Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Gated Religions December 27, 2011

For many years, literal belief in the doctrines of my religion (Christianity) was enough to satisfy my spiritual hunger. But the strain of containing my beliefs in a tightly enclosed, left-brained compartment labeled “Religion” while repeatedly coming up against a Mystery that encompasses the entire universe eventually wore me down. At the age of 37 my ego waved a white flag and surrendered its need to feel safe and in control. In leaving the gated community of my religion, I entered a Dark Night of the Soul that lasted nine years.

I returned from the desert with a new way of seeing and living. My mind had been redirected from needing correct belief to seeking truth; from preparing for an afterlife to living now; from pretending and pleasing to being authentic; from defending a God-image of judgment, exclusivity and stasis to embracing a God-image of inclusiveness, openness and change. When I could no longer go to church without getting a stomach ache, I stopped attending. I was by no means rejecting the Mystery, but only a local and, to my way of thinking, painfully confining way of connecting with it with which I no longer felt at home.

Sometimes I’ve been angry at organized religion but I’ve kept most of my thoughts and feelings to myself; partly because I didn’t want to offend or mislead anyone who finds hope and healing in their faith, and partly because I’m simply more comfortable with affirming than critiquing. But there’s also a deeper reason: I’ve been afraid of the backlash. Ultra conservative elements of all three patriarchal religions have a long history of persecuting “heretics,” and frankly, the rabid religious intimidate me with their polarizing prejudices; their obsessive self-righteous anger; their intolerance and lack of compassion; their willingness to turn on those who question their fear-based practices and beliefs; their ability to fire up masses of devoted followers who support them blindly; their indifference to the pain and injustice their inner Nazis inflict.

Peace-loving Muslims are getting a lot of flak these days for not speaking out against violent Islamic groups but are they any different from me? It would be easy to point fingers at them, but wouldn’t a more effective use of my energy be to address the destructive forces in my own religious community? How can I self-righteously blame members of a religion I know nothing about for failing to speak out against their fanatics when I’ve been afraid to speak out against mine? Isn’t that what Jesus meant when he criticized hypocrites for pointing out the motes in others’ eyes while ignoring the beams in their own? As my six-year-old granddaughter would say in mock exasperation, “Peepuhl! What are we thinking?”

When it comes to religion, many of us are not thinking, at least not with both sides of our brains. We’re reacting instinctively and emotionally. We want the approval of our tribes. We want to stay safe. And so we shut down the inner other who yearns for a freer, more authentic, inclusive and compassionate way to celebrate the sacred miracle of life, and we shut out others who are different. But we should be just as afraid of ourselves and our exclusive communities as of outsiders. The real enemy lives within our gates and the true work begins at home, in the place we know best and where we have the most influence.

The world is in trouble. If there was ever a time to think psychologically and live spiritually, it’s now. If there was ever a place to start, it’s with ourselves.

 

The Secret Meaning of Christmas December 23, 2011

Imagine our surprise when, on our trip to Indochina last fall, our group of travelers arrived in Saigon in early December to find it decorated for Christmas! Windows of one major department store were topped with thick mounds of carved styrofoam snow. Our hotel lobby held a giant blue Christmas tree and a life-sized Santa Claus who swiveled his hips while he sang “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” When I asked our guide why a mostly Buddhist country celebrates Christmas in such a big way, he replied, “Christmas is universal now. It’s all about shopping.”

That’s pretty much what it’s about for many Westerners too, along with decorating our homes, reuniting with loved ones, preparing special foods and exchanging gifts. Amidst all the bustle I wonder how many of us actually experience the love, joy and peace that is the promise of Christmas, or profoundly connect with its underlying meaning. And what is that meaning? To understand it we need the symbolic language of mythos.

The Christmas story takes place in a stable filled with animals at the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of year. Throughout the world, a common association for the symbol of darkness is our own instinctual animal nature and all the ignorance, chaos, and moral irresponsibility that goes with it. Psychologically, this setting is a reference to unconsciousness, the state in which we all begin our lives and often end them as well.

The plot centers around a virgin who gives birth to a baby boy. Virgins and babies symbolize innocence and the abundance of undeveloped possibilities, like the pure state of a soul ready to receive Spirit. Birth represents new life with its potential for growth. And is there significance in the fact that the baby is a boy? Yes. Mary, like the Hindu goddess Durga, symbolizes the feminine source of all energy, and Jesus represents an extraordinarily hopeful new masculine form of ego-life that has manifested from the maternal matrix. From a psychological perspective, the significance of Jesus is that 2,000 years ago he introduced into the Middle-Eastern world an unprecedented (for that place and time) new capacity for a deeply personal, intimate experience of the Great Mystery of life.

At the end of the story three (the number of forward movement that overcomes duality) kings (the masculine principle, sovereignty, and worldly power) arrive after a long and arduous trek from the Far East. Guided by a star, (stars are attributes of all Queens of Heaven and represent the highest attainment, the presence of divinity, hope and light), they bring rare and precious gifts for the tiny baby. The kings symbolize the hard work of individuation and the religious outlook of unified consciousness it brings. This way of being sees the sacredness in everything and reveres every form of life down to the smallest and seemingly least important. Finally, the word Christ is a translation from the Hebrew word messiah. A messiah is a redeemer, someone who will improve the state of humanity and the world.

Like the myths of every religion, the value of this story does not hinge on external fact, but psychological truth. Christ mass celebrates a momentous evolutionary leap forward in consciousness from a primitive, instinctual, self-serving survival mentality into an advanced self-awareness capable of self-control and compassionate living. The secret meaning of Christmas is this:  

Like the spirit man Jesus, you and I can experience a rebirth into an expanded level of consciousness capable of  improving the state of humanity and the world!

May the enlightenment of your mind be quickened during this holiday season, and may the love in your heart be abundant and overflowing.  Merry Christmas.

 

The True Hero’s Journey December 20, 2011

At the age of ten I dreamed the Lone Ranger shot me. This big dream about my hero was more real than any other I’ve ever had. I was devastated to think he hated me so much he wanted to kill me and I couldn’t understand why. I had practically worshiped him, his beautiful horse Silver, and his trusty partner Tonto; yet he shot me! The injustice of this was intolerable!

One thing I’ve come to understand is that this dream spoke to my childhood image of God as a heroic male and my growing sense that I was unworthy because I was a female. In 195o’s America God was a He, history was still about males, and females could not be bosses, ministers, presidents or heroes.

That new awareness was very painful to my ten-year-old heart, and I tried my best to suppress it for many years; but ultimately, belatedly, it forced me to take myself as seriously as I took my loved ones, to search for my truths, and to connect with God in ways that were personally meaningful instead of entrusting this most crucial of my soul’s tasks to others — especially others who did not value me because of my gender. It also inspired my creativity. My struggle to understand and empower femininity and the feminine side of the Sacred Mystery is at the core of everything I write.

A second message of this dream was the inevitability of death. While being alone most of the time I wasn’t in school or church seemed normal to me at ten, my dream said that unconsciously I was feeling very vulnerable and insecure. I could be left alone to make my way through a dangerous world, I could be victimized, I could die. When my father died a few months later this suspicion became a certainty and my trust in my hero/God was shattered. Apparently I knew something no one else did: the heavenly hero everyone thought of as perfect was secretly untrustworthy, unjust and cruel.

I tried to repress this awareness too, but it was nevertheless a bedrock reality that fueled my determination to do everything I could to stay on God’s good side! Ignoring my wounded Persephone, I concentrated on developing my Athena, the brave, noble and wise defender of patriarchy! And I got pretty good at being heroic in the outer world of ambition, achievement and work.

So it was a bit of a shock to realize at mid-life was that I was copying a surface version of the hero myth  that emphasizes external trappings of power and success and ignores the inner life. Beneath the image of the independent, white-hatted cowboy on a white horse who rides off in search of bad buys to kill with his silver bullets is a much deeper meaning that is also the deeper meaning of  every authentic religion: True heroism, the kind that lasts and makes a difference in the world, is the ability to rein in the ego, lasso and befriend our shadow, learn compassion, and embolden our true Self so we can care for others in ways that are beneficial to all. In conforming to a mold that didn’t honor my inner realities I was betraying myself and the Great Mystery we call God.

Here is the message I want to convey:  We don’t have to settle for dysfunctional God-images or self-images. Acquiring the consciousness to recognize our wounds and complete our souls so we can serve our communities with compassion is the true Hero’s Journey. This is a spiritual path anyone can take.

 

What is Mysticism? April 26, 2011

Marcus Borg is a Biblical scholar and best-selling author who sees God as both transcendent and indwelling everything, a perspective called “panentheism.” (Note the second syllable, “en.”) I’ve been a fan for a long time, so when he came to Orlando recently I couldn’t wait to hear him speak, especially about “Mysticism And Why It Matters.” This is not an easy topic to write or talk about, and I was hoping for some pointers. Not only did he provide some, but he handed out summaries of his lectures and encouraged us to borrow liberally from them! In what follows I have done so. Why try to reinvent the wheel?

Borg broadly defines mysticism as being “about union with the sacred. Mystical experiences are ecstatic experiences of God/the sacred/reality/isness.” He notes that ordinary people have been guided and nurtured by these experiences for centuries. As a result, for them the Sacred Mystery is no longer an article of faith, but an element of experience.

According to William James, author of the classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, mystical experiences have two primary features. First, they bring a Sense of Union with God/the Sacred. In this non-ordinary state of consciousness the dualistic sense of being separated from the world softens, dissolves, or falls away and the world looks different. For example, it might have a radiant luminosity, or you might have visions or feel a strong inner awareness of the presence of the Sacred. The second feature is a Sense of Illumination. You might see a strange light, or feel profoundly enlightened, or have a sense of awakening from a foggy blindness, or feel that your eyes have been opened to see reality, the world, and your life differently.

James notes four additional features of such experiences: ineffability (difficulty describing them in words); transiency (they are usually only seconds or minutes long); passivity (you cannot make them happen; they just do); and noetic (meaning you have a knowing, not just a feeling.)

Because some scholars and religious authorities view mysticism negatively or consider it problematic or unimportant, it is rarely discussed. This, despite the fact that it is the foundation of the world’s religions! In Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam all the central figures — Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, the prophets, Buddha, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Mary Magdalene, Muhammad — experienced the sacred in personal, mystical ways and responded by creating religions that were in accord with the values of their particular cultures. Since then, the membership of each of these religions has contained mystics; many, quite well-known and respected even among the orthodoxy. Yet few people know it has relevance in today’s world.

The mistrust of mysticism derives from the fact that there have always been a few terribly unbalanced people whose mystical experiences lead them to do harmful things in God’s name. But know this: While the details and localized beliefs of religions vary widely, all authentic religions and Spiritual Warriors produce the same fruit: “love, compassion, a passion for God’s world.” This is the only test necessary for distinguishing between “diabolical” mystical experiences and healing ones which connect us to “what is” and empower us to help make the world a better place through love.  May we all experience more of this sacred mystery.

For more information, enjoy this video of wisewoman Jean Houston speaking about mystical awakening.

 

Crone Love April 2, 2011

Here are my associations to the dream from my previous post. I’m in a place like a Jewish kibbutz (somewhere foreign to my conscious orientation: i.e., the unconscious). I’m met by an admired professor friend (symbol of my positive anima), and three or four crones (images of the wisdom and authority of the deep feminine). I’ve brought gifts (my strong desire to connect with my unconscious contents?); but, surprisingly, the elder women give me sweet-smelling herbs and spices (symbols of the feminine, nature-based mystery wisdom which awakens the body and its senses and brings physical and spiritual healing in natural, organic ways). The dream says I know the value of these gifts and look forward to using them in the future (I want the wisdom of the Great Mother and hope to use it wisely someday).

Wait! I’ve just had a huge “Aha.” The seeds for this blog were planted some twenty years ago in this very dream! For all who have inquired about the meaning of the word, Matrignosis, the answer is in the last sentence of the above paragraph: “The dream says I know (from the Greek word, gnosis, meaning knowing or knowledge, particularly intuitive, esoteric knowledge of spiritual truths) the value of these gifts….I want the wisdom of the Great Mother (from the Latin mater > matrimonium) and hope to use it wisely someday.”

Matri. Gnosis. Matrignosis means “knowing Mother wisdom.” I consciously made up this word a little over a year ago, but hadn’t realized until now that twenty years before that Dream Mother told me via this dream that the Grandmothers were giving me gifts I would want to use some day. And I am using them. To name and write this blog! Do you see why I trust the wisdom of my dreams? My ego could never come up with this stuff all by itself. We are not alone, my friends. All we have to do is turn within where our teachers are waiting to bless us with extraordinary gifts.

Back to the dream. It ends with me crawling away through a darkened theater feeling nervous, yet confident and decisive. (Another Aha! Did this dream also inspire the title of my book, Dream Theatres of the Soul?) The way I feel in the dream describes my waking-life emotions about my new course of action. My determination to understand myself had led me to dreamwork but I felt I was breaking the Old King’s rules (the unspoken agreement of collective culture to discount femininity and the life of the unconscious) by entering this dark and foreign land, and occasionally a dream like this would show me my ego’s fear of censure.

For me, the dream’s highlight was my warm welcome from the mysterious, benevolent grandmothers. Their acknowledgment of me confirmed my worth and their gifts felt like the rarest of blessings. There were no strings, no reservations, no sense I had to behave a certain way or believe certain things to be acceptable. They were prepared for my arrival, wanted me there, loved me as I was, and offered their gifts freely.

Being known and loved by them was enormously validating. Yes, I received this assurance from a dream, but my soul doesn’t care where profound feeling originates. It entered my consciousness anyway, and I still cling to it like a lifeline, for at times I need the reminder that I am good enough and an ancient maternal Source loves me no matter what. In retrospect I believe the unconditional love of this Source is the ultimate meaning of the crones’ gifts. Perhaps even the ultimate meaning of life.

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

 

In Praise of Perseverance; In Celebration of Creativity January 29, 2011

It’s difficult to explain the connection between self-knowledge and creativity without psychological jargon getting in the way. Maybe I should start by sharing a dream.

Dream #4287 : The Check Casher

A quiet man is sitting on the curb at a roadside rest stop. I hand him a check I want him to cash for me and he gives me the requested amount plus a stack of checks I have written to him over a long period of time. He never cashed them, and all that money is still in my bank account. He did this because he wants to help me. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. He has given me twice what I asked for with no strings attached! I have been doubly blessed and am touched almost beyond words. I take his face in my hand, look him in the eyes, and sincerely say, “Thank you.”

The first thing I usually do when I work on a dream is reword it in terms of what its symbols mean to me. So I’ll begin with the roadside rest stop. Apparently I’m on a journey. For me this suggests the journey to wholeness and enlightenment.

The mysterious check casher gives and gives, full measure, pressed down and running over, with no expectation of return. I associate this quality with the Ground of our Being, the sacred benevolent Force that never stops giving and sustaining life. So I see the check casher as a symbol of the masculine side of the Self, my Spirit Warrior who shows up every day and does the work that needs doing. My work is to acquire self-knowledge and write about what I’ve learned. My Spirit Warrior helps me do that.

The money I’ve been withdrawing from my bank account by way of the check casher represents the energy, effort, motivation, determination, self-discipline and perseverance we’ve both been willing to expend on my soul’s passion. And the fact that he returned it double-fold feels like a reward for my efforts and shows me how much value he places on our work together.

I know what the reward is. Four days before I had this dream I learned that Healing the Sacred Divide, a book I’d worked on for many years, had been accepted for publication! This dream is a picture of all the help I’ve requested from the Self, all the energy I’ve put into my inner and outer work, and all the treasures of creativity and renewed energy that are the return on my investment.

My ego didn’t write this dream; I’m not that creative. Anyway, egos don’t create dreams. The Self, the source of all my energy and life and creativity does. But I, by which I mean my ego, can persist in diving into my dreams, reflecting on their meaning and writing about what I find there. Intention and persistence pay off. My regular descents into the unconscious ocean beneath my ego’s awareness over a period of many years have created what Jung called an “ego-Self axis.”  Through this connection I have met many ocean denizens and grown familiar with the terrain. It was inevitable that I would eventually discover and benefit from some of my sunken treasures.

This dream touched me almost beyond words. To the Self I can only say with all the gratitude and sincerity in me, “Thank you for being my partner on this amazing journey.” And to you who follow this blog, thank you, too, for being part of it.

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

 

The Secret Meaning of Christmas December 25, 2010

Imagine our surprise when, on our recent trip to Indochina, our group of travelers arrived in Saigon to find it decorated for Christmas! Windows of one major department store were topped with thick mounds of carved styrofoam snow. Our hotel lobby held a giant blue Christmas tree and a life-sized Santa Claus who swiveled his hips while he sang “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” When I asked our guide why a mostly Buddhist country celebrates Christmas in such a big way, he replied, “Christmas is universal now. It’s all about shopping.”

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what it’s about for many Westerners too, along with decorating our homes, reuniting with loved ones, preparing special foods and exchanging presents. Amidst all the bustle I wonder how many of us actually experience the love, joy and peace that is the promise of Christmas or profoundly connect with its underlying psycho-spiritual meaning. And what is that meaning? To find it we need to use the symbolic language of mythos.

The Christmas story takes place in a stable filled with animals at the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of year. Throughout the world, common associations for the symbol of darkness include the unconsciousness of our instinctual animal nature and all the ignorance, chaos, death, and moral irresponsibility that goes with it. Psychologically, this setting is a reference to unconsciousness, the state in which we all begin our lives and often end them as well.

The plot centers around a virgin who gives birth to a baby boy. Virgins and babies symbolize innocence and the abundance of undeveloped possibilities, like the pure state of a soul ready to receive Spirit. Birth represents new life with its potential for growth into greater maturity and wisdom. And is there significance in the fact that the baby is a boy? Yes. Remember Durga’s story from two posts back? Mary, like Durga, symbolizes the feminine source of all energy, and Jesus represents an extraordinarily hopeful new masculine form of ego-life that has manifested from the maternal matrix. From our soul’s perspective, the significance of Jesus is that 2,000 years ago he introduced into the Near-Eastern world an unprecedented (for that place and time) new capacity for an inner birth of a deeply personal, intimate experience of Spirit.

At the end of the story three (the number of forward movement that overcomes duality) kings (the masculine principle, sovereignty, and worldly power) arrive after a long and arduous trek from the Far East. Guided by a star, (stars are attributes of all Queens of Heaven and represent the highest attainment, the presence of divinity, hope and light), they bring rare and precious gifts for the tiny baby. The kings symbolize the hard work of individuation and the religious outlook of unified consciousness, a way of being that sees the sacredness in everything and reveres every form of life down to the smallest and seemingly least important.

Like the myths of every religion, the value of this story does not hinge on external fact, but psychological truth. Christ mass celebrates a momentous evolutionary leap forward in ego consciousness from a primitive, self-serving survival mentality into an advanced self-awareness capable of authentic being and compassionate living. The secret meaning of Christmas is that you and I can experience a rebirth into Christ-awareness.

May psychological and spiritual enlightenment be quickened worldwide during this holiday season, and may the love in our hearts be abundant and overflowing.  Thank you for stopping by on this most blessed day. Merry Christmas.

 

 
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