Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dreams About the Creative Instinct: Part II May 25, 2012

In my previous post I shared a dream from 22 years ago that dramatized a conflict between my career ambitions and the Self, the central archetype of my psyche that was “encouraging” me to trust my creative instinct. I didn’t understand the meaning of the dream because of my ego’s resistance to change. Like all children, I had been conditioned to conform to my tribe’s standards and God-image, and challenging these supreme authorities was terrifying to my immature ego.

Of course, I was still so psychologically ignorant that I didn’t know this either! About the only thing I did know from my Jungian studies was that if I continued to tolerate the tension of this conflict and if I persisted in working with my dreams, an answer would eventually come when the conditions were right.

So I accepted another teaching position at a nearby university.  That year I dreamed of moving to flimsy, unsuitable houses I hated. Two featured kitchens—rooms of nurturance and transformation—that had rigid rows of old-fashioned school desks nailed to the floors! Gradually I realized I was unhappy with the way I was living and at the end of the academic year I resigned from teaching to write the book that was simmering in my soul.

Three days after the term ended I dreamed another woman and I were escaping from a prison owned by her father. Her father! Patriarchy! That was when I finally understood how captive I had been to a rigid belief system so dominated by the masculine principle that it left little room for satisfying my creativity or feminine side. After a lovely summer in which I gave myself permission to rest, I began my book. Eighteen months later I signed a contract with a wonderful publisher. Never had I felt so fulfilled and happy with myself. The following dream came during the final editing.

Dream #1215: “The Beautiful Black Stallion.” I’m in the backseat of a moving car.  A dark-haired woman I know sits next to me. My wonderful, beautiful black stallion sits next to her and stretches his neck over her lap so his head is on my lap. He looks up at me adoringly and makes little kisses with his lips. I kiss him repeatedly and stroke his massive head, his ears, his nose.  It feels blissful to have him love me so much.

The black stallion, of course, was the same dark horse I had been so afraid of almost 3 years earlier. My dream showed that my ego had released control of my life and taken a backseat to the Self, trusting it to do the driving. As a result, I was enjoying a conscious relationship with my creative instinct (black stallion), who loved me because I had allowed him to manifest my soul’s creativity in ways that were exactly right for me/us. This had happened because I had befriended my ambitious, intense shadow, the dark-haired woman beside me. Accepting her was the key that provided access to my unconscious self. She was the same daughter of patriarchy with whom I had escaped from prison!  Neither of us felt compelled to drive, and we were both enjoying the ride.

When our creativity is free to make its natural contribution to our lives, it becomes a loving inner companion who travels with us wherever we go. Then we know the sacred Mystery is not separate from us, but dwells within. In the words of Brother Paul Quenon, “Creativity, as life iself, is grounded in and shares in the sacred.”

Order Jean’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at


Dreams About the Creative Instinct: Part I May 22, 2012

Carl Jung said we have five instincts: nurturance, activity, sex, reflection, and creativity. Sometimes our dreams contain images and activities suggesting how we feel about them or how well-developed they are in us.

In dreams, instincts are often symbolized by animals. The instinct for creativity might appear as a spider, which creates its own fibers for weaving marvelous webs, or some other animal noted for the marvelous things it creates, like a beaver or a silkworm. It might also appear as a special animal that has important significance to the dreamer, or as a fabulous or unique animal with a creative combination of characteristics that give it unusual power.

Dreams of real or mythical people known for their creativity, like artists, writers, or musicians, can also be about this instinct. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was the God of fire, the forge, craftsmen, sculptors and artisans. One of Apollo’s symbols was the lyre, and Athena, noted for her wisdom, was also known for her inventions and skill at weaving.

When a certain instinct is not well-developed in us we can remain so unconscious of its potential, or so afraid of it, that we find it extremely difficult to recognize dream references to it. Here’s a dream I had about my instinct for creativity 22 years ago, shortly after beginning dreamwork. It was a complete mystery to me.

Dream #42: “The Horse and the Desk”  I’m terrified of a powerful, dark, beautiful horse that’s chasing me. I slam a door on him, leaving him in a room with my beloved dusty desk which I don’t need any more. I’m worried he’ll hurt the desk.  Carefully I open the top of the dutch door to see what he’s doing. Then he sadly says to me, “Why are you trembling? Are you afraid of me? Did you think I would hurt you?” Suddenly I feel foolish because I know he’s always been my friend and would never hurt me; nevertheless I was afraid and had to get away from him.

When I had this dream I had just written a book that was a dry and scholarly outgrowth of my doctoral dissertation and was so tired of the subject that only a fierce determination to finish what I had started had kept me going. Moreover, I was ambitious, and I knew the chances of finding success as a writer were slim to none. Added to this was my fear of writing about my true interests: my spiritual nature, my quest for psychological awareness and wholeness, and feminine issues. Writing about things for which I had no formal training could derail my progress in the academic world where I had achieved a certain amount of success. So despite the fact that I had always loved to write, I was considering giving it up to focus on teaching.

What did the dusty desk mean? Although I always wrote at a desk, I ignored that fact and associated it with teaching.  In essence, I was trying to talk myself out of writing—to shut the beautiful horse out of my life—because I was afraid my creative instincts might damage my career aspirations. The dream’s lysis (last image) said I should trust my creative instinct, that it wouldn’t hurt me. But I didn’t understand this then. Even if I had, I doubt I would have acted on it. I simply didn’t know, trust, or like myself enough to take the risk, and it took another year of dreamwork before I did. Next time I’ll share a later dream that confirmed the meaning of this one and brought closure to the whole issue.

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Three Perspectives on Dream Symbols January 27, 2012

After my last post about the dragon dream, Rob asked if we dream out of both the personal and the collective (archetypal, therefore shared by everyone) unconscious, and if dreams about one’s personal unconscious sometimes use archetypal imagery. Yes. Many dreams seem to be purely personal, a few are purely archetypal, and most, like my dragon dream, are a combination of both. In fact, every dream symbol and theme actually has three possible levels of meaning: personal, cultural, and archetypal, so I always look for associations at all three levels. I’ll demonstrate with the symbol of a house.

Personal Meaning of House: My dragon dream took place in the house in which my husband grew up. When Fred and I were dating I was invited often for meals, and after our marriage it was the setting for numerous family gatherings and fun celebrations. I have many warm associations with this house, all involving Fred and his funny, quirky family. Although my mother visited there a few times, I do not associate this house with her. I find this a curious aspect of the dream. The kitchen in Fred’s house was the core of family activity and most of our gatherings were centered around meals cooked by Fred’s beloved grandmother or stepmother (with whom he had a conflict-filled relationship). My mother never entertained and she cooked only the simplest of meals out of necessity, never passion or even interest, so her presence in this kitchen is an odd detail. The room in the far left corner of the house, streetside, was the bedroom shared by Fred’s brothers George and Tony. I adore them both and imagine them dreaming many beautiful dreams in there. In realilty, of course, the room had no garage door, although there were high windows. The actual garage was on the other end of the house, on the right side next to the kitchen. This was the garage I was heading for at the end of the dream.

Cultural Meaning of House: Houses everywhere represent protection from the elements, family, warmth, and comfort: nurturing qualities all. Kitchens are traditionally the purviews of grandmothers, mothers and other women who prepare food for their families. They are also rooms in which flour, milk, water, yeast, sugar and salt are mixed and baked in ovens, a magical process which transforms them into nourishing bread.  Kitchens also have fresh water available for cooking and cleaning up.

Archetypal Meaning of House: Houses represent the psyche and everything that goes on in our minds. Archetypes are mental pictures of physical instincts. The needs of all five instincts (nurturance, activity, reflection, sex, and creativity) can be met in houses. This dream features three instincts. Nurturance is represented by the house, my mother, and the kitchen. The kitchen contains two especially vital symbols: a  womb-like oven which transforms basic elements into the bread of life, and a source of water, the cleansing, life-giving element associated with humanity’s maternal Source, the Great Mother (she’s also associated with dragons). Activity is shown in the dragon’s banging on the roof and walls, and in my dream ego’s walking, then running away.  Reflection is symbolized by the windows which provide an outlook into the unconscious, the dragon with its fiercely knowing, staring eye, and the keys representing access to secret knowledge and wisdom.

Do you see the wealth of multi-leveled meanings I can glean from these symbols?  All but the dragon are parts of everyone’s personal life, yet most also appear in the myths and fairy tales of every culture. I’m still working on the dream. It could take a long time to understand, if ever.  For now I’m just letting it cook.


How’s Your God-Image Working For You? December 13, 2011

Our ideas about God come from us. For approximately the last 5,000 years the West and Near East have projected our masculine archetypes onto a male God who is a

1) King: superior, all-powerful and morally judgmental;

2) Warrior: partial to and protective of our particular tribe or culture while rejecting our enemies;

3) Magician/Scholar: supernatural and all-knowing; and

4) Lover: passionately in love with us, His Beloveds.

So what does this say about the status of the psyches and societies that envision God this way? An ego with a purely masculine God-image has rejected the sacred power of femininity because it is afraid of and hostile to the feminine side of the psyche.  Of course, this makes about as much sense as obsessing over the qualities of the left-hemisphere of our brains and repressing the equally valuable “God-given” qualities of the right-hemisphere.

Who in their right mind would deliberately do such a thing? This is the point, of course. The fact is, we’re not in our “right” mind because Western culture has essentially rejected the qualities of the right brain! Since the time of Aristotle, our egos have been so enamored of our left-hemisphere logos ability to process information with clear reason, discrimination of details, and logical, “objective” thinking that we’ve disdained the far more mysterious and uncontrollable processes of the right hemisphere.

The right hemisphere specializes in mythos. This analogical mode of thinking emphasizes seeing the whole picture instead of discriminating between details;  connecting instead of separating;  completing oneself through intimate relationships instead of proving oneself through perfected work;  finding meaning in images, symbols and intuitions instead of only words and provable facts; personal, subjective realities instead of objective ones;  inner events instead of outer ones; values and tender emotions instead of pure reason; and the physical, instinctual realities of our bodies instead of the traditional mental processes associated with intelligence.  As you may have guessed, right-brain attributes are generally associated with femininity.

But why does it have to be either/or for the ego? Why have we rejected these qualities—or at the very least seen them as “inferior” to left-brained qualities—for so long instead of simply accommodating both? It’s really very simple. Like all mammals, humans begin life as helpless, instinctual creatures. But we have egos, and our egos want to control our primitive instincts so we can stay safe and gain more control over the terrifying powers of Mother Nature. After all, if you can’t manage your hunger you’ll eat your entire fall harvest by Christmas; then what will you eat for the rest of the winter?

Poor little egos. We just want to be more conscious and in control so we can feel more safe in a terrifying world. The last thing we want is to fall back (backslide?) into unconsciousness and powerlessness. So we obsess over left-hemisphere (Western?) thinking and disown the more “primitive” right brain. We project masculinity onto a remote, separate, all-powerful spirit and project femininity onto physical women who we strip of as much power as we can. Thus have we created societies run by power-driven leaders who are afraid of their own shadows, can’t get along with each other, and use and abuse women and all who are weak, vulnerable or different from the things our egos identify with.

How conscious is that? How conscious are you? How integrated is your brain? How integrated is your God-image?


Following Bear: Seeking the Beloved June 19, 2010

Your interest in my most recent posts has convinced me to continue with the thread I’ve been following for a while.  So since I’m living in black bear country right now, I’d like to explain why the bear is a symbol of the Beloved, or Self, why it is so meaningful to me, and why it sometimes appears in the dreams of seekers.

As large animals that are so human-like at the same time they are so strangely other, bears generate an awareness of, and reverence for, the instinctual life of the body and soul. In a culture such as ours, based as it is on a centuries-old tradition of valuing mind over matter and repressing the instincts, bears remind us that we ourselves are animals, and that, in the soul-stirring words of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

A second theme addresses endings and beginnings and the times of transition between. In their simple willingness to shake off their unconscious sleeps, abandon the dark caves of their births and hibernations, and make their solitary ways into the forest, bears demonstrate that transitions from known to unknown are not to be feared as obstacles or punishments, but embraced as thresholds to enriched living.

Bears also symbolize transformation and rebirth and are associated with all initial stages. Psychologically they represent the time of awakening when one becomes aware of the reality and power of the unconscious self. This is partly because during hibernation they fall into a sleep so deep that they appear to be dead; yet, wonder of wonders, in the spring they emerge from their caves as if they have been resurrected. It was only natural that Bear would become a cherished symbol many years ago when I was savagely awakened from the sleep of conventional thinking by a scatheon (a dream word I interpret as “god wound”) and compelled by forces I could not understand to embark on a painful spiritual quest. Although initially devastating, an encounter with the Self eventually brings far greater rewards than those left behind. Like Bear, I too am now at home in the unknown where I love to roam the wilderness and fish for nourishment in dark waters.

Another of the bear’s themes is introspection. Bear emerged in my life during a phase of massive psychological house-cleaning and remodeling. I was attending weekly classes on Jungian psychology, reading books about the same, studying my dreams, and recording my most meaningful insights in a book about psycho-spiritual development in which, for reasons I did not fully understand, a golden bear became a prominent symbol. Just as Bear spends long periods of time in inward-focused hibernation each year, so was I thoroughly immersed in my inner world

Some years ago a new theme, return to nature,  began to demand my attention. It manifested in ways unusual for me then: a decreased motivation to write, restlessness, attraction to the outdoors, and a particularly alien itch for more physical activity. I recognized another threshold, another opportunity to follow Bear. Once the golden bear called me out of unconsciousness and into awareness of the sacred place within. Now it calls me out of myself. You’ve hibernated long enough, my bears say. Come out here and find us! It’s time to explore your senses and immerse yourself in nature, the final sacred place for pilgrims such as you.


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