Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Three Billboards: The Myth and the Message February 20, 2018

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Dark, quirky, clever, and controversial, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been nominated for seven academy awards this year. Like “The Shape of Water,” nominated for a whopping 13, its protagonist is a powerless, justice-seeking female up against an unsympathetic patriarchal system. In this case, the villain is not the U.S. military, but a small town, good-old-boy police force. Both plots are driven by the archetypal hero/ine vs. villain theme punctuated with racism, violence, and abuse of power.

Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother whose teen-aged daughter was raped then set afire. Angry at local authorities who haven’t solved the murder, she rents three unused billboards and puts up an accusatory message to sheriff Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson. In the face of animosity and threats from several fellow citizens, especially the racist, mama’s-boy police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), she persists in calling attention to her cause. As tension and emotions ramp up in a series of unexpected events, viewers discover that in this battle between good and evil, the lines aren’t as clearly drawn as we might prefer.

Original as this film is, at bottom, its theme is archetypal. Consider the ancient Greek myth about the Earth Mother goddess Demeter and her beloved young daughter, Persephone. Carol S. Pearson’s latest book, Persephone Rising, contains an insightful explanation of the same psychological forces which continue to influence us and our culture today.

In the myth, innocent Persephone gathers flowers in a field when Hades erupts through a cleft in the earth and abducts (and some say rapes) her. When Demeter realizes her beloved daughter is gone, she is overwhelmed with grief. After getting no help from the gods who, fearing retribution from Zeus, refuse to tell her what happened to her daughter, she sets aside her responsibilities for making the crops grow and searches the earth tirelessly. While Demeter grieves, all growth on earth ceases, then dies. As Dr. Pearson notes, Demeter’s recognition that her needs matter too result in the “first ever recorded sit-down strike.”

Zeus — the Father/King of the gods and prototype of patriarchy’s top dog whose power trumps everyone else’s — is not happy about this.  It was he, Persephone’s father, who had given Hades permission to take her to the underworld in the first place. But if the famine kills the humans, who will build his temples? Who will worship him with gifts and offerings? So this macho, uncompromising thunder God relents and demands Persephone’s release. Demeter’s non-violent protest works.

But will Mildred’s protest work? Will it stay non-violent? Our dualistic mindsets want a hero to celebrate, a scapegoat to blame, a heretic to crucify. But these people are not polar opposites like virtuous princes and wicked witches. They are complex, multi-faceted human beings grappling with complex issues and powerful emotions that aren’t easy to reconcile.

The gods and goddesses represent amoral, instinctual forces in all of us. At bottom, this is who we are. You and I contain every emotion they feel, and we are capable of being gripped by them to commit every act they do, good and bad. The only difference between them and us is that we humans want to be virtuous so we make rules for ourselves, try to keep them, and disown our shadow sides that want to break them. But sometimes they show up anyway.

Mildred’s daughter has been taken from her and she deserves justice, but can we condone her increasingly questionable tactics? We might likewise ask, how can Demeter, supposedly an endlessly loving and forgiving Mother goddess, let humanity starve to death just to get her daughter back? Does her grief justify her means?

Seeing unsuspected sides of Sheriff Willoughby and officer Dixon is equally unsettling. Why isn’t Willoughby putting more effort into pursuing the culprit? Is he indifferent to Mildred’s suffering? Why does he let Dixon — one of those ignorant Warrior bullies we love to hate — get away with his senseless cruelty toward a man less powerful than he? Are these people redeemable?

Demeter gets her daughter back from the underworld, at least for part of every year. But though Mildred has some admirable goddess qualities, she is not a goddess, and no matter how much she acts like one her daughter will never return. Is there a human force strong enough to reconcile her fierce Demeter hunger for justice? Dixon, like Zeus and Ares, the God of War, savagely punishes people he hates. Will Mildred become like him? And if she does, will this cancel out any vestiges of human goodness left in her?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark, disturbing film, but I loved it for highlighting human complexity and prompting these and other difficult questions. It is the function of artists and art to raise a culture’s awareness. To challenge our either-or morality. To explore the gray realm between opposites in which a creative third force can emerge to reconcile our divisiveness. I love it that this film is being honored for rising to this challenge.

But I loved the dreamy, fairy-tale quality of The Shape of Water too. This leaves me with another question. Which one do I want to win the Oscar for best picture? This is a complex issue I haven’t reconciled yet.

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.


Partnership Between the King and Queen: The Sovereign November 16, 2012

The King and Queen archetypes are the primary authorities of our psyches and societies. We know of their existence because projections of them have ruled civilizations throughout human history.  If they were not part of our psychological makeup, we would not need to create them in the world. These archetypes cause people everywhere to choose and obey moral authorities who (we hope) will protect us, govern us, nurture our development, and enable us and our progeny to thrive.

Our need to create order and virtue in our social groups is a reflection of our need to develop these qualities in ourselves.  Indeed, civilization is a mirror that continuously shows us images of the myriad archetypal energies and potentials within us.  What we see in the mirror depends on the status of our inner worlds.  How we feel about the people and events we attract, and to which we are attracted, depends on how we feel about ourselves.

Occasionally, an unusually courageous and virtuous individual attracts our admiration: someone who represents the good, who stands up for what s/he believes, who speaks out against social injustice, who leads and inspires others to nurture the weak and right the wrongs;  someone like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, or Mother Teresa.  We know these people are not perfect.  Being mere mortals, they can’t be. Yet their lives take on mythic proportions because they embody living manifestations of archetypal energies lying latent in us.

People like this personify the Sovereign archetype which matures in one who is learning to blend and balance the energies of the mature King and Queen. The Sovereign, a symbol of their partnership, is an autonomous, powerful, and independent leader and ruler who understands and accepts his or her authority and moral responsibility and, through example, inspires others to do the same.

The moral authority of the Sovereign is based on a personal commitment to the King’s goal of universal justice and the Queen’s, of universal love. From the font of their combined energies flows right action that is not rigid and unyielding, but fluid, like a river of fresh water that weaves through our daily routines. Here we work to effect universal justice, there we defend our rights and the rights of those around us.  Here we respectfully follow rules and traditions that create and maintain order, there we challenge those which disregard conscience and caring.

Examples of people with mature Sovereigns are the self-reflective mothers and fathers who nurture virtue and character in their progeny. They are the teachers, principals, community protectors and benefactors, CEO’s, attorneys, judges, county and state officials and representatives, prime ministers, presidents and ambassadors who preserve and transmit traditions of truth, justice and mercy to ensure the generativity, productivity, comfort, safety, and survival of the next generation.

The Sovereign likewise promotes the healthy empowerment of our souls and spirits so that we may be free to express our individual genius. Like an officer of the law, it works to create order and virtue in us. Like a judge, it weighs evidence and corrects unhealthy imbalances.  Like a loving parent, it accepts us as we are while encouraging us to develop our potential, knowing that our masculine and feminine sides, conscious and unconscious selves, and egos and shadows are all parts of the whole, free, healthy and unique individuals we are meant to become.

How well-developed is your Sovereign?  Who carries your image of the Sovereign in the outer world? How can you become more like him or her?

You can purchase Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link or


Healing Arizona: Embodying the Queen’s Light January 15, 2011

The tragedy in Arizona last weekend has us all wondering. Why did this happen? Why were good, innocent people victimized by this senseless violence? How could it have been prevented ? As one who always looks for a psychological reason, I’d like to share what I know about the King and Queen archetypes. As symbols of humanity’s universal striving for lawful order and moral virtue, they hold the answers to these questions.

The King sees justice as the highest good and believes it can be achieved with logical thinking and hierarchical authority. Leaders with well-developed King archetypes devise, enact, and enforce rules with orderly chains of command. In history, literature and lore, a strong and wise king blesses the land with safety, peace, and prosperity whereas a weak and ignorant one ruins it.

The Queen’s highest priority is to establish caring relationships. She values compassion, harmony, peace, flexibility, understanding, mercy and forgiveness. She promotes charity, tolerates diversity, and supports the creative arts. She nurtures communities in which authority is shared by all and decisions are based on the particulars of each situation and best interests of each individual.

These two approaches to building a fair and orderly society produce different leadership styles and forms of government. King energy generates authoritarian systems like monarchies, plutocracies, theocracies and dictatorships. Queen energy nurtures the authority of individuals and creates democracies in which everyone has a voice and a vote.  Leaders with this preference work one-on-one with people in the trenches — like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was meeting her constituents in a grocery store when she was shot. The key to personal and societal health is integration and balance between both leadership styles. When either one is undeveloped or obsessive the result is polarization, prejudice, hatred, fanaticism, violence, terrorism, chaos.

Throughout history humanity has obsessed over the King’s priorities and neglected the Queen’s. Jesus challenged Roman imperialism by promoting love and equality for all and was killed for it. Lincoln, Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King did the same with the same consequence. What meaning can we draw from this regarding recent events in Arizona? I do not believe the people in Arizona died in vain. I believe that in this world where everything is connected, everything that happens has meaning. The meaning is not that God causes or even allows atrocities, but that we humans cause and allow them because of our psycho-spiritual ignorance and unconsciousness.

Like all martyrs, those who lost their lives last weekend gave the ultimate gift of love by showing us our collective blindness to the Queen’s values, our deafness to her voice, and the fear and hatred in our hearts. An overwhelming surge of consciousness has been raised by this tragedy, and it will create more compassion. You and I can add to it by fanning Queen Sophia’s flame in the dark caverns of our souls so that we become guiding lights for a wounded world. May we all look deeper to see how we contribute to the chaos and suffering that always precedes new life, and may we grow wiser and more compassionate in the process. My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the fallen.


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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