Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Cult of Personality Vs. Kali: Who Will Win? November 12, 2019

In an early post from 2011 titled Qaddafi Vs. Kali: Who Will Win?, I wrote that the film Avatar highlights the differences between the heroic and immature ego. Avatar’s hero, Corporal Jake Sully, succeeds because of his bravery, receptivity to Princess Neytiri and her culture, and willingness to heed his wise and truth-pursuing mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine. His adversary, the obsessive and soulless Colonel Miles Quaritch (there’s an interesting similarity between his name and Colonel Muammar Qaddafi don’t you think?), fails because of his resistance to the Na’vi and their spiritual leader, Queen Mo’as, and his determination to destroy whatever threatens his power.

Some of you might not remember Muammar Qaddafi, so here are a few excepts from Wikipedia. Qaddafi

“…was a Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist.

“Amid the 2011 Arab Spring, protests against widespread corruption and unemployment broke out in eastern Libya. The situation descended into civil war, in which Nato intervened militarily on the side of the anti-Gaddafist National Transitional Council (NTC). The government was overthrown, and Gaddafi retreated to Sirte, only to be captured and killed by by NTC militants.

“A highly divisive figure, Gaddafi dominated Libya’s politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality….he was posthumously accused of sexual abuse. He was condemned by many as a dictator whose authoritarian administration violated human rights and financed global terrorism.”

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of cult of personality:

“A cult of personality, or cult of the leaderarises when a country’s regime – or, more rarely, an individual – uses the techniques of mass media, propaganda, the big lie, spectacle, the arts, patriotism, and government-organised demonstrations and rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and worshipful image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. A cult of personality is similar to apotheosis, except that it is established by modern social engineering techniques, usually by the state or the party in one-party states and dominant-party states. It is often seen in totalitarian or authoritarian countries.”

Is this what we’re seeing in the U.S. today? If so, why? Here’s a psychological explanation. Quaritch and Qaddafi exemplify the Old King/Warrior ego. It attains power and success with two primary strategies: first, by believing it is the supreme authority of the psyche and the center of the world around us; and second, by rejecting otherness, which in Jungian psychology is associated with the feminine unconscious. As long as we function in this mode, sharing our power and trusting the wisdom of forces we consider inferior is unthinkable.

The old ego’s belief in its superiority created, and still supports, patriarchal cultures with their hierarchies of authority. In extreme cases, hierarchies can create a cult of personality surrounding an inflated ego which fought its way to the top believing its powerful position would immunize it from the suffering and failures of those below. To someone like this, losing to the corporals of the world feels like a mortal, humiliating blow administered by a cruel enemy. Likewise, for many people, including the Biblical Job and Jung, an experience of God — the ultimate Other — as a force with far more power than our puny ego, is, in Jung’s words, an “unvarnished spectacle of divine savagery and ruthlessness” that produces shattering emotion.

In my original post about Qaddaffi, published when he was still alive, I imagined he might be feeling some uncomfortable emotions as he faced growing rebellion in Libya. Perhaps in the secret places of his soul he even questioned  his God. After all, if he who did everything right to gain such a wondrous position of power could be threatened by the loss of control of his country, what had his life been all about? This is how every ego feels when confronted with the power of repressed otherness. Losing control feels like a violation. Like utter unfairness. Like death, the ultimate feminine mystery.

In Hinduism this mystery is symbolized by an aspect of the Great Mother known as Kali, the Mistress of the Dead who reminds us that when new healing is required, the old ways must change or die. Her natural cycles of birth/death/rebirth terrify the Old King/Warrior/Ego who wants to escape the darker demands of growing up: things like aging, becoming vulnerable in relationships, being humbled by a loss of power, money, status, loved ones, or health. So he deludes himself into believing that controlling, banishing or destroying otherness proves his omnipotence and protects him from the Great Mother’s power. It doesn’t. The Old King/Ego aided the survival of our species, but the rules have changed. Now he is a dinosaur whose dominator mind-set is rapidly becoming extinct.

Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Fearful, immature egos currently control the U.S. government, hoping to delude, confuse, and attract followers via divisive tactics and a cult of personality. Stalin, Hitler, and Qadaffi did the same and lost. Why? Because humans are wired to grow into wisdom and maturity. To rise above our self-centered egos, to become less fearful and more humble and respectful. To befriend the otherness of our unconscious selves and other people, religions, races, genders, and nations. And if we can’t manage that, Kali — who lives in each of us and in the collective unconscious of our country — will force us to. It’s nature’s way.

The U.S. has been infected by the cult of personality and we are in desperate need of change. Dying to the old patriarchal ego and aiding the birth of a nation with a heroic ego is the great work to which each of us is called. What kinds of leaders will we vote into office next November? Will we, like the brave Corporal Sully, attain our heroic destiny by embracing the otherness in ourselves and others? Or will we bring the wrath of Kali down upon our nation because our egos are too frightened of the darker demands of growing up?

 

Ruling the Inner Chamber January 20, 2012

Dreamwork has been my most rewarding and consistent spiritual practice for 22 years. You might not think of dreams as having anything to do with spirituality but they absolutely do. Carl Jung demonstrated this with exquisite beauty in his recently published The Red Book in which he recorded some of his most meaningful waking and sleeping dreams. Everything he did for the rest of his brilliant and productive life was based on the findings he recorded in that book, which represents three years of committed inner work. Ultimately, his conclusion about the value of this work was that to become who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.

Jung is not the first person to understand this, although he was one of the first Western medical professionals to study it for himself and write about it in a way that could be comprehended and accepted by the Western scientific mind. Indeed, many Asian traditions have taught this concept for thousands of years. Consider this quote by the Hindu professor Ravi Ravindra:

“The struggle to know who I am, in truth and in spirit, is the spiritual quest. The movement in myself from the mask to the face, from the personality to the person, from the performing actor to the ruler of the inner chamber, is the spiritual journey. To live, work, and suffer on this shore in faithfulness to the whispers from the other shore is spiritual life. 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.”

Contrary to popular belief, authentic spirituality is not just a function of how many souls we save or how well we know scriptures or how hard we pray or how many rules we keep or what we believe or how often we attend our place of worship or how much money we donate to the poor. Likewise, spiritual maturity is not limited to a particular religion or set of beliefs. Rather, it is a function of our willingness to further the unfolding of our capacity for full living, endless loving, and authentic being.

We’re supposed to discover our true selves and connect with the sacred Mystery within. We’re supposed to learn how to accept and love ourselves because that’s how we learn to accept and love others. Every religion has spawned mature spirit persons whose mystical experiences and intuitions taught them that God indwells the soul. This means that our spiritual growth is not just a function of searching for God outside ourselves but also of honoring the “kingdom” within. (I could just as well have said “queendom” but it wouldn’t resonate as deeply as this more familiar term for sovereignty. I wish there were a gender-neutral word for the inner chamber that is not one-sidedly masculine, but honors both the masculine and feminine drives of every psyche. Any ideas?)

The search for self-knowledge is a path to spiritual maturity and dreams are invaluable tools on that path because they show us unsuspected aspects of our unconscious selves. These insights heal us and our relationships and bring spiritual meaning to our lives.  Why? Because knowing that we are known and loved by something with far more power than our puny ego, something sacred that lives within us and only wants the best for us, increases our sense of self-worth and helps us live with more forgiveness, integrity and compassion.  If  learning from our dreams how to rule our inner chamber is not a spiritual practice I don’t know what is!

What did you dream last night?

 

Qaddafi vs . Kali: Who Will Win? August 23, 2011

I started blogging almost a year and a half ago. So far I’ve avoided repeating any posts, but recent events in Libya prompt me to reconsider. Originally published on March 12 of this year, this post addresses the traditional interpretation of the hero myth which elevates “masculine” values and represses “feminine” ones. In my next post I will describe other toxic aspects of the old version and describe characteristics of the newly emerging one.

In an early post I wrote that the film Avatar highlights the differences between the heroic and immature ego. Avatar’s hero, Corporal Jake Sully, succeeds because of his bravery, receptivity to Princess Neytiri and her culture, and willingness to heed his wise and truth-pursuing mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine. His adversary, the obsessive and soulless Colonel Miles Quaritch (there’s an interesting similarity between his name and Colonel Mohamar Qaddafi don’t you think?), fails because of his resistance to the Na’vi and their spiritual leader, Queen Mo’at, and his determination to destroy whatever threatens his power.

Quaritch and Qaddafi exemplify the Old King/Warrior ego. This is the part of us which attains power and success with two primary strategies: first, by believing we are the supreme authority of the psyche and the world around us; and second, by rejecting otherness, which in Jungian psychology is associated with the feminine unconscious. As long as we function in this mode, sharing our power and trusting the wisdom of forces we consider inferior is unthinkable.

This way of thinking gave rise to, and still supports, patriarchal cultures with their hierarchies of authority. The old ego believes that climbing to the top to become a colonel or king will immunize it from the suffering, victimization and failure experienced by all that is below. Thus, being forced to surrender to the corporals of the world feels like a mortal, humiliating blow administered by a cruel enemy. Likewise, for many people including Job and Jung, an experience of God — the ultimate Other above everything — as a force with far more power than our puny ego is, in Jung’s words, an “unvarnished spectacle of divine savagery and ruthlessness” that produces shattering emotion.

I imagine Colonel Qaddafi might be feeling some uncomfortable emotions himself about now as he faces growing rebellion in Libya. Perhaps in the secret places of his soul he’s even questioning his God-image. After all, if he who did everything right (from the perspective of his ego) can be threatened by the loss of control of his country, what has his life been all about? This is exactly how every ego feels when confronted with the divine power of repressed otherness. Losing control feels like a violation. Like utter unfairness. Like death, the ultimate feminine mystery.

In Hinduism this mystery is symbolized by the aspect of the Great Mother known as Kali, the Mistress of the Dead who reminds us that when new healing is required, the old ways must change or die. Her natural cycles of birth/death/rebirth terrify the Old King/Warrior/Ego who wants to escape the darker demands of growing up: things like aging, becoming vulnerable in relationships, and losing power, money, status, loved ones, health. So he deludes himself into believing that controlling or destroying otherness proves his omnipotence and protects him from the Great Mother’s power. It doesn’t. The Old King/Ego aided the survival of our species. But the rules have changed. Now he is a dinosaur whose dominator mind-set is rapidly becoming extinct.

Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Our world is in trouble. Dying to the old ways and birthing a stronger and wiser ego is the great work to which each of us is called today. Will we, like Corporal Sully, attain our heroic destiny by embracing otherness in ourselves and the world, or will we, like Colonel Quaritch and Colonel Qaddafi, ultimately fail?

 

Qaddafi vs. Kali: Who Will Win? March 12, 2011

In an early post I wrote that the film Avatar highlights the differences between the heroic and immature ego. Avatar’s hero, Corporal Jake Sully, succeeds because of his bravery, receptivity to Princess Neytiri and her culture, and willingness to heed his wise and truth-pursuing mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine. His adversary, the obsessive and soulless Colonel Miles Quaritch (there’s an interesting similarity between his name and Colonel Mohamar Qaddafi don’t you think?), fails because of his resistance to the Na’vi and their spiritual leader, Queen Mo’at, and his determination to destroy whatever threatens his power.

Quaritch and Qaddafi exemplify the Old King/Warrior ego. This is the part of us which attains power and success with two primary strategies: first, by believing we are the supreme authority of the psyche and the world around us; and second, by rejecting otherness, which in Jungian psychology is associated with the feminine unconscious. As long as we function in this mode, sharing our power and trusting the wisdom of forces we consider inferior is unthinkable.

This way of thinking gave rise to, and still supports, patriarchal cultures with their hierarchies of authority. The old ego believes that climbing to the top to become a colonel or king will immunize it from the suffering, victimization and failure experienced by all that is below. Thus, being forced to surrender to the corporals of the world feels like a mortal, humiliating blow administered by a cruel enemy. Likewise, for many people including Job and Jung, an experience of God — the ultimate Other above everything — as a force with far more power than our puny ego is, in Jung’s words, an “unvarnished spectacle of divine savagery and ruthlessness” that produces shattering emotion.

I imagine Colonel Qaddafi might be feeling some uncomfortable emotions himself about now as he faces growing rebellion in Libya. Perhaps in the secret places of his soul he’s even questioning his God-image. After all, if he who did everything right (from the perspective of his ego) can be threatened by the loss of control of his country, what has his life been all about? This is exactly how every ego feels when confronted with the divine power of repressed otherness. Losing control feels like a violation. Like utter unfairness. Like death, the ultimate feminine mystery.

In Hinduism this mystery is symbolized by the aspect of the Great Mother known as Kali, the Mistress of the Dead who reminds us that when new healing is required, the old ways must change or die. Her natural cycles of birth/death/rebirth terrify the Old King/Warrior/Ego who wants to escape the darker demands of growing up: things like aging, becoming vulnerable in relationships, and losing power, money, status, loved ones, health. So he deludes himself into believing that controlling or destroying otherness proves his omnipotence and protects him from the Great Mother’s power. It doesn’t. The Old King/Ego aided the survival of our species. But the rules have changed. Now he is a dinosaur whose dominator mind-set is rapidly becoming extinct.

Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Dying to the old ways and birthing a stronger and wiser ego is the great work to which each of us is called today. Will we, like Corporal Sully, attain our heroic destiny by embracing otherness in ourselves and the world, or will we, like Colonel Quaritch and Colonel Qaddafi, ultimately fail?

 

Snake Symbolism March 1, 2011

 

Snakes fascinate and terrify most of us. Because of this near universal reaction, and because snakes have played such important roles in the mythology of just about every religion, we know they have relevance to the psycho-spiritual life of every human being.

Throughout history the connection between the snake and the feminine principle has been profound and intimate: from Eve to the Serpent Lady of Ashtoreth and Kadesh; from Ishtar, the Babylonian Lady of Vision to the Serpent Goddess of Crete; from Kebhut, the goddess of freshness who played a part in Egyptian funerary ceremonies to the asp that transported Cleopatra to the afterlife; from Greece’s ancient Earth Mother Gaea to the Golden Age’s Queen, Hera, and her step-daughter Athena, goddess of wisdom; from east to west, serpents have always tempted, personified, accompanied, awakened, transformed, and empowered women and goddesses.

A snake is one of the most versatile of all creatures. It can live in the ground or in a tree, in the desert or in the water, but it is primarily considered a chthonic creature, i.e. as pertaining to the earth and the spirits of the underworld. This accounts for its association with the physical death of the body; however, because it periodically sheds its skin and emerges as if reborn, it is also seen as a symbol of transformation and the perpetual capacity for renewal.

Psychologically, because of its phallic form, it is a masculine sexual symbol; yet, at the same time, because of its devouring nature, it also suggests feminine sexuality as well as extremely powerful unconscious feminine energies. In this latter regard, Jung noted that distressing dreams about snakes are symptomatic of anguish over a reactivation of the destructive potential of the unconscious. It is no wonder they are almost universally feared.

Snakes are also associated with divine revelation. Evidence from shrines and oracular sites of the Goddess in Babylon, Sumer, Anatolia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome suggests that sacred serpents were kept and fed by priestesses who were consulted for prophecy. Perhaps it is this association that led Philo of Alexandria to believe that the snake was the most spiritual of animals.

In sum, Cirlot’s A Dictionary of Symbols notes: “If all symbols are really functions and signs of things imbued with energy, then the serpent or snake is, by analogy, symbolic of energy itself — of force pure and simple…” Thus is Hinduism’s Shakti personified as Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning “circular power.” It is said the sleeping serpent-goddess is coiled in the pelvis and can be awakened through spiritual exercises, especially yoga. When aroused, she rises up through the spinal chakras until she reaches the head, completely transforming the individual along the way.

Whatever we call this energy, spirit persons from every religion have reported powerful and often very distressing physical and psychological symptoms consistent with this symbolism. Like Indra’s diamond net which intuitively prefigured Jung’s collective unconscious, quantum physics’ holographic universe, and the worldwide internet thousands of years ago, the Kundalini goddess may well be an ancient expression of a scientific reality: to wit, the very painful but ultimately healing transformation of consciousness we see taking place all around us in the world today.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 

Living Your Myth November 27, 2010

We’re in Bangkok on the first leg of our trip. Twelve of us are traveling with a guide, a native Thailander from a village near the river Kwai. He tells us it’s winter, but it’s hot, in the upper 80’s. Luckily, the little bus we travel in is air-conditioned.

Yesterday morning on my way to the bus I smelled incense. Looking for its origin, I saw a young man standing in a tree-shaded area beside the road. He was placing a marble urn holding several red incense sticks he had just lit onto a pedestaled table. As I watched he gave a little bow then turned to a young woman standing nearby. She handed him two beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers which he solemnly placed beside the incense. I was witnessing a sacred ritual.

The setting was a tiny outdoor chapel, maybe eight feet wide by twelve feet long The walls were trees and plants; the roof was the sky; the floor was a platform of black marble laid over raw earth. The table was an altar. His offerings sat beside small clay jars of water, candle holders, two marble urns filled with sprays of purple orchids, and an intricately patterned tray holding a bunch of small bananas, a coconut with a straw protruding from under its lid, and a pineapple.

A few steps beyond and above the altar, framed in an open-sided ark inlaid with multicolored glass mosaics, was a gilded, four-armed god sitting serenely on a lotus flower. Draped in a thick garland of marigolds, he was flanked by items of worship. Above his head hovered a giant, hooded, seven-headed cobra. I was charmed and intrigued. What was this place? Why was it here? Who was the god? Why were these people bringing flowers and incense to him? Our guide, Ole’, (yes, pronounced like the Spanish accolades for bullfighters), provided the answers.

This place is a spirit house. You can find them all over Thailand. Based on the Hindu belief in the sacredness in everything, they are outdoor chapels where people can honor the spirit of the land and those who have lived there by invoking the blessing of the creator god, Brahma. Usually they are located on the northeast corner of the property where they will not be in shadow. Perhaps the young man used to live on this land where now there is a large, modern hotel. Maybe he came to honor the birthday of an ancestor. Or maybe he and the woman are caretakers of this particular spirit house and come every morning to honor the god with their gifts.

I’ll never know the identity of this couple or the reason for their devotion. But I won’t soon forget their attitude of sincere reverence. It was obvious they were living a myth that informed and infused their lives. They had taken a few moments to enter the presence of the sacred, knowing they were known by something beyond themselves, believing their sincere actions and generous offerings were appreciated and worthy.

It doesn’t matter what your myth is or what gods you worship or how you invoke their presence. What matters is that you have a religious attitude toward the miracle of your life and the people, places, and symbols dear to you: that you practice awareness of the Mystery, approach it with reverence and a sincere desire to honor it, make efforts to connect with it, and derive purpose and meaning from it. What matters is how you are living your myth.  All day I’ve been asking myself, “How am I living my myth?

 

 
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