Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Healing America’s Political Divide November 29, 2016

projections-jung-unknown-face-jungcurrents-2“The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.” ~Carl Jung, Aion, Christ: A Symbol of the Self, Pages 70-71, Para 126.

“There’ll just be four of us for Thanksgiving dinner this year. We’re a politically divided family.”~Overheard at Whole Foods Market the week before Thanksgiving.

They’re Rioting in Africa

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain
There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The french hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don’t like anybody very much!!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off
And we will all be blown away!!

They’re rioting in Africa
There’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

At 14 I was fascinated by the profundity of this song. When has the world ever been at peace?   Certainly not since Jesus preached a gospel of peace. And obviously not before that either, or else he wouldn’t have needed to preach it.

Why don’t we learn from our mistakes? Because for most of us, history is a powerless abstract concept that has nothing to do with us. But there is something with the power to change us: a painful experience of our personal shadow: our ego’s inner opposite.

The Shadow is our unconscious side, the part of us we don’t know about and don’t want to know about. It’s far more fun to blame others than face our shadows. So we unconsciously project our shadow qualities onto people who remind us of them, and we derive great pleasure from excluding, vilifying, and blaming them.

Naturally, they resent this, so in retaliation they project their shadows onto us. And there you have it. Our outer world mimics the inner conflicts between our “good guy” egos and “bad guy” shadows while we sit back enjoying our outrage and tut-tutting with pious self-righteousness. In my opinion, nobody describes this phenomenon better than my favorite minstrel bard, Kris Kristofferson.

Kris+KristoffersonJesus Was a Capricorn

Jesus was a Capricorn
He ate organic food
He believed in love and peace
And never wore no shoes

Long hair, beard and sandals
And a funky bunch of friends
Reckon we’d just nail him up
If he came down again

‘Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on
Who they can feel better than at any time they please
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on
If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me

Eggheads cussing rednecks cussing
Hippies for their hair
Others laugh at straights who laugh at
Freaks who laugh at squares

Some folks hate the Whites
Who hate the Blacks who hate the Klan
Most of us hate anything that
We don’t understand

‘Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on
Who they can feel better than at any time they please
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on
If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me

“I swear he was reading my mail when I was in my forties! His songs are still among my very favorites…I used to refer to him as “my favorite philosopher.” Still, often, I felt a twinge, and wished that he wasn’t singing about me.” Comment from a viewer of this video.

14470608_1364095146964017_1336560227455489139_n-2He was reading my mail too.

We won’t heal America’s political divide until enough of us heal our personal ones. Have you ever caught a glimpse of your unknown face? It’s easy to see. Just notice who you look down on tomorrow.

Credits:  Gratitude to Lewis LaFontaine for the quote images. They’re Rioting in Africa:  Written by Sheldon Harnick, Sheldon M. Harnick • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC. Jesus Was a Capricorn:  Written by Kris Kristofferson. Jesus Was a Capricorn lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

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.


The Art of Tending the Fire March 26, 2013

An ancient theorem of enlightenment is As within, so without. Essentially, this means that we humans project the themes and processes of our souls outward into the physical world, which then functions like a giant movie screen. If we will look at this screen through the eyes of Sophia—by which I mean with right-hemisphere mythos—we will see our inner dramas enacted everywhere and this seeing will enhance our self-awareness.

For example, the following themes of the ego’s heroic journey into consciousness are found not only in ancient rituals, scriptures, and myths, but in current books, films, songs, paintings, sculptures, and other creative works:

Separation (leaving the safety and comfort of the maternal matrix to find your identity),

Achievement (strengthening your ego by finding and proving your individuality),

Sacrifice (changing your ego’s attitude toward power),

Suffering (entering the dark abyss of the unconscious),

Surrender, Death, Descent (losing the safety and comfort of familiar assumptions and conventional formulas; submitting to an authority greater than the world’s opinions),

Receiving help from unexpected sources (befriending your shadow and feminine side),

Rebirth (acquiring self-knowledge and more consciousness; being released from the prisons of rigid belief systems; becoming empowered to make original choices),

Return (re-entering the community on your own terms as a maturing, authentic individual),

Reunion (being reunited with feminine feeling and participating in the sacred marriage in which your inner opposites are united), and

Blessing (bringing healing new consciousness to your community).

These archetypal themes are developed in such literary works as Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, John Fowles’ The Magus, and even the humorous Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins. Films include Alan Ball’s American Beauty, M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Village and Lady in the Water, and George Lucas’sStar Wars series. The songs of Kris Kristofferson and other musicians likewise address many of these issues. Ultimately, the symbols and motifs of every work of art are imaginative manifestations of the artist’s need to understand and express him/herself, evolve into greater consciousness, and share what s/he has learned with others. Some artists know this; others don’t have a clue.

Imaginatively tracking the underlying threads of psychological and spiritual meaning that we find in myth, literature, film, art, our dreams and even the everyday events of our waking lives, is soul-making work.  As Jungian analyst Monika Wikman says, “The symbolizing function alive in the imagination unites the opposites of spirit and body and brings us into experience with the third, the intermediary, realm, which is both corporeal and spiritual and also more than the sum of the parts. The star in humankind—the living imagination and its connection to the divine—mediates psyche/body dimensions and misalignments…”  Using our imagination to find personal meaning in the themes and images that speak to us heals divides that prevent us from becoming our true selves.

The alchemists understood the transforming value of imagination. They addressed it with their symbolism of tending the fire and cooking earthly elements until they were distilled into their purest essences.  The essences were lifted into the heavens to mingle with and be fertilized by what Jung called the “seeds of the stars,”  their celestial, archetypal source.  Thus renewed, they returned to purify and renew the earth. This was a metaphor for transforming the baser, earthier elements of our psyches in ways that bring us spiritual awareness,  emotional warmth and the light of consciousness.

Our transformation does not happen quickly or easily. It is, as Wikman notes,  a never-ending process of cultivating “inner attentiveness to the life of the soul, and learning how to live and work with this flame that burns within in ways that are life enhancing, rather than destructive.”  This leads us “into growing awareness and participation in new transmutations between heaven and earth, between human and divine…[wherein]…we and the guiding spirit of wisdom grow in relationship to one another.”

If wisdom is the goal we seek, tending our inner fire is the art that will take us there.


Living From the Heart May 24, 2011

Last week my husband and I took our son Matt and his wife Robyn with us to a Kris Kristofferson concert. The venue, an old movie theater-turned-concert hall, was so intimate that as we were leaving Robyn said, “I feel like I’ve just been hanging out with him in the living room.”

I felt the same way. Much of the friendly atmosphere was due to this singer/songwriter’s no-frill style. He had no opening act, no accompanying musicians, no dancers, videos, bells, whistles, mirrors or smoke. He just walked out on the darkened stage with his guitar and harmonica and did what he does best: stood there at the microphone and sang his heart out for two hours.

If you’ve read my post from March 22, 2011 titled “Kris Kristofferson: Midlife Mentor,” you know I’ve been a huge fan since I discovered his music in the mid-seventies. Since then I’ve attended perhaps five of his concerts, two of which were held in similar settings. Although I would have loved nothing more than to walk up afterwards to shake his hand and tell him how much his music meant to me, I was far too self-conscious. After a lifetime of hiding how much I care about things others consider unimportant, I couldn’t bear the thought of being criticized for being too bold or looking like a gushing teen-aged groupie, so I just stood watching from the back of the hall while he greeted fans less inhibited than I.

Over the years I’ve castigated myself for wasting these and other precious opportunities to act on my heart’s desires. I know the value of “seizing the day” and “following your passion,” and I’ve experienced the rewards of doing this many times. Yet there were also times when I couldn’t take my own advice. Why have I let self-consciousness hold me back from doing so many simple, harmless things like jumping at the chance to hire a waiting camel to ride to the site overlooking the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found? Or accepting an invitation to sing a song I love on a stage with a group of musicians I admire?

Years of analyzing my dreams have brought some insights. Because I admire Kris Kristofferson so much for his courage and integrity in overcoming his fears and following his passions, he’s shown up in many dreams as an image of my positive animus. The issues in these dreams always relate to my deepest desire to boldly sing my soul’s song in my writing and speaking, and to do it with the kind of honesty, simplicity, and grace he embodies.

I’m delighted to report that as of last week’s concert I’m a bit closer to my goal. After the kids left to relieve their baby-sitter, Fred and I walked to the back of the building where the tour bus was parked and joined a group of waiting fans. In my purse was a copy of the March 22 post with Kris’s picture on the front and a handwritten note scrawled in the margin. I can’t deny that my resolve wavered when he came out the door and walked toward us, but after watching him sign autographs for several people, with Fred’s encouragement I moved into an empty space on the railing, handed him the post, and told him why I’d written it.

I didn’t get his autograph. I didn’t need one. His warmth and graciousness, so evident in the photograph above, are more than enough reward for overcoming so much of my debilitating self-consciousness. Thank you, dear friend of my soul, for showing me how to live from the heart.


Kris Kristofferson: Midlife Mentor March 22, 2011

At the age of 35 I had a wonderful family, good health, a comfortable lifestyle, and a master’s degree: everything a woman could want. Right? You’d think so. But I felt painfully unfulfilled. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be happy? I felt like an ungrateful wretch.

One day as I was listening to Kris Kristofferson’s album, “Jesus Was A Capricorn,” tears started rolling down my cheeks. With some surprise, I realized there must be a reason I was crying. What could it be? Suddenly I was hungry to understand, so over the next few months I listened carefully to these soulful songs. Somehow it seemed as if practically every one was written for me.

“Jesus Was a Capricorn” describes the intolerance people have for what they don’t understand. What struck me was that despite the rejection the writer had faced, he had the strength to be true to himself anyway. Why did that make me cry? Shame. I knew I didn’t have that kind of strength.

“Sugar Man” is about a woman who sells her soul to a pimp so she can buy drugs to escape her pain. Had I been ignoring some secret pain? If so, what was it? And why was I afraid to face it?

“Jesse Younger” is the story of a man who loses the love and support of his family when he makes choices that seem wrong to them even though they are right for him. This brought a huge “Aha!” I had talents and interests I longed to pursue but hadn’t — partly out of a sort of foggy lethargy, and partly because of deeply ingrained stereotypes about women’s roles. To change my habit of always putting my family’s comfort before my own seemed selfish, dangerous, daunting and wrong. I was experiencing a classic conflict between my need to find and fulfill myself and my fear of hurting my loved ones, inviting censure, and leaving a safe and familiar cocoon.

“Help Me” is a cry for help from someone who has given up trying to struggle all alone through the darkness. It is a recognition that repressing, escaping and pretending lead to dead ends, a confession of the ego’s limitations, and a painful plea for consciousness. My tears told me I was tired of living in the prison of conformity and needed help to break out.

“Why Me” expresses repentance for wasted life, gratitude for the gift of another chance, and the desire to help others who undergo the same struggles. I had always believed I had something valuable to give. Had my fears caused me to waste the best parts of myself? Was there still a chance for me? Would it be possible to make some original choices without destroying everything to which I had devoted the first half of my life? These were my thoughts and feelings, and they were so terribly beautiful and dreadfully sad. No wonder I cried.

Midlife can be a dangerous and decisive crossroads. Jung said the ego’s task at this time is to turn within and attend to the compelling reality of the Sacred Self. While some recognize the wake-up call, many misinterpret it. Luckily, the universe sent me a minstrel guide to help me through. Kris Kristofferson’s songs were a lifeline that awakened my ego to the melodies of my own soul and emboldened me to follow them. Choosing this path has made all the difference in my life and I will be forever grateful. Thank you, Kris.

Who do you have to thank for mentoring you on the journey to your Self?

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


The King is Dead! Long Live the King! March 15, 2011

Many religious and philosophical traditions have given death a feminine face because the things most feared by the “masculine”dualistic ego are associated with the feminine principle. For example, if the sun and bright light of day are associated with safety, the Father God, life, and consciousness, then the moon and darkness are related to danger, Great Mother, death, and the unconscious.

In Greek mythology death is seen as the daughter of night and sister of sleep. Demeter, the Greek mother goddess of life, also has the power of death. When Hades will not return her abducted daughter Persephone (who symbolizes the death of innocence), she refuses to let anything grow on the earth, thus causing famine and death. Only when she is reunited with Persephone, who is now married to Hades and therefore the goddess of the underworld, does Demeter allow the earth to be fertile again.

Hinduism’s black goddess Kali, the Mother of Eternal Time, is similar to the Nigerian Yoruba goddess Oya, the Polynesian goddess Pele, and the Aztec snake goddess Tlillan, all of whom represent the creative and destructive breathing of the universe. In her “corpse” aspect Kali is shown with a fleshless rib cage. She is also depicted as a horrible hungry hag who feeds on the entrails of her victims. As a bloodthirsty warrior arrayed in blood and a necklace of human skulls, she dances on the corpse of her husband, Shiva, to celebrate her victory over her enemies and signify the ongoing process of creation. We’re talking serious fear of feminine power here!

While none of this is literally true, of course, it is nevertheless very real to the psyche. The death goddesses and their myths are, in part, metaphors for loss: the loss of youth and innocence, of important roles and relationships, of personal power, of fertility. In dreams as in life, death symbols point to the outworn attitudes and assumptions we need to slough off, like a snake shedding a tight-fitting skin so it can keep growing. They are reminders to take our inner lives seriously and examine beliefs that deny reality; for instance, that our honest feelings and emotions are unworthy and pretending and conforming will bring happiness and fulfillment; or that keeping rules, performing certain spiritual practices and attending worship services regularly will keep us safe and protect us from pain and death.

Resisting the Mistress of the Dead just brings Old King Ego more fear and pain; but surrendering to her brings freedom. Tolerating the tension of our suffering without dulling it with dogma and drugs or escaping through addictions and denial eventually brings the gut-level realization that if we really are going to die someday, we might as well live more honestly and fully in the meantime. To quote Kris Kristofferson, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

The death of the fearful old ego is the supreme liberation and a prerequisite to a psychologically whole and spiritually mature ego. In descending to the Mistress of the Dead, we, like all dying goddesses and gods, acquire greater wisdom and power because kissing the false self goodbye and welcoming the truth connects us with the sacred Mystery. As Cirlot’s A Dictionary of Symbols notes, death “is also the source of life — and not only of spiritual life but of the resurrection of matter as well. One must resign oneself to dying in a dark prison in order to find rebirth in light and clarity.”

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


The “Naked” Dream November 13, 2010

Beginning with “Gated Religions” I’ve been far more outspoken about social issues than is normal for me.  One night three weeks into the series of posts about injustice I had two dreams depicting my feelings about the new direction my blog is taking. I’d like to share the first one here, partly because it contains one of the commonest dream themes of all — being naked in public — and partly because it helps me illustrate the point I made in “Under the Big Top” about what it’s like for me to try to stay conscious. Next time I’ll tell you about the second dream.

Dream #4251: Nude Descending Stairs

I’m in a public square in an urban area. I’ve walked up a flight of steps to a higher level and am ready to go back down. I go to the edge of the platform I’m on intending to step down, but see I’m much higher than I thought. I return to the steps but am intimidated by their narrowness and the fact that there are no railings. I’m concerned about losing my balance and falling and making a public spectacle of myself. It seems as if I’m wearing big clunky boots that might cause me to mis-step and will make it harder to feel my way. Then I look down at myself and realize, Oh! I’m naked. No shoes, nothing. With a flash of awareness I realize there’s no way I’d be naked in public so this has to be a dream. This delights me. Well then, I think. If this is a dream I have nothing to lose. I shall descend the stairs, proudly naked for all to see! I take a deep breath and in a queenly gesture I throw back my shoulders, spread out my arms, and glide serenely down the steps.

The dream says I’m feeling a bit too high for comfort and want to get down. My first thought is that I want to stay balanced (a frequent concern of mine; hence, the sense of walking a tightrope I wrote about in Under the Big top). My second is that I don’t want to publicly embarrass myself. But seeing my nakedness awakens me to the reality that I’m dreaming and after that I feel wonderful.

In my experience, lucid dreams (dreams in which you know you’re dreaming) point to a new level of awareness in which you have seen a limiting fear or assumption and are acquiring the courage to rise above it. It’s like you’ve realized, If life is just a dream, I have nothing to fear by being me. When I reflect on my waking life I see that what I’m overcoming is a gut-level childhood fear of attracting criticism or controversy for expressing my honest opinions.  After the Lone Ranger shot me and my father died, all confidence and security vanished, danger awaited the smallest mis-step, and conflict felt profoundly life-threatening.

Blessedly, for the moment, at least, I’m losing my fear of exposing the naked truth about my views and feeling positive, confident, and empowered. Hence, my queenly stroll down the steps! If I’d rushed to cover myself up, this dream would be showing me how intimidated I still am at the prospect of public vulnerability and censure.

This is incredibly liberating. I’m reminded of the line from Kris Kristofferson’s song, Me and Bobby McGee: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Sort of like being naked. No more masks to take off. Rock on, Kris!


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