Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Elephant in the Cave August 12, 2014

Inner work is any practice that helps make the unconscious conscious; for example, dreamwork, art, journaling, psychotherapy, meditation, prayer, yoga, body work, active imagination, ritual, and so on. But the ego’s fear of seeing beneath the surface makes most of us naturally resistant to this kind of work. The ninth dream I ever recorded addressed this issue:

It is night and very dark. I try to lock an elephant in a cave, but when I push on the door to close it, it breaks. I run for help because I am afraid the elephant will get out and do some damage.

This dream is short, sweet, and very much to the point. What could be more frightening to a tiny ego than a massive elephant on a rampage? Who wouldn’t try to lock it in or run away?

In religious practices and literature, the elephant often symbolizes power, wisdom, and happiness. As a mount for Asian royalty, it represents sovereignty. And as an instinctual creature with advanced sensitivity, it symbolizes inner knowing and intuition. Since animals in dreams usually represent our instincts, (Jung said we have five: activity, nourishment, reflection, sex, and creativity), to me the elephant suggested my instinct for reflection because reflecting on our inner lives can activate these positive qualities.

What about the other two symbols in this dream? A cave is associated with birth (the Eastern church depicts Christ’s birth in a cave), the maternal womb, and sacred initiation rites. Like the unconscious, caves are dark places containing hidden potential and spiritual treasures.

A door represents a psychic force which, when closed, keeps us from knowing what lies behind it. But when it is broken or open, we can travel between the outer, conscious world of logic, reason, and objective fact, and the mysterious inner world of the unconscious.

While this dream helped me recognize my resistance to reflecting (elephant) on my personal unconscious (cave) because my ego was afraid of opening (door) to the unknown, it held much more meaning for me than I was capable of understanding then. At the time I thought the unknowns I feared were changing in ways that might be problematic for my family and discovering some hidden unworthy qualities, but after twenty-five years of inner work, I have rooted out a deeper, archetypal source of my fear.

All three symbols in this dream are related to spirituality. Western and Middle Eastern religions traditionally associate spirit with the distant masculine Sky God with whom they connect via mental abstractions: correct words, clear ideas, strong beliefs, and noble ideals. This approach has long devalued the spiritual significance of the soul which is associated with femininity: physical matter, the body, emotion, instinct, feeling, inner knowing, intuition and the birth/death/rebirth cycle of life.

Of what was I so afraid? To what has my religion had such stern resistance for the last 5,000 years? Simply this: The feminine aspect of the Mystery we call God. The Mystery incarnate in matter. The sovereignty, spiritual authority, power and wisdom of our own infinitely beautiful and loveable bodies and souls. The energies of Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom: the sacred spark that indwells us and all creation. Poor little ego.  So terrified of life!

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”~Joseph Campbell

Photo Credit:  Gregory Colbert

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Scholar and Wisewoman Archetypes April 9, 2011

The Scholar and Wisewoman archetypes represent our instinct for reflection. Like the two sides of the brain, they symbolize two distinct yet complementary forms of mentation: logos and mythos. Release from delusion is the aim of both, and each pursues this goal in different ways. The Scholar is like a spotlight which enables our ego to think with  clear, focused consciousness and logic.  The Wisewoman is like a moonlit bridge which connects our ego with the subjective wisdom of our body, instincts, emotions and personal and collective unconscious.

He specializes in discerning differences and discriminating details; she specializes in connecting and comprehending the big picture. He is master of logic, abstract ideas, theories, collective knowledge, objective facts, and technology. She is mistress of imagination, metaphors, emotions, personal truths, spiritual meaning, physical awareness and intuition. Together, they represent the fullest kind of wisdom of which we are capable.

A primary feature of her mythos is analogical thinking. This has to do with our ability to see meaningful analogies: similarities and underlying connections between things. Where logical thought is factual, verbal, literal, historic, linear, objective, and “Mosaic”, analogical thought is symbolic, visual, mystical, mythic, intuitive, subjective, and “Hermetic”. As logical thinking is sequential, analogical thought is relational: one idea leads to another not because of an orderly arrangement of incremental steps, but because of an inner connection or comparison that is meaningful to the thinker.

Analogical thinking enables us to make intuitive leaps over vast amounts of information which, although it may be perfectly relevant, can bog us down in a morass of details, preventing us from seeing the big picture or grasping underlying relationships which weave the big picture together. Analogical thought guides all invention, culture, art, architecture, literature, poetry, myth, philosophy, psychology, and religion. This is not to say our accomplishments in these areas are devoid of logic. Far from it. It simply means that without mythos we would not have the imagination to create and beautify them or the insight to imbue them with meaning.

Elaine Pagels, Princeton University professor of religion, says that through analogical thinking one can also receive insights or intimations of the divine which validate themselves in experience. Spiritual illumination and awakened consciousness cannot be fully explained with logic because they are subjective states of being that have to be experienced to be understood; yet they are products of the mind, just as logical thinking is. We have no means by which to prove they exist, but they are nonetheless as real to our souls as any event in the physical world.

Think of it this way. Logical thinking builds the Sistine Chapel. Analogical thinking designs it and paints the ceiling. One honors Sacred Otherness in the outer universe. The other honors Sacred Otherness within.  Together in intimate partnership they explore the heights and depths of our reverence for the miracle and blessings of life.

Our Scholar and Wisewoman aren’t about opposition or gender, but the cooperative interaction between the masculine and feminine in every psyche. As Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Coyne said when asked whether women judges decide cases differently because they are women: “A wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion”.

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

 

Elephant in the Cave April 8, 2010

Inner work is any practice that helps make the unconscious conscious; for example, dreamwork, art, journaling, psychotherapy, meditation, prayer, yoga, body work, active imagination, ritual, and so on. But the ego’s fear of seeing beneath the surface makes most of us naturally resistant to this kind of work. The ninth dream I ever recorded addressed this issue:

It is night and very dark. I try to lock an elephant in a cave, but when I push on the door to close it, it breaks. I run for help because I am afraid the elephant will get out and do some damage.

This dream is short, sweet, and very much to the point. What could be more frightening to a tiny ego than a massive elephant on a rampage? Who wouldn’t try to lock it in or run away?

In religious practices and literature, the elephant often symbolizes power, wisdom, and happiness. As a mount for Asian royalty, it represents sovereignty. And as an instinctual creature with advanced sensitivity, it symbolizes inner knowing and intuition. Since animals in dreams usually represent our instincts, (Jung said we have five: activity, nourishment, reflection, sex, and creativity), to me the elephant suggested my instinct for reflection because reflecting on our inner lives can activate these positive qualities.

What about the other two symbols in this dream? A cave is associated with birth (the Eastern church depicts Christ’s birth in a cave), the maternal womb, and sacred initiation rites. Like the unconscious, caves are dark places containing hidden potential and spiritual treasures. A door represents a psychic force which, when closed, keeps us from knowing what lies behind it. But when it is broken or open, we can travel between the outer, conscious world of logic, reason, and objective fact, and the mysterious inner world of repressed emotion, intuitive wisdom, and personal meaning.

While this dream helped me recognize my resistance to reflecting (elephant) on my personal unconscious (cave) because my ego was afraid of opening (door) to the unknown, it held much more meaning for me than I was capable of understanding then. At the time I thought the unknowns I feared were change and some hidden unworthy qualities I didn’t want to see, but after over twenty years of inner work, I have rooted out the deeper, archetypal source of my fear.

All three symbols in this dream are related to spirituality. Western and Middle Eastern religions traditionally associate spirit with the distant masculine Sky God with whom they connect via mental abstractions: correct words, clear ideas, strong beliefs, and noble ideals. This approach has long devalued the spiritual significance of the soul which is associated with femininity: physical matter, the body, emotion, instinct, feeling, inner knowing, intuition.

Of what was I so afraid? To what has my religion had such stern resistance for the past 5,000 years? Simply this: The feminine aspect of the Mystery we call God. The Mystery incarnate in matter. The sovereignty, spiritual authority, power and wisdom of our own infinitely beautiful and loveable bodies and souls. The energies of Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom: the sacred spark that indwells us and all creation. Poor little ego.  So terrified of life!

 

 
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