without expecting anything back. We pray, study, learn, theorize and engage in spiritual practices in the hope of becoming mature spirit people. Meanwhile, we keep on hating and fearing ourselves and projecting our hatred and fear onto others.

Why? Because thinking, idealizing and learning can only take us so far. What we forget, what we don’t even want to know because the knowledge makes us squirm, is that we have an unknown shadow side composed of uncomfortable instinctual needs, unhealed wounds, basic assumptions and powerful emotions that we haven’t a clue how to restrain. And these very real parts of ourselves are absolutely brilliant at finding sly ways to escape our ego’s carefully constructed boundaries without our knowledge or consent.

Some years ago a few women and I founded an organization to create programs we hoped would make a difference in the lives of women. As we worked intimately together over many years, we learned to trust one another well enough to risk taking off our oh so civilized masks. As our egos felt safer, our despised and carefully hidden shadows occasionally snuck out and stirred up trouble. Being the exceedingly well-intentioned women we were, we deliberately faced and dealt with our conflicts in carefully-crafted sessions of active listening and truth-telling.

After years of mental striving which had kept me distanced from my true self and others, trying to recognize and express uncomfortable and uncontrollable emotions in this sacred circle with as much patience, kindness and love as I could muster was one of the most profoundly healing and life-changing experiences of my adult life. In trying to make a difference in the world we also made a difference in ourselves. We grew more conscious of our shadows.

It’s not just thinking noble thoughts in our heads that connects us with what’s Holy: it’s also daring to feel, face and expose the secrets of our inner Other.  This is what creates a loving heart, our threshold to the Sacred. As Gregg Braden reminds us, the feeling is the prayer.


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