Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

How Self-Aware Are You? Epoch I: Physical Consciousness May 10, 2016

Lewis Lafontaine's photo.

“So long as the child is in that state of unconscious identity with the mother, he is still one with the animal psyche and is just as unconscious as it.

The development of consciousness inevitably leads not only to separation from the mother, but to separation from the parents and the whole family circle and thus to a relative degree of detachment from the unconscious and the world of instinct.

Yet the longing for this lost world continues and, when difficult adaptations are demanded, is forever tempting one to make evasions and retreats, to regress to the infantile…” ~Carl Jung, CW 5, Para 351

People often find Jung’s theories and writing difficult, and it’s no wonder.  He was introducing humanity to a radically different way of seeing and thinking about ourselves, and he used words and phrases in ways that only someone familiar with his work is liable to understand.

The above quote is a good example. What did Jung mean when he wrote about a child being “in that state of unconscious identity with the mother?”  What does it mean to be “one with the animal psyche?” What was he trying to say in this quote? Essentially he’s referring to a common problem that can obstruct our psychological growth.

Lioness with Cub, national Reserve, Pilaneberg, South Africa

Lioness with Cub, National Reserve, Pilaneberg, South Africa

FreudEriksonPiaget, and Kohlberg have described psychological development as a series of stages in which people exhibit typical behavior patterns and abilities.  Jung and Neumann went a step beyond in focusing on the development of consciousness itself, particularly in terms of our psychological and spiritual self-awareness.

Based on these and other developmental theories, I’ve summarized the development of consciousness in three general “epochs” of self-awareness. In this system, Epoch I is Physical Consciousness,  Epoch II is Ego Consciousness, and Epoch III is Integrated Consciousness. For most of us, the first is of relatively brief duration,  the second is quite long (the whole of life for many people), and the third sometimes does not even begin.

“In the first epoch our awareness is limited to our five senses and the forces of physical instinct:  bodily urges, unchecked emotions, and primitive images.  As infants we are like hungry wolf cubs in a vast and comforting wilderness.  We don’t question our habitat or behavior or wonder if there is any other way to be;  we simply act and react to physical stimuli without plan, reflection or guilt….Unburdened by self-consciousness and self-doubt, we are unthinkingly innocent of any wrongdoing because we have no moral code and feel no need to alter or repress anything about ourselves.”  ~J.B. RaffaHealing the Sacred Divide, pp. 20-21.

This earliest phase of life is “that state of unconscious identity with the mother,” Jung referred to:  a paradise of egoless, guiltless, free-and-easy instinctual behavior. During this magical time we are in heaven.

Disney's Peter Pan with the Lost Boys.

Disney’s Peter Pan with the Lost Boys.

“If we have a concept of time it is that we dwell in eternity.  If we have a concept of God it is this bliss of oneness that connects us to everything and makes us feel buoyantly, vitally alive. Neither good nor bad, right nor wrong, Epoch I is simply everyone’s earliest experience of being a human being.  All our future psychological and spiritual growth plays out against this primal background of immersion in a maternal ocean of innocent, unconscious, infinitely pleasurable physical life.” ~J.B. Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p.22.

Is it any wonder so many of us, like Peter Pan, continue to long for this lost world and struggle to stay young for as long as we can?  In a child, this is a natural and charming way of being, and there are people who remain in this state of harmless, guileless innocence throughout their lives.  Others grow increasingly dissatisfied with themselves as adults. And some become dysfunctional. In fact, a lack of guilt or sense of responsibility,  self-centeredness, emotional immaturity, antisocial behavior, and low impulse-control are all characteristics of sociopaths.  This is why we need egos, (organs of consciousness), and why our egos need to grow in self-awareness. At this point in history, learning to critique and control our more primitive “inner child” has become crucial to our very survival.

Mary Cassat, Mother and Child

Mary Cassat, Mother and Child

Despite humanity’s evolutionary advances, negative aspects of an Epoch I mentality still pervade contemporary society. Symptoms include:

  • a  large population of unhappy adults who cannot seem to make difficult adaptations into adulthood,

  • the temptation “to make evasions and retreats, to regress to the infantile,”

  • blaming others for our unhappiness and expecting them to make us happy,

  • obsessive glorification and pursuit of youth and physical beauty,

  • addictions to substances or behaviors that provide temporary escape from our problems and responsibilities,

  • a single-minded focus on satisfying our own instinctual needs without caring about the needs of others, and

  • self-centered, irresponsible, antisocial attitudes, words and behaviors without regard for consequences.

“The further development of the individual can be brought about only by means of symbols which represent something far in advance of himself and whose intellectual meanings cannot yet be grasped entirely.” ~Carl Jung, CW 4, Para 680

What did Jung mean by this?  I’ll address this and more as I explore the evolution of consciousness in coming posts.

Image Credits:  Thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for the Jungian quotes and deer child image, Wikipedia for the Disney image of Peter Pan, and Pinterest for the lioness and cub image.

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.

 

 

Insights From Ireland: Healing Our Divides in The Enchanted Forest May 28, 2013

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest

This is my final insight from Ireland: My dream was precognitive. The first night of the conference I was shown themes and symbols that would reappear many times throughout the week. So much so that at our final dinner, Diana Rubin, trip organizer for the New York Center for Jungian Studies, led a conga line through the room in which we danced to the beat of “E-`LEC-tric-`BLUE…`POS-sum-`EX-cre-ment!”  Monika laughingly said, “You’re going to write about this in your blog, aren’t you?  It was the theme of the whole conference!”

We had come because we’ve found direction in Jungian psychology. We want to pierce the veils of self-delusion. We want to know where our greening has been stunted by the spirit of the times. We want to end our obsession with logic and objectivity; thwart our conformity to conventional wisdom and collective values. We understand that the spirit of our time is the critical masculine and the spirit of the depths is the creative feminine, and we see the most profound and obvious truth Nature has to teach: that life would not exist without an egalitarian partnership between both. We respect the non-rational (not “irrational”) and emotional feminine within and seek ways to integrate her into our waking lives.

Like Jung, we do this by accessing our creative imagination. Creative imagination is a third world between spirit and matter, a holy place where all divides are healed. Ireland is one of the few countries in the Western world that takes this human faculty seriously. Consider her fascination with leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, lucky four-leafed clovers and fairies. Consider Celtic mythology in which Euisneach is the navel of the physical world and the third-world home of the goddess Eriu. Consider that Eriu is a symbol of Ireland and the divine feminine, the central uniting force of life. With her, in the subtle body just beneath the surface of things, live all the kings who have chosen to embrace her instead of killing her.

enchantedforest1The Irish respect the spirit in all things and the mysteries of everyday existence. Poet John O’Donohue says it best in these lines from Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, which Noirin read to us on Wednesday:  “Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence. Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. Respond to the call of your own gift and have the courage to follow it. When you have the experience, don’t miss the meaning. Allow your divine nature and divine appetite to become one.”

Ireland teaches that opening to mystery is what it means to be human and that each stone inviting our attention on the path through the enchanted forest is a gift of meaning. Because I find meaning beyond rational reason, measurable time, and visible space, Queen Maeve’s birthday gift to me was a dream that shattered these illusions with foreshadows of things to come. Why credit her with this gift? Because my creative imagination compels me to notice that the dream came when I was sleeping in Knocknarea Room, named after the hill site of her tomb.

On Friday a few of us walked to Labby Rock, a megalithic tomb behind Cromleach Lodge. Yes, we can lose our way in the enchanted forest, just as I led four others astray on the way back to the lodge. Sometimes we’ll stumble, err, feel angry or afraid. But if our hearts and minds are open to all that we are, we will be met by the magic of Maeve, The Intoxicated One, whose world is as close as our dreams and creative imagination.

My deepest thanks to all who have accompanied me on this inner adventure, especially you who brought the gifts of your comments. Perhaps you’ve noticed your influence in these posts. You’ve helped more than you can know.

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

 

An Integration of Opposites January 4, 2013

HSDcoverA major highlight of 2012 for me was that my newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, made its debut in August. I am happy to say that so far it has received excellent reviews. Following is one of my favorites written this fall by playwright, actor, author, and teacher of creative writing, Joey Madia. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to him and all of you who have so graciously supported my work.

“An Integration of Opposites”: A Review of Healing the Sacred Divide by Jean Benedict Raffa (Larson Publications, 2012, larsonpublications.com), ISBN: 978-1-936012-60-2

By Joey Madia
Books, in many ways, are like people, and a bookshelf full of books could be thought of as a society in miniature. Some books look nice, but don’t offer much when you get past the cover. Some books offer some companionship in the form of a bit of new knowledge, perhaps some laughs, and a pleasant passing of time, but they are soon forgotten. Still other books are provocative, poking us in uncomfortable places and riling us up—and in the process, helping us to grow.

Then there are the books that are destined to be great. They are the books that we go to again and again. Books that are clearly the product of deep thought, extensive research, careful structure, and years of richly lived experience by their authors.
These books, unlike those that are merely passing travelers or vague acquaintances, become our friends.

Healing the Sacred Divide (subtitled “Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World”) has become my friend. It will be given a special place on my shelves once this review is complete and sent out into the world, and I anticipate going back to it again and again as I continue my journey to wholeness and spirtual health.

From its stunning cover (with art by Cicero Greathouse) depicting the mandorla (which I’ll define later) to its closing myth, Dr. Raffa’s book grabbed me and egged me on. It is a fairly dense book at 318 pages, with small type and 54 chapters, but it is also varied in its presentation and structure.
Healing the Sacred Divide is divided into two parts: The Evolution of God-Images (which sets the stage by examining the creation and promulgation of organized religion and the separation of the God and Goddess) and Nine Wisdom Gifts of an Integrated God-Image. It is this second part that constitutes the greater portion of the book.

As I mentioned, the book, although packed full of words, is sufficiently varied to prevent it from ever feeling like a dry academic tome or didactic “self-help book.” [This makes sense considering the duality of logos and mythos that runs like a river thru the text]. Dr. Raffa presents experiences, light and dark, from her personal life, for they are inextricably woven with the chapters she has written and the ideas and suggestions she presents. This personal investment over the course of decades, through family tragedy, Church struggles, and spiritual passageways fills the book with a warmth and sincerity some books in this vein lack. One gets the sense that the exercises she offers at the end of each chapter in Part 2 should at least be tried, because she’s used them herself.

Intermingled with the Nine Gifts (which are: Holistic Perception, Transforming Light, Acceptance of Shadow, Emotional Integrity, Partnership, Balance, Sovereignty, Meaning, and Mandorla Consciousness) are a series of “Cosmic Dialogues.” These, to me, were the edgiest and most difficult sections of the book as a male, to read (along with the culminating myth, which works on the same model), casting as they do the God as a traditionally driven, domineering Patriarch and Goddess as the solely Nurturing Mother. But, as Dr. Raffa suggests, I was open to the feelings I felt when the hackles came up, and I saw where the Shadow in me still needs some integration to get beyond the idea that Males being to blame for all of the heartaches, wars, and deceits in the world means that I am somehow to blame by being one. Not since reading Robert Bly’s Iron John 20 years ago have I so actively engaged with the notions of Maleness being devalued in society and how it has shaped my engagement with it, and I am more whole for having done so.

One of the keys to the process of healing the sacred divide, very much in line with Jungian ideas of embracing and integrating the Shadow (I have previously reviewed an excellent book by Erel Shalit on the subject), is the mandorla [what I have always known as the vesica piscis], that middle place where Light and Dark, Male and Female, “Good” and “Evil,” etc. overlap. It’s the spiritual analog of the Venn Diagram and the section of the overlap brings to mind the shape of the fish associated with Jesus and also the entrance to the womb.

There is a thought-provoking table of pairs on pages 50–52 that are organized around the Drive for Species-Preservation (Feminine Principle) and Drive for Self-Preservation (Masculine Principle). This distinction of Species- vs. Self-Preservation is one I had never before seen and it goes a long way toward understanding what is at work here.

Those readers familiar with Alchemy, the Hieros Gamos [sacred marriage], and Kundalini, Sophia, and other snake-based spiritual symbology will find much of interest in these layers of the text. Raffa pulls from the work of Jung, as mentioned, and also of Joseph Campbell and those from whom he learned, such as Heinrich Zimmer and the writings of Meister Eckert and Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Many chapters have an Endnotes section, which is a wonderful aide should a certain idea or “Gift” create a pull toward further research.
Division [partisanship, sexual politics, classism, etc.] is the coin of the realm in America as the November 2012 election approaches. The chasm seems to grow ever wider, marked by increased venom in the rhetoric of politicians, corporate CEOs, religious leaders, and the millions posting on Facebook and Twitter. The voices of those committed to healing the divide are being drowned in all the noise.

I hope that many, many people read, digest, and practice the exercises in Dr. Raffa’s Healing the Sacred Divide. Healing begins within, but quickly spreads to farther realms. A shift in paradigms has never been needed more.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

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.

 

Exciting News: Watch My First Interview About Healing the Sacred Divide! July 17, 2012

Hello my dear friends.  This post is  going to be different from the others.  Instead of using the written word to share my passions with you, I have a video for you to watch.  It’s the interview about my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which was conducted on June 6th at the Book Expo America. It’s just come online and you are among the first to see it. Yaaay!  I hope you like it, and I hope you’ll pass it along to others who might be interested.  When you’re ready to watch it, click on the UTube link above.

Coincidentally, the online version of Publishers Weekly has just published a review of Healing the Sacred Divide in its Religion section.  I’m absolutely thrilled to say they’ve given it a “Thumbs Up!”  Another Yay!!  Here’s the link: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-936012-60-2

Things are getting very exciting now.  In another week I’ll begin doing book signings, lectures, and workshops.  If you’re interested in knowing when and where I’ll be appearing, you can check out my website from time to time.  And, of course, if you’re interested in having me make a presentation for your group, you can contact me through there too.

Also, to my loyal friends who are reading or have already read advance copies and offered to post reviews on Amazon, my publisher says the time has come.  So have at it!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to do this for me!  I’m told there’s a magic number of reviews — somewhere around 20 — which will attract major interest and cause an important boost in sales.  I know your kind words will make a huge difference.  While you’re there, I hope you’ll check out the wonderful review Skip Conover has already posted. 

Of course, to anyone who feels so inclined, I’d be extremely grateful if you’d add your own thoughts to Amazon! And if you don’t have a copy yet, please don’t be daunted by the fact that they only have one left!  They’ve almost sold out of the advance copies they had, but after July 30 they’ll have lots more.  Meanwhile, you can get one right away from my publisher, Larson Publications, Inc. at their web site: www.Larsonpublications.com.  Plus, you’ll find several reviews and lots of other very cool information about Healing the Sacred Divide there.

My heart is very full as I write this. I’m humbled and deeply grateful for your interest in my work, and I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you are following this blog.  Matrignosis and Healing the Sacred Divide are my gifts to you and the world, and you, my dear friends, are the world’s miraculous gifts to me!

Namaste.

 

Birthing a Book May 8, 2012

In response to queries about my new book—where I got the idea, how it’s progressing, when it will come out, if it can be pre-ordered, and so on—I’d like to share some of the process and answer your questions in this and the next post. I know you come here for the psychological content, but I assure you I’ll weave some of that in along the way. It won’t be difficult, since I always look for, and usually find, psychological meaning in everything! Plus, the book’s about psychology!

While certain basics never change, the details of the process—from the conception of a book, to the writing of it, to its publication—are as unique as each book. When I started writing my first psychological book , The Bridge to Wholeness:  A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, in the fall of 1989, I had just retired from college teaching because of a restless discontent with my work and a deep knowing that I had something to say that was vastly different from anything I had written professionally. With no expectations for what would emerge, I followed my heart and for three or four days a week wrote a series of memoir-type essays via which I searched for meaning in my life’s most interesting and puzzling experiences. Essentially, I was re-mything my life from a Jungian perspective.

I’d been recording and working on my dreams for over a year, so I was delighted to discover that my unconscious self supported my writing by providing material at night that often inspired the next day’s work.  Six months into this project I was sitting in front of my make-up mirror one morning when a fairy tale wove its way into my awareness via a spontaneous session of active imagination. This story provided the focus that pulled all the essays together and a year later I sent a proposal and three sample chapters to ten publishers. With a hint from a dream and a suggestion from a Jungian writer, one was based in California. Three days later Lura Geiger of LuraMedia called and told me she wanted it, and my new creation entered the world in 1992!

My next book, Dream Theaters of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work, underwent a very different gestation. Shortly after Bridge was launched I was again filled with restless discontent, so one day I began to explore ideas for a book to help others understand their dreams. Within a few hours I had an outline. Three months later the completed manuscript was also accepted by LuraMedia and it was published in 1994!

Encouraged by my previous successes and motivated by a powerful longing for answers to some pressing questions, in 1993 I began researching and writing the next book. Fifteen years later I had five manuscripts in my computer! Each had a different title and focus and none felt finished, but they were all related to my passion for understanding how gender and family issues, plus my religion, spiritual experiences, and psychological development had influenced my search for self-discovery and spiritual meaning.  By the summer of 2009 I had a new manuscript with a new focus that combined elements from all five. After another rewrite based on suggestions from three experts in their fields, I signed a contract with Larson Publications in March of 2011. That book will be formally launched this summer with the title, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World.

Honestly? The others were deeply satisfying, but this baby feels special! More about it next time.

 

 
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