Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Transcendent Function January 3, 2017

gothicrayonnantrose003In the almost 7 years since I began Matrignosis, I’ve written much more about depth psychology than what I would call ‘depth spirituality.’ Perhaps because I’ve been doing in-depth studies of Jungian psychology for 27 years and feel more comfortable about my knowledge and experience of it.  Perhaps because I have no formal credentials on the subject of religion and so have left writing about it to those who do.

Either way, I’ve only hinted at depth spirituality and its connection to depth psychology, shared a few meaningful religious experiences, and occasionally addressed mysticism and religion. Yet, depth spirituality is a passion of mine and I’m feeling compelled to write more about it. So here goes.

I’ve been deeply spiritual since the age of 17 when I experienced an epiphany about some Bible verses and eagerly answered an altar call at a Billy Graham Crusade shortly afterwards. Perhaps it started before that, when, at the age of 10, I was encouraged by my Baptist paternal grandmother to kneel beside my bed and invite Jesus into my heart. Or did it happen a few months later when my minister immersed me in the baptismal font at the First Christian Church we attended?

Maybe my spiritual spark ignited when, around the age of 5, I experienced awe and wonder on a walk with my father beneath the cathedral-like canopy of a forest? Or was it earlier still at age 3 when I was lost and alone on the shores of Lake Michigan, following a faraway light that twinkled through the darkness like a star?

Regardless of when it awakened, I know for certain it didn’t begin to deepen until midlife. That’s when I experienced a crisis of faith which caused painful internal conflicts between known and previously unknown parts of myself. Gradually, taking these conflicts seriously and exploring them over a long period of time transformed my old God image of a distant and aloof heavenly father into a sacred, genderless, benevolent force which was real, present, and life-changing.

Carl Jung, whose father was a minister, experienced a similar crisis which activated the same compulsion to understand himself and participate in the Mystery of life. He called this compulsion the ‘transcendent function.’

The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the ‘transcendent function’…. This function progressively unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.

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In fact, people have been encountering the transcendent function for thousands of years. Here’s what happens. Consciousness is born when we become self-aware: when we see ourselves objectively and realize we can make original choices instead of conforming and being buffeted about by unknown forces. We start out believing these forces are outside of us, in nature, other people, gods. We grow by acknowledging that they are in us, and that we project them outward to avoid taking responsibility for who we really are.

It is we who create our religions, our cultural standards, our wars, our beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad. This good/bad opposition is the source of our internal and external conflicts. We have no control over the transcendent function or when—or if—it kicks in. But if and when it does, everything changes.

The transcendent function does not proceed without aim and purpose, but leads to the revelation of the essential man. It is in the first place a purely natural process, which may in some cases pursue its course without the knowledge or assistance of the individual, and can sometimes forcibly accomplish itself in the face of opposition. The meaning and purpose of the process is the realization, in all its aspects, of the personality originally hidden away in the embryonic germ-plasm; the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, par. 780.

Self-discovery is the basis of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Taoism and the mystical traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Some practices that lead to self-discovery are introspection, meditation, contemplation, centering prayer, dreamwork, body work, active imagination, journaling, psychotherapy, art, and so on.

Our choice to explore our unconscious selves is where East meets West and Soul meets Spirit. Working together in partnership toward understanding, union and love, our divided selves can eventually merge into One. This transforming process is both depth psychology and depth spirituality. It is where Life wants to take us.

great_temple_at_honan_cantonBy means of the transcendent function we not only gain access to the ‘One Mind’ but also come to understand why the East believes in the possibility of self-liberation. If, through introspection and the conscious realization of unconscious compensations, it is possible to transform one’s mental condition and thus arrive at a solution of painful conflicts, one would seem entitled to speak of ‘self-liberation’. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, par. 784.

Image Credits: Rayonnat Gothic rose window of north transept, Notre-Dame de Paris (window was created by Jean de Chelles on the 13th century). Great Temple at Honan, Canton. (Hoi Tong Monastery on Henan Island in GuangzhouChina). Wikimedia Commons.  Quote image courtesy of Lewis LaFontaine.

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 Two Sides of Surrender December 13, 2016

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull

The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull

After last week’s post Susan wrote:

“Thank you Jeanie so much – a powerful post. Commitment to feeling our experiences, bearing our own cross and the surrender to that. I remember many years ago being very badly burned by steam on my right wrist while cooking something on the stove. I HAD to move on – there were pressing things that needed my immediate attention (it’s a long story so I’ll just give the bones of it). While I was waiting in the car later on wondering how in hell I was ever going to bear this, I also wondered how those being tortured would ever be able to withstand the pain. What went through their minds? What was it that they withstood their pain if they could? Did they surrender to that – the pain? Should I just surrender to it? I did, and the pain was GONE. I will never forget this … a true miracle …”

In a culture which idealizes competition and winning, the possibility that there could be positive side to surrender is difficult to accept. Through our ego’s dualistic, good/bad, win/lose lens, surrender is viewed in the context of a heroic battle. From this perspective it’s bad enough to lose a war, contest, or athletic event when you’ve tried your hardest, but surrendering is out of the question.  Giving up is a sign of weakness. A character flaw. A failure. A shameful loss of face.

But this is not the only way of seeing surrender. Occasionally, something unexplainable happens and our perspective changes.

The indispensable condition is that you have an archetypal experience, and to have that means that you have surrendered to life. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 972

Susan’s story suggests this different way of looking at surrender. A healthy way that promotes healing. A way taught throughout history by Sages, Spirit Persons, mystics, and psychological giants like Carl Jung.  A way not directed to the outer world, but to the universe within. Few of us discover this way until a time comes in our inner life when our heroic struggle to stay in control and press on regardless only increases our suffering. This happens when we’ve focused overlong on outer-world forms of success while ignoring the conflicting inner forms that our heart and soul require.

800px-white_flagAs long as we ignore the fact that our outer and inner goals are in conflict, our suffering will continue. Because all the money, fame, status, prestige, public and parental approval we’ve struggled to attain isn’t making us happy. And because admitting we’ve ‘failed’ to achieve the happiness we long for is too painful. So we do everything in our power to repress the realities of our hearts and souls, and that only exacerbates our suffering.

So what heals it?  What brings the “real” solution? Surrender. To the realities of our heart and soul. To the fact that we hurt and need help. That we’re miserable. That we want to make a change but are afraid of making a terrible mistake. And to every other reality we’ve hidden behind our persona of having it all together.

A religious conversation is inevitable with the devil, since he demands it, if one does not want to surrender to him unconditionally. ~Carl Jung, Liber Novus, Page 261

But this way requires extreme caution. Because like everything else, surrender is dualistic: God’s way and the Devil’s way. There are helpful and harmful ways to surrender. And it all depends on the impulses to which you surrender.

Unhealthy surrender succumbs to powerful forces from within and without that tempt you to give up living your own life or act out in negative ways. Unhealthy surrender allows others to take responsibility for your life. You stop growing, following your passions, developing your gifts, searching for your unique destiny.  Negative surrender wallows in disappointment and self-hatred. It sinks in lethargy, drowns in hopelessness.  And it can cause great damage to others in the process. For example, surrendering to your ego’s hatred and revenge by being cruel to others is no solution because your ability to give and receive love is harmed in the process.

Healthy surrender is an act of courage in which you face your suffering. Positive surrender relinquishes your ego’s need to squelch your inner realities. It gives up trying to control people and situations. It stops fighting your heart’s need for feeling, compassion and understanding, your soul’s need for creativity, passion and meaning. It gives up your ego’s pursuit of unfulfilling goals in the outer world and attends to your child’s need for love and intimacy. Positive surrender frees you to live to the fullest with all the life energy you have at your disposal without wasting it on denial, escapism or self-hatred.

450px-guiding_angel_-_tiffany_glass__decorating_company_c__1890Healthy surrender is not a victim’s descent into lethargy. It is a warrior’s ascent to compassionate action which causes the least possible harm to others. It requires a warrior’s focus, self-discipline, and self-examination. It requires patience to consider each step carefully before taking it.  Flexibility to walk a tightrope between opposites. Restraint until you acquire the wisdom to know what must be done. And accepting responsibility for the pain you cause others when you do it.

Numinosity, however, is wholly outside conscious volition, for it transports the subject into the state of rapture, which is a state of will-less surrender. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 383.

I know the healing way of surrender is available, but I don’t know why it comes to some and not others. Perhaps Susan’s story provides a clue. Perhaps a commitment to feeling empathy and compassion for the pain of others is a prerequisite. Maybe we have to take the first step.

Image credits:  Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull,  Angels for You, White Flag, all from Wikimedia Commons. Jung Quotes: Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine.

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.

 

Have You Ever Met a Mystic? July 14, 2015

mysticism5Please do not let the word “mystic” scare you. It simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. All spiritual traditions agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and available to everyone. The experience of divine union is the goal of all religion.  ~Richard Rohr, Catholic Theologian and author of The Naked Now:  Learning to See as the Mystics See. (pp. 29-30.)

Have you ever had what felt like a “religious experience?”  Something that filled you with awe and wonder and made you feel you were in the presence of the Divine? Perhaps it came in physical form, like a wildly improbable synchronistic experience; a wave of chills that came while listening to a beautiful hymn; seeing an aura around a person; or feeling a powerful surge of energy in your body that couldn’t be explained by science. Maybe it was an extraordinarily meaningful dream, vision of light, sudden knowing, or spiritual awakening. Or you stepped onto a forest glade or mountain peak with a view that stopped you in your tracks and brought tears of appreciation and gratitude to your eyes. If you’ve experienced these or similar things, you’re not alone.

Throughout history, revered spiritual leaders such as Lao Tsu, Jesus, Buddha, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Mother Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Hasidei Ashkenaz, Rumi, Ibn Arabi, and countless ordinary people have reported spontaneous mystical experiences.  Documented religious experiences have also been induced by a variety of hallucinogens for millennia.

Either way, mystical experiences are not only real, but surprisingly common.  Why?  They’re simply evidence of the benevolent life-giving and life-sustaining Divinity that indwells every one of us, that permeates our minds and physical bodies, that is the very substance of which we are made. What should be more surprising than having a mystical experience is not having one!

Unfortunately, the idea that we can each find a direct and personal pathway to the Divine is still considered blasphemous by many adherents to mainstream religions.  And when hallucinogens are used to induce mystical experiences, world governments get involved in banning them. This, despite the fact that a rigorous study with clearly explicated methods was conducted in clinical conditions at John Hopkins university in 2006 with astonishing and highly beneficial results that

“may re-define our mutual human history as it’s been indoctrinated into billions of humans across the planet.  Not just one of two participants spoke of having an ineffable mystical experience;  it was 79% of the 36 participants who underwent the study…. That’s truly an astounding and inarguable number.”

As one writer reports, a follow-up in 2011

“appeared in the June 2011 issue of Psychopharmacology entitled Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: immediate and persisting dose-related effects“. Personally, I feel it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever read.  How often do any of us get to read something that speaks directly to the human psyche in relation of our experience of the mystical in such a scientific and clinical environment, but while recounting it in such personally spiritual terms?”

Now here’s the kicker:

“This study unquestionably and undeniably validates what shamans and spiritual explorers throughout history have known, what they’ve often shared at the risk of incarceration or death, but have painstakingly documented throughout history: The Psilocybe mushroom, a hallucinogen, can provide any one of us with an extraordinary, life-changing mystical experience that is indistinguishable from any other religious experience reported in our mutual human history.  What is perhaps more extraordinary is that the participants in this study didn’t just have a spiritual experience; the ingestion of these hallucinogenic mushrooms “produced substantial spiritual effects” and “those beneficial effects appear to last more than a year” (Griffiths et. al., 2008). In other words, here we have an example of scientifically proven religion, a spirituality that, rather than being in conflict with the rational, is supported by it.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not pushing a particular agenda for drug reform, despite the obvious need.  And I know the difference between entheogens—a term meaning “to reveal the Divine within” that belongs to a category of substances used for Divinatory purposes—and dangerous and life-threatening drugs like cocaine and heroin. It’s just that my goal in this blog is to serve evolving consciousness and empower individuals to discover spiritual meaning for themselves, and I’m not going to avoid doing so just because it requires us to challenge outmoded laws, belief systems and institutions.

My point is simply that we don’t have to blindly follow doctrines, religions, or spiritual authorities to connect with God!  Nor should we, unless they serve our growth into compassion and expanding consciousness.  Rather, we can listen to and learn from our own inner spiritual authority, which can be developed with reflective and meditative spiritual practices. Each of us knows what’s truly Sacred in the depths of our being, and that inner knowing, that actual inner experience of holiness, is available to everyone.

Have you ever met a mystic?  You have if you or anyone else you know has had an individual “religious” experience of divine union that s/he trusts over collective attitudes and institutions. If so, I invite you to share your story here.

Image Credit:  Google Images.  “Contemplation” Nathan Jon Tillett 2003 http://www.Fuzzy Planet.co.uk

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.

 

Written in the Stars September 23, 2014

 

JungonspiritandmatterIt would have been so easy to overlook the coincidences between two old photographs and the recent dream I wrote about in the last two posts. But because I took them seriously, I received an important gift: a more integrated perspective on the Mystery of life.  And not just my life, but life in general.

For example, I get the ancient adage, “As above, so below,” because I’ve experienced the intimate relationships between Spirit and Matter in so many synchronicities. These two apparent opposites work together in meaningful coincidences, and I know it.

But until now I never quite saw the same harmonious Spirit-Matter connection in the saying, “the story of our lives is written in the stars.” To me this sounded suspiciously like the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination:  the belief that an omnipotent, punishing, Biblical, Outer/Other/God “freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass.” And that “God appointed the eternal destiny of some to salvation by grace, while leaving the remainder to receive eternal damnation for all their sins, even their original sin.”  In other words, if you’re happy but I’m suffering it’s because you’ve been good and I’ve been bad and God likes you better than me! Really?  So God’s nothing more than Santa Claus?

I don’t accept that. In fact, I think this belief and the dogma of original sin are two of the most toxic ideas religious institutions ever perpetrated. In forcing these beliefs on us they have sown fear and guilt and created untold suffering.

In thinking about this I realized that what I do accept is that life is a journey of tragic and unjust experiences over which no one, not even that punishing God-image, has any control. But it is also an extraordinary Holy phase of humanity’s journey to the Mystery we call God. In that respect, I believe the true story written in the stars is not about cause and effect, but about a loving and compassionate aspect of Spirit, metaphorically symbolized by the sacred spark of wise Sophia, that has indwelt every soul from the beginning of time.

I believe Sophia knows who we are, what we need, and what our journey through life is all about. From her dwelling in the unconscious she sends messages to all of us via dreams, synchronicities, intuitions and other subtle prompts. These truths of our souls are the substance of every myth ever told and every religion ever initiated by every authentic spirit person. They show us our true natures and help us journey to our true Home:  Benevolent Consciousness.

This is what it’s all about. Benevolent consciousness creating more Benevolent Consciousness. This state of awareness is the holy destiny of every soul.  To attain it we don’t need to believe in creeds.  All we need to do is notice everything that happens to us and look for the Soul’s mythic meaning beneath.

God always speaks mythologically.”

Carl Jung, Letters, vol. 2, pg. 9.

I believe this because I can’t deny the evidence of my experiences or the knowing in my heart.  I see now that at the age of 10 I was on the threshold of a spiritual journey which was, indeed, “written in the stars.” I was always meant to take this journey and so were you. This, as author Phil Cousineau calls it in his new book of the same name, is The Oldest Story in the World, the story of the human soul’s evolution into consciousness.

I don’t expect you to believe this just because I’m saying it.  Consciousness-raising insights only come through personal experiences, and the experience I shared in the last two posts was meant for me. But if you yearn for similar experiences, my suggestion would be to view the story of your life through mythic eyes which see the symbolic meaning of everything that has ever happened to you and ever will.

The day after I wrote the above, the following quote arrived in my mailbox from a blog I subscribe to titled SymbolReader. It so beautifully summarized what I was trying to say (another beautiful synchronicity), that I knew I needed to share it here:

“I suddenly realized that … everything actually was all-meaningful, that every symbol and combination of symbols led not hither and yon, not to single examples, experiments, and proofs, but into the center, the mystery and innermost heart of the world, into primal knowledge. Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created.”

Hermann Hesse, “The Glass Beads Game”

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Breaking Through to the One Thing September 14, 2010

“What is the [survival] value of the feminine within men? The masculine within women?” asked author and Spirit Warrior  William Horden after reading  a recent post.  Here’s my best answer for now.

Consider these examples from Nature:  single-celled organisms and many plants and fungi reproduce all by themselves. Even some invertebrates and less advanced vertebrates such as amphibians and reptiles do not need a male parent. In the absence of males female turkeys can produce fertile eggs, and there are two known cases in which female sharks, raised in captivity without males, produced offspring genetically identical to their mothers.

The more advanced, multicellular and sentient forms of life, however, require two parents. Biologists think sexual reproduction may create more genetic diversity which helps organisms adapt to changing environments. Thus, life on Earth evolves from simple to complex, vulnerability to strength, self-preservation to species-preservation, and, most relevant to our question, unconscious to conscious. And the single most important factor influencing this direction is mutual cooperation between complementary pairs.

There is an inherent connection between the evolution of Nature and the evolution of Mind, or Spirit.  An ancient mystical saying says it this way, “As above, so below.” The original text reads, “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.”  This means there is some unifying Plan, Intention, Mind, Source, Force, Ground of Being or One Thing whose laws govern both the metaphysical and physical universes. It also means the One thing needs both halves to accomplish its miracle. And what is the miracle?  Creating new, ever more complex and conscious life.

The Above half, Spirit (mind and consciousness), usually has been equated with “masculine” and the Below half, Matter (the body and the unconscious) with “feminine” which has led to damaging stereotypes. But these terms are not about gender roles or sexuality. They refer to the two modes of energy the creative drive takes everywhere, whether Above or Below. The ultimate reality is that if life is to continue to evolve in accordance with the Plan, or One Thing, there must be cooperation between masculinity and femininity at all levels: Above and Below, without and within, consciously and unconsciously, spiritually and psychologically.

Psychologically, we associate each half of the creative drive with specific qualities and locate them all in the Self.  As long as our egos are unaware or unaccepting of large portions of either half, we cannot fulfill our basic purpose or experience our greatest joy: to create.  But when we recognize that every quality we associate with masculinity and femininity indwells us, we break through the shell of dualistic thinking. The scales drop from our eyes, our creative potential is released, and we experience a blissful sense of oneness with the ultimate creative force: the One Thing. In alchemy, this enlightened state was known as the hieros gamos or Sacred Marriage.  (Next time I’ll share a dream about it.)

William concluded that, “… [the] sole purpose [of men having a feminine side and women having a masculine side] is individual well-being. It fulfills us to be able to incorporate our own opposite-complement.” Yes it does.  Why? Because this is how we unite the Above and Below and claim our divine inheritance.  Thanks for the inspiration for this post, William.  Thanks also to RamOsinghal for his reminders that all is divine.

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

 

Sophia’s Way August 17, 2010

Sophia, the Wisdom of God, has always been acknowledged in sacred writings. In the Septuagint Old Testament, the oldest translation of the Hebrew Bible, she is a central figure in six of the seven wisdom books: The Wisdom of Solomon, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Ecclesiasticus. Although Sophia’s mystical path to inner knowing has not been preached to the multitudes for the past 2,000 years, today it is returning to our awareness.

In 1987 Jean Houston wrote in The Search for the Beloved, “Denied and repressed for thousands of years, the goddess archetype returns at a time when the breakdown of the old story leaves us desperate for love, for security for protection, for meaning. It leaves us yearning for a nurturing and cultivation of our whole being, that we might be adequate stewards of the planetary culture.”

As people who are finding Sophia for themselves can tell you, her Way is riddled with mystery and paradox. For example, each seeker, whether supported by a group or not, travels alone, yet increasingly experiences not separation, but reconciliation: between conscious and unconscious, self and other, mind and body, masculine and feminine, God the Father and God the Mother. Ultimately Sophia’s Way leads to union with everyone and everything, including the Mystery. Why? Because the essence of the sacred feminine is connection and relationship.

Here’s another paradox: As you move into your own unknown territory, the more lost you get the more found you feel. The inner path leads to a joyful reunion with the lovely sense of wonder, mystery, and meaning most of us had as children and lost as adults. This is a most extraordinary gift, especially during the second half of life, for against all expectations we find that while we were gradually losing our youth and physical power we were gaining something far more precious and lasting: the ability to live from our authentic Self. Why? Because to discover the sacred feminine is to discover the neglected and forgotten half of the Self.

A third paradox: As you grow more introspective on the inward spiritual journey, your perspective on life grows more expansive. This speaks to the common misconception that taking oneself seriously through self-study is somehow selfish, self-indulgent, or self-centered. In fact, the contrary is true: The better you know and love yourself, the more you feel and express love for others. Why? Because the sacred feminine’s form of love is not a mental ideal but a physical and emotional reality.

My latest discovery is that the more reverence you acquire for your internal, metaphysical universe, the more you experience the sacredness of the external, physical one. Why? Because Sophia is the sacred essence of life, both within and without.

The final paradox is that while we have to discover these truths for ourselves, we can claim absolutely no credit for them. As the Right Reverend Larry Maze says in Issue 17 of  The Rose, in an article titled “Jung and the Inner Mystic,” “…Wisdom that is truly Wisdom has always been Wisdom and will always be Wisdom…Wisdom is the stuff of being consciously alive in the world. Indeed, Wisdom is the universe being alive with meaning.”

I’ll have more to say about meaning soon. Meanwhile, you might want to ask yourself what gives your life meaning. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.

 

 
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