Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Wants to Be Born? March 22, 2016

Buds on our Meyer lemon tree

Buds on Our Meyer Lemon Tree

“Everything you can imagine is real.” ~Pablo Picasso

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Mother Nature is in labor once again. All winter long she’s been hibernating, gestating powerful new forms in her underground womb. Atoms and molecules have been moving around in the dark, separating and connecting, ebbing and flowing, and now she’s giving us front row seats, as she does each spring, from which to view Act IV of her Birth/Growth/Death/Rebirth passion play.

Signs of her new life are sprouting everywhere, even here in Central Florida where most of our vegetation stays green throughout winter.  On this morning’s walk I photographed tightly folded buds that will be transformed into lemons this summer, brilliant red bottlebrush blossoms still laden with unopened buds, and fresh unfurling leaves of crape myrtle trees that spent the winter naked as skeletons.

Blossoming Bottlebrush

Blossoming Bottlebrush

Where does all this new life come from?  Well, that’s the Big Question isn’t it?  The Mystery that’s always confounded us, that we have yet to solve. Humanity has always reflected on it. When our ancestors sank deep into reverie, opening their minds and suspending their judgment, images entered their awareness as they observed the creations and forces of nature. Some images were borrowed from nature;  others came from depths we still cannot fathom. Hungry for understanding, our forebears interacted imaginatively with their images, examined them from all angles, anthropomorphised them, embellished their attributes, furnished them with motives, and imagined nefarious plots until they’d created stories that satisfied their spirits and souls.

They told their stories, each culture in its own way, to the people around them, with images and themes that would captivate and instruct.  Like the 5,000 year-old story of Sumeria’s Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, who descends to the Great Below to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. Inanna…who is hung on a meat hook to rot while Ereshkigal suffers birth pangs. Inanna…who, with the help of loyal friends instructed to wait for her, is resurrected with the water of life three days later and returns to the Great Above.

Skeletal Crepe Myrtle with Tiny New Leaves

Skeletal Crape Myrtles Sprouting Tiny New Leaves

Or the story of Egypt’s king Osiris, first told around 4,400 years ago. Osiris…who is murdered by his brother and becomes God of the Underworld, the dead, and the afterlife. Osiris…whose wife, Queen Isis, restores his body and conceives a son from it. Osiris…who in dying and being symbolically “reborn” in his son Horus, is worshiped as God of transition, resurrection, and regeneration. Osiris…a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife and the granter of all new life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile.  Osiris, the “Lord of love” with whom the kings of Egypt were associated at death; then, “as Osiris rose from the dead they would, in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic.” (Wikipedia)

Or Greece’s Persephone who, according to the 3,500 year-old story, is kidnapped and raped by Hades, God-King of the Underworld. Persephone…beautiful daughter of Demeter, Goddess of Fertility who, in her mourning, allows vegetation to die and people to starve until Zeus allows Persephone to return. Persephone…who, according to the Eleusynian Mysteries, brings the green new shoots of vegetation with her so the cycle of life can begin anew.

Mandala-Jahreskreis-SEASONS-NATURE-BEAUTYAnd Israel’s Jesus, son of a virgin who is married to a carpenter. Jesus…whose story from about 2,000 years ago tells us that he grows up to challenge the prevailing religious authorities with his gospel of love and social justice.  Jesus…who heals the sick, raises the dead, makes disciples of women and fishermen and forgives prostitutes their sins.  Jesus…who is killed by the Roman authorities who have invaded and conquered his land. Jesus…who is hung on a cross, buried in a cave, and reborn after three days.

“My whole endeavor has been to show that myth is something very real because it connects us with the instinctive bases of our existence.”  Carl Jung, Letters, Vol. 11, Page 468.

The universal story about the sacred Mystery of Life is told in myths. Each of us participates in this story, physically and mentally. Like Mother Nature, we too go through cycles. Like her we go into labor during winters when our souls have grown weary and cold. But beneath the surface, in the underground womb of our unconscious, our life energy continues to ebb and flow, separate and reconnect in new images of insights, possibilities and potential. And if, when they emerge in dreams and fantasies, we will see our images and use them imaginatively, our story can rebirth us into a new spring of hope, meaning, and resurrection.

“You are the Hero of your own Story.”  ~ Joseph Campbell

What new part of your story wants to be born this spring?

Photo Credits:   Mandala.  Google Images.

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Solving the Mystery of Archetypes December 14, 2010

There is something very important we need to understand about ourselves if we are to be psychologically literate: Our ego may think it is the whole story, but it is not. It is merely that aspect of  our psyche with which we consciously identify.

If the entire psyche were to be compared to a mystery novel, complete with plot, characters, and events, the ego would be the detective who can never know all the facts because he cannot inhabit the minds of the other characters or be everywhere at once to see all that happens behind the scenes. The information to which the detective does not have access is like our unconscious self which operates independently of our conscious ego. All the detective (or ego) can do is observe and follow the clues our unconscious self leaves behind. The clues are things we don’t understand about ourselves:  all our contradictory urges, compulsive behaviors, thoughtless words and confusing emotions.  Luckily, they are very easy to find for they show up constantly in waking life and dreams.

Our unconscious self has two levels: personal and collective. Our personal unconscious is the sea of forgotten or untapped material unique to us. The collective unconscious, which is farther from our ego’s awareness, is the core of pre-formed patterns inherited by every human. The physical patterns are our instincts; their psychological counterparts are called archetypes. We all inherit the same patterns, but, like the outlined shapes in coloring books, everyone fills them in differently because of different genetic inheritance and life experiences.

Throughout history humans have personified the contents of the collective unconscious  and projected them onto gods and goddesses. For the Greeks,  Dionysus and Aphrodite represented the instinct for sex and the passions of love and jealousy; Persephone stood for the instinct for reflection, particularly the depressions that plunge us into the dark abyss of suffering; and Athena and Ares exemplified the aggressive, warlike aspects of our instinct for activity.

Since the ancients had no understanding of psychology, their deities were given both credit and blame for peoples’ powerful urges and unhealthy behavior. Thus, when a man was overcome with war-like rage he could say with a clear conscience and utter belief in his innocence, “Ares must have wanted that man dead or else he would not have made me kill him.” Or, “Aphrodite told Eros to pierce my heart with love for that woman I stole from her husband.”  People truly believed these things.

Projecting the archetypes onto deities enabled the ancients to escape overwhelming feelings of guilt and kept them unconscious of the almost unbearable knowledge of their own capacity for evil. But wait: Are we any different? Doesn’t belief in God still free us from the burden of having to take responsibility for our actions? Consider this:  if our country or religion makes war against another country or religion, don’t many of us justify it by believing God is on our side and wants us to correct and punish those terrible, evil people?

Why should we try to solve the mystery of archetypes? Because, for good or for ill, we all contain the demonic and divine powers represented by archetypes. Healthily balanced and empowered archetypal energies bring out the very best in human nature and have the potential to guide individuals, nations, and religions to peace, love,  wisdom, and healthy new life.  But this can only happen when enough egos recognize the archetypes as their roommates, and not external enemies or gods.

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

 

The Hero’s Journey October 26, 2010

Recently I wrote about my childhood dream in which the Lone Ranger shot me. This big dream was more real than any other I’ve ever had. I was devastated to think my hero hated me so much he wanted to kill me and I couldn’t understand why. I had practically worshiped him, 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 1953 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.

So it was a bit of a shock to realize at mid-life was that I was copying a version of the Hero’s Journey that has worked quite well for males for thousands of years, but not so well for women. Beneath the image of the independent, white-hatted cowboy on a white horse who rides off into the sunset to right the injustices of the world with a silver bullet is another way — the Soul’s Way — of reining in the heroic ego and connecting with, healing and emboldening a heroic heart. In conforming to a mold that wasn’t made for me, I was betraying myself, losing myself!

Here is the message I want to convey: Whether you know it or not, your God-image — your hope for a vital, authentic life of love and compassion and spiritual meaning and healing and wholeness — is shaped by your personality, environment, and experiences. But you don’t have to settle for a dysfunctional God-image or self-image. Acquiring the consciousness to recognize your wounds and complete your soul is the true Hero’s Journey, and anyone can take it.

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

 

 
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