Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Art of Tending the Fire March 26, 2013

An ancient theorem of enlightenment is As within, so without. Essentially, this means that we humans project the themes and processes of our souls outward into the physical world, which then functions like a giant movie screen. If we will look at this screen through the eyes of Sophia—by which I mean with right-hemisphere mythos—we will see our inner dramas enacted everywhere and this seeing will enhance our self-awareness.

For example, the following themes of the ego’s heroic journey into consciousness are found not only in ancient rituals, scriptures, and myths, but in current books, films, songs, paintings, sculptures, and other creative works:

Separation (leaving the safety and comfort of the maternal matrix to find your identity),

Achievement (strengthening your ego by finding and proving your individuality),

Sacrifice (changing your ego’s attitude toward power),

Suffering (entering the dark abyss of the unconscious),

Surrender, Death, Descent (losing the safety and comfort of familiar assumptions and conventional formulas; submitting to an authority greater than the world’s opinions),

Receiving help from unexpected sources (befriending your shadow and feminine side),

Rebirth (acquiring self-knowledge and more consciousness; being released from the prisons of rigid belief systems; becoming empowered to make original choices),

Return (re-entering the community on your own terms as a maturing, authentic individual),

Reunion (being reunited with feminine feeling and participating in the sacred marriage in which your inner opposites are united), and

Blessing (bringing healing new consciousness to your community).

These archetypal themes are developed in such literary works as Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, John Fowles’ The Magus, and even the humorous Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins. Films include Alan Ball’s American Beauty, M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Village and Lady in the Water, and George Lucas’sStar Wars series. The songs of Kris Kristofferson and other musicians likewise address many of these issues. Ultimately, the symbols and motifs of every work of art are imaginative manifestations of the artist’s need to understand and express him/herself, evolve into greater consciousness, and share what s/he has learned with others. Some artists know this; others don’t have a clue.

Imaginatively tracking the underlying threads of psychological and spiritual meaning that we find in myth, literature, film, art, our dreams and even the everyday events of our waking lives, is soul-making work.  As Jungian analyst Monika Wikman says, “The symbolizing function alive in the imagination unites the opposites of spirit and body and brings us into experience with the third, the intermediary, realm, which is both corporeal and spiritual and also more than the sum of the parts. The star in humankind—the living imagination and its connection to the divine—mediates psyche/body dimensions and misalignments…”  Using our imagination to find personal meaning in the themes and images that speak to us heals divides that prevent us from becoming our true selves.

The alchemists understood the transforming value of imagination. They addressed it with their symbolism of tending the fire and cooking earthly elements until they were distilled into their purest essences.  The essences were lifted into the heavens to mingle with and be fertilized by what Jung called the “seeds of the stars,”  their celestial, archetypal source.  Thus renewed, they returned to purify and renew the earth. This was a metaphor for transforming the baser, earthier elements of our psyches in ways that bring us spiritual awareness,  emotional warmth and the light of consciousness.

Our transformation does not happen quickly or easily. It is, as Wikman notes,  a never-ending process of cultivating “inner attentiveness to the life of the soul, and learning how to live and work with this flame that burns within in ways that are life enhancing, rather than destructive.”  This leads us “into growing awareness and participation in new transmutations between heaven and earth, between human and divine…[wherein]…we and the guiding spirit of wisdom grow in relationship to one another.”

If wisdom is the goal we seek, tending our inner fire is the art that will take us there.

 

Disney Princesses August 30, 2011

In the 1970’s Westerners experienced a huge surge of awareness about gender stereotypes and we began a concerted effort to free ourselves from them. One issue receiving a lot of attention was how the depictions of female characters in traditional literature unconsciously influenced little girls’ beliefs about themselves and their place in the world. This led many women, myself included, to revisit our personal stories to see how we had limited ourselves.

Huge changes occurred in our cultural stories too. Television shows like Charlie’s Angels  featured women in roles that had been traditionally reserved for men.  Scholars like Marija Gimbutas (The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe) and Merlin Stone (When God Was A Woman) wrote books that examined feminine aspects of spirituality. New volumes of fairy tales were re-written to give the female characters more power and control over their lives. Since then, our growing awareness has fostered greater gender balance in many sectors of society.

How then do we account for the phenomenon of the Disney Princesses? Some see them as positive role models for their daughters, but many see them as stereotypes which are bound to scar our daughters’ minds.  Why do they think this?  Because the rule for female leads in such tales as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast is that they must be young, beautiful, sweetly shy, innocently seductive, charmingly vulnerable, and, for the most part, deferential to males. Moreover, although there are occasional deviations, the plots almost always follow the  masculine-hero-rescues-feminine-victim-and-conquers-villain formula for heroic behavior.

If we take these stories as literal models for gender behavior in the outer world  they are, indeed, limiting. But what if we see them as symbolic of the inner life of the soul which has a masculine and a feminine drive? What if we realize that each of us contains a sweet and vulnerable Cinderella/Snow White/Aurora/Belle Orphan who needs to be rescued from its child-like dreaminess so we can become conscious, mature, and responsible? What if we recognize the cruel Stepmothers, Stepsisters, and untamed Beasts within us who can influence us adversely if we do not become more aware of them?  What if we see that helpful Fairy Godmothers, noble Kings and Queens, and heroic savior Princes are also part of our potential and we can choose to empower them if we wish?

The characters and plots of our cultural stories are projections of our psyches that show us who we are and who we have the potential to become. If we view them as opportunities for self-reflection they can be portals to growth and self-discovery. The Disney Princesses represent a youthful stage of development of our feminine sides. As such, they will appeal to most children for a little while. A few might even stay in that stage throughout their lives — perhaps because the archetype is simply a powerful part of their true personality, or perhaps because they’re afraid to risk changing — but most will grow beyond it. And when they do, there are plenty of other role models out there to pick from.

At 6 and 9 my granddaughters have already outgrown the Disney Princesses. I wonder how long it will be before they discover Barbie and Ken…

 

Healing Wounded Masculine and Feminine Energy: Part II September 25, 2010

Last time I described two steps toward healing the  masculine and feminine aspects of the soul.  In this post I’ll address two more that can transform your inner invalids into empowered Kings and Queens.

Step #3. Exercise. When exercising a horse you always train both sides of his body and brain. For example, after you walk, trot, and canter him clockwise around the pen you repeat the same actions for the same length of time in the opposite direction.  You do the same when you exercise your body. You wouldn’t lift weights with just the left arm and neglect the right.

So it is with your mind’s muscles. To get the most out of your brain power and boost your psyche’s immunity to toxic input you need to train both sides of the brain. Reading, writing, taking classes, and studying are all vitally important, but unfortunately they use mostly left-hemisphere skills and neglect the right hemisphere. What I’m suggesting is that you pay attention to the thinking processes you use most often and engage in new ones that will develop both sides of the brain and bring more balance between them.

Exercise your left brain by taking classes, jotting down notes, keeping a journal, noticing details, and making careful distinctions between things. Seek advice from your most logical friends.  Deliberately think choices through without automatically succumbing to habitual behaviors, strong emotions, or instinctual needs. Think before you speak. Practice expressing yourself more clearly and succinctly without rambling. Stick to the point. Use logic and reason. Back up your opinions with facts. Cultivate calmness and objectivity without getting overly emotional.

Exercising the right brain means taking your inner life and relationships seriously. Connect with your inner Beloved as much as the outer. Listen more than you talk. Receive as much as you give. Notice your needs and feelings and use your imagination to find respectful ways of expressing them. If you love to write, don’t just record factual, linear events. Make up stories, analyze the reasons for your feelings, come up with original metaphors, create sensory images. Art, music, and body work also engage the right brain. Draw, paint, sculpt, take photographs. Make up personal rituals, dances or songs. You won’t have to look far for inspiration. It’s there in every waking life situation and every nightly dream.

Step #4. Diet. Medicine and exercise can strengthen and heal your body, but you won’t stay healthy without a regular regimen of nourishing food to maintain and re-energize it. Similarly, a spiritual practice like meditation, yoga, prayer, or dreamwork quiets the mind and redirects attention to the inner life, re-vitalizing the soul on a regular basis with an increase of personal meaning, compassion and consciousness.

You already know my pet practice.  Through the years my nightly dramas have depicted the wounds of my inner opposites in loving detail; watching and learning from them is the manna that sustains my soul.  In fact, my personal mini-myths have been so crucial to empowering my King and Queen that I wrote the book, Dream Theatres of the Soul, to show others how to work with their dreams. As my final response to your question, Annette, I’ll outline my method in my next post. I wish you and all my readers the very best with your own healing.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at this Amazon.com link and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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