Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Masculine Wound: An Obsession With Winning February 5, 2013

masculinewoundThis blog, Matrignosis, (Mother Knowing) is based on my profound need to understand and empower the wounded feminine in myself and society.  The same theme is explored in my three psychologically-oriented books. Although the most recent one is about creating equal partnership between the healthy masculine and feminine, in this book too I emphasized the feminine side of the equation. That seemed the most pressing need.

But recent dreams and outer events are making strong statements about certain masculine wounds.  Robert Bly, one of our most eloquent voices for healthy masculinity has written, “By the time a man is 35 he knows that the images of the right man, the tough man, the true man which he received in high school do not work in life.”

Women know this too, but immersion in a culture whose institutions are based on distorted images of masculinity blinds both genders to healthier images. Knowing in our hearts that something is wrong is one thing.  Acting on this knowledge when no one around us appears to see this elephant in the room is quite another.

A boy is filled with excited anticipation about his first hunting trip. If he misses (deliberately) the graceful doe he’s told to kill, he’s taunted and shamed for being “a girl.” If he cries, the adults are disgusted. If he dutifully kills her he earns their respect and praise. They’ve been through this themselves and see it as a rite of passage that will toughen the boy up and prepare him for “real life.”  It may do that, but at what cost? Of what value is a hardened heart that cannot feel its pain or empathize with the pain of those who have no voice?

A young athlete succumbs to the temptation to take illegal performance-enhancing drugs.  When he wins he enjoys his success and ignores the shame of his pricking conscience. Is being victorious over others truly the only valid definition of success? Sure, when human rights are in the balance, only the worst among us would argue that victory over oppression is not a successful outcome. But how about when greedy, fearful masculine-oriented egos conquer conscience, compassion and consciousness? Is this a successful win?

Catholic theologian Richard Rohr says a basic difference between the feminine and masculine psyches is that for the masculine it’s either win or lose. But the feminine, the Mother, can’t choose between winning and losing. All her children have to win! For her, win-win is the only justice.  Psychologically, everyone has a masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) side; but only our masculine side is vulnerable to obsessing over winning at all cost. This happens when he mindlessly aligns his natural love for winning with patriarchy’s five-milliennia-old obsession with subjugating our inner feminine and the outer women who remind us of her! At all cost!

How do we bridge the seemingly irreconcilable divide between our inner masculine and feminine? Our egos must invite the disowned Feminine Spirit Warrior, the Mother, into our awareness. She’s strong enough to feel the shame of our pricking conscience. Brave enough to suffer when we’ve caused others pain. Tough enough to admit our fallibility.  Caring enough to love and serve all our children.  Becoming an undivided Spirit Warrior who lives with compassion and balance while causing the least amount of harm to others is the true meaning of winning.

How might your life have been different if you’d been taught to respect the feminine instead of how to win the respect of a wounded, dysfunctional culture?

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Invoking Mother Justice November 9, 2010

Issues of right and wrong, good and bad, are core concerns of every seeker. Our ideas about how to handle moral issues derive from the psyche’s two primary archetypes: the King and the Queen. The King’s way to keep order, protect citizens and promote the flourishing of the realm is to create hierarchical systems of laws and penalties. The buck stops with the leaders — judges, dictators, presidents, imams, rabbis, priests, generals, CEO’s and gods — at the top of these systems.

Thus far in recorded history the King’s vision has predominated. However, when we look at civilization’s overall progress — from the Code of Hammurabi, the earliest written system of laws created in Mesopotamia in 1790 BCE, to the present — we see that our ideas about justice and morality have evolved dramatically: from ancient codes that self-righteously discriminated against slaves, members of lower social classes, women, minorities, and the poor; through elite monarchies and dictatorships where the leaders have absolute rule; to democracies founded on the principles of freedom and justice for all. Without a doubt we have made progress, but the daily news reminds us how far we fall short of our goals of lawful order and moral virtue.

What is at the heart of our growth toward moral maturity? The complementary vision of our Queen. Despite ignorance and repression, her ethic of shared authority, mercy, compassion, and care has manifested in shining moments throughout history and literature. For instance, in ancient Egypt the Queen’s interpretation of morality as a matter of the heart was considered one of the unalterable laws of life. The goddess Maat tested the weight of each dead person’s heart in one bowl of a sacred balance scale against the lightness of an ostrich feather in the other. If the heart was heavier than the feather, the soul was lost. Christianity was founded on this ethic, as was the legend of King Arthur’s Camelot and Victor Hugo’s fictional masterpiece, Les Miserables.

But no religion, nation, or era has ever been free of the influence of the shadow and never will. The shadow is our unconscious psychological underbelly, and our ignorance of it continually thwarts every effort to purge ourselves of all hardness and heaviness, all uncaring and mean-spiritedness, all selfishness, immorality, prejudice, hatred, and unforgiveness. Despite every fair law and good intention, our individual and cultural shadows will continue their ruthless reigns until we each accept personal responsibility for our moral failings.

Order and virtue rest on individual transformation. Balancing the Queen’s caring, understanding and forgiving with the King’s fairness and justice is key to that transformation. Maat’s scale judges the heart, not the head. She does not evaluate our god-images, ideals, the orthodoxy of our beliefs, the number of rules we know and keep, or whether or not our punishment fits our crime. Her concern is our capacity for compassion, mercy, generosity, kindness, and forgiveness. Moreover, her decisions are not based on her authority or the authority of the wisest leaders. Her decisions are based on internal evidence, and that is something we alone can judge. In Sophia’s ethic, the buck stops with our heart.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that all our hard work and good intentions will never make a lasting difference in the world until we take the first step of healing our own hearts.  If we’re not living with love, we’re still part of the problem.

 

 
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