My friends: last week’s post about the new book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, by Jungian analysts Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris, addressed a lesson that must be learned if we want to heal ourselves and the world. This is the importance of recapturing our ability to think psychologically and symbolically. This I know: learning the two languages of One Mind is the only lasting remedy for the devastation that our cultural mentality of one-sided rational, verbal and literal thinking has wrought.
With the synchronistic help of Elaine Mansfield, a dear friend and sister writer, I was reminded of this post I published in the wake of the Newtown tragedy over three years ago. If any act epitomizes the evil impact of the one-sided patriarchal culture that has activated the Death Mother archetype in our culture, that did! With this repost I extend my condolences to include the families and friends of those who lost their lives in last week’s devastating earthquake in Nepal.
The inner universe of the mind is, like the physical world, a living organism that functions according to natural laws. Deciphering them has been the work of holy fools, for who can presume to understand the sacred inner workings of creation? Yet we do try to understand these autonomous patterns of energy (archetypes) in our individual minds (the psyche) and in the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness (the psychoid) because we feel their profound influence.
Our brains know two languages: logic and imagination. Separately, each has limits, but an individual who respects both can make brilliant inroads into the Mysteries. Einstein was one such person. He said,
“Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell were others. Jung explored his inner life and that of his clients with the help of myths and symbols from various wisdom traditions. Campbell developed some of Jung’s themes in his own extensive research. Together, their imaginative work shed much-needed light into the darkness of our current collective unconscious. Following are some natural laws they midwifed into our awareness.
1. The Law of Correspondence: The outer universe is a reflection of the inner universe. This intuition gave rise to the ancient adages, “As above, so below,” and “As without, so within.” Humanity has expressed this relationship in diverse symbol systems such as mythology, religion, tarot, alchemy, astrology and magic.
2. The Law of Synchronicity: Meaningful coincidences between our inner and outer universes occur more frequently with self-reflective practices like dreamwork and active imagination. Synchronicities are not products of “cause and effect,” but of an imaginative, heartfelt search for personal meaning which eventually produces what Jungian Monika Wikman calls, “a psychology of synchronicity instead of linearity.”
3. The Law of Opposites: For everything we know about ourselves (beliefs, values, attitudes, emotions), there is a corresponding unconscious opposite. In our psychological immaturity we see things dualistically, (in terms of either-or, good-bad), and automatically repress or disown that which our egos consider the less desirable options.
4. The Law of Oneness: Beneath all apparent dualities lies a fundamental connectedness with All That Is. We can tap into this One Mind by integrating pairs of opposites to create partnerships which see, think, and behave holistically.
5. The Law of Entropy: When opposites remain isolated from one another, any disorders within them remain constant or increase.
6. The Law of Change: Energies in both universes are constantly circulating. Change toward stasis and polarization increases disorder and chaos. Change toward communication and integration increases movement toward perfection and completion.
7. The Law of Love: Love is the most powerful healing and unifying force in Life. It has its roots in the heart, i.e. honest feeling and valuing, not the head, or logic and reason.
8. The Law of Choice: Our ego, the organizing center of our conscious selves, can choose to serve or fight these laws, and our personal choices influence ours and the world’s welfare. For example, if we serve the Law of Love, we respect and integrate ours and others’ religions, making space in ourselves and the world for both. If we fight this law we are choosing love’s opposite, hatred.
We can cultivate our imagination or bury it. View ourselves as separate or as connected. Integrate otherness or fight it. Nurture love or hate. Trust or fear. How can our beloved country serve these sacred laws at this point in history? How can you and I?
My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of the innocents whose physical lives were tragically snuffed out in Newtown. Together, may we find a solution to this senseless tragedy.
There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man, which are inborn in him from the earliest times, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still making up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.
– Carl Jung
This blog is based on my passion for self-knowledge and understanding the two great archetypal foundations of life: the feminine and masculine principles. My research, writing and inner work have shed a great deal of light on these mysteries. They’ve also shown me how much I don’t know. Luckily, I have many opportunities to learn. One recently appeared in the form of a book I was asked to review. I’m delighted to share its deep wisdom about the feminine principle with you.
Myths are born whenever a culture evolves into a new stage of psychological awareness. Exploring them provides healing and understanding of these developments that are trying to become conscious. Medusa’s myth emerged in Greece during a time when patriarchal gods were trying to assimilate and control the transformative aspects of the feminine principle. The Harrises have uncovered traces of this myth countless times in themselves and their clients.
Medusa was a ravishingly beautiful maiden raped by the god Poseidon in Athena‘s temple. The angry goddess transformed Medusa’s beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone. This is a perfect symbol for the devastating psychological impact of patriarchy’s wounding and devaluing of the feminine archetype.
To quote the Harrises, the Death Mother “paralyzes our initiative, spirit, creativity, and vitality.” Her negativity “affects our culture in general, mothering in particular, and our ability to like, nourish, and take loving care of ourselves.” Unfortunately, it also cripples our ability to meet the emotional needs of our children. Thus do many of us, women and men alike, grow up feeling so unloved, unlovable, depressed, and deeply disappointed in life that we pass on the same curse to them. What’s more, “When the feminine principle is repressed into our unconscious, it becomes part of our collective shadow, and this shadow projects itself as a longing, or even a demand, for power.” Many of us experience the negative consequences of that particular beast every day.
With Medusa’s story as guide, the Harrises demonstrate that to bring the feminine into our world, we must begin in a personal way. Only by taking the time to reconnect with the wholeness of who we are—and dreamwork is a primary way—can we learn to value the feminine and have it become reborn within us. This point is illustrated throughout the book in stories about clients who have experienced healing by following the map for the journey outlined in Medusa’s myth.
This requires us to recognize our denial and face our fear of inadequacy, shame, rejection, and belittlement along with the underlying rage, grief and woundedness that give rise to these debilitating fears. With reflection we accept “the reality that we have been damaged by some of the primary attitudes and values in our culture.” This realization strengthens us to confront our personal Death Mother. In the final phase of healing we learn to pay attention to our lives so that we can celebrate the transformation taking place by living a fuller, richer life.
I love this book. You’d get a good idea how much if you could see the underlines and comments on practically every page. One of my favorite things about it, apart from the many “Ahas” I acquired about my own Death Mother complex, is the Harrises’ clear grasp of our current cultural mentality. We’ve become so rational, verbal and literal that we’ve forgotten how symbols and images carry a deeper reality than words. We’ve lost the art of thinking symbolically. And as the authors say, “To lose this art is to lose the kind of grounding that enables us to experience the beautiful depths of love and the Divine presence that is potentially within our capacities.”
What greater loss could there be than that?
You can see Massimilla Harris speaking about the Death Mother at this link:
Image Credits: Medusa, Caravaggio. Wikimedia Commons. Cover Design of Into the Heart of the Feminine: Courtney Tiberio. Cover Photo: Anthony Cave
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.