Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Tourist or Pilgrim? Which Are You? October 14, 2014

PhilGreeceThe pilgrim is a poetic traveler, one who believes that there is poetry on the road, at the heart of everything.” ~Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

In October of 2012 I was invited to make a presentation at Journey Conferences, an annual gathering of Jungians.  There I met Phil Cousineau, an author, filmmaker, lecturer and expert on mythology, and learned that he leads trips to some of the world’s most sacred sites.

Fred and I love to travel, so when we heard about his trip to the sacred sites of Greece with Sacred Earth Journeys this fall, we signed up.  My favorites among Phil’s many books are The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred, and Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Modern Time.  Since our return last week I’ve been thinking about how this trip combined the themes of these two books in a magical way that made this my favorite travel experience ever.

“In each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred.”

The focus of our previous guided tours has been on the outer world. What drew me to this one was the promise of equal time for the inner life of the soul.

I was not disappointed. Each morning began with an hour-long conversation about the sites we would visit, the ancient myths associated with them, and the way they are still being played out in our lives today. Phil’s passion for mythology combined with his passion for mentoring turned what could have been just another interesting tour into an extraordinary personal odyssey.

Seeking Guidance from the Oracle at Delphi

Seeking Guidance from the Oracle at Delphi

“The force behind myths, fairytales, parables and soulful travel stories reveals the myriad ways the sacred breaks through the resistance and shines forth into our world. Pilgrimage holds out the promise of personal contact with that sacred force.”

For me, one of the most problematic aspects of past tours has been the lack of opportunity for close observation and reverie. Not so this time!  At least once a day Phil offered prompts for writing poetry or essays or making sketches. Always, he built in plenty of time for reflecting on how the celebrations and myths associated with sacred spaces triggered lost memories and inner stirrings. As if that were not enough, he provided even more time for sharing our impressions, insights and healing experiences with each other.

Our task in life is to find our deep soul work and throw ourselves headlong into it.”

At the ruins of Eleusis, site of the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries which celebrated the sacred death/rebirth fertility myth of Demeter and Persephone, we rested in the cave reputed to be the portal to the Underworld. There some of us shared evidence of the buried spiritual depths that lie beneath the surface of our lives. I spoke of how I shut down painful emotions and lost my tears at the age of 11 when my father died.  That night I dreamed I was as angry as I’ve ever been at family and friends who were thoughtlessly trashing my house and expecting me to clean up.  The dream ended with me hurling volleys of creative curses at them like Zeus throwing his thunderbolts, then laughing in delight at my uncharacteristic behavior!

The Starting Line at Olympia

The Starting Line at Olympia

Where was the anger coming from?  Was being in Greece influencing me to channel my inner Persephone, Dark Goddess of the Underworld?  Is she still mad at Hades for violating my personal space and stealing my father away? What about the laughter? Could Persephone finally be lightening up about a personal crisis which she has learned to view as a mere speck in the cosmic view of things?

Over drinks two evenings later, a woman in our group shared a shattering life-changing experience she had as a young adult. At dinner she made a mind-blowing connection: The myth of Demeter and Persephone is her story, one she has lived ever since her youthful trauma. She never knew it until that moment!

“What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly.”

The night after we visited Olympia, site of the original Olympic games, I dreamed of another Dark Mother who reminded me of Ereshkigal, cruel Queen of the Underworld who hung her sister Inanna, Sumeria’s Queen of Heaven and Earth, on a meathook to die. In a show of unwanted patronizing attention, dream Ereshkigal asked her attendants to escort me down some stairs. I refused to go. As I was falling asleep that night she visited me and gave me a light kiss on my lips. Her presence was oppressive and filled me with dread.

Why does the Goddess of the Underworld visit me now?  It seems obvious. I’ve entered a phase of life when my task is to make peace with death.  I’m not thrilled about this, but I’m ready to face what comes next.

“What every traveler confronts sooner or later is that the way we spend each day of our travel…is the way we spend our lives.”

Skotino Cave, Crete

Skotino Cave, Crete

The bearlike rock formation in the Skotino Cave in Crete reminded me of Elephant in the Cave, an early dream which showed me how frightened I was of reflecting on my inner life.   Greece’s ancient goddess figurines; images of snakes and initiation rituals; sacred vessels and ceremonial masks; ruins of labyrinths and altars; the sacred tree worshiped at the Palianis nunnery:  all these and more symbolize issues that used to haunt me in waking life and appeared at night in some of my most memorable and life-changing dreams.

Greece’s antiquities are not meaningless historical facts to me.  They are living realities within me.  Having experienced these realities for over 25 years, I feel blessed by this trip and the direct contact with the sacred it provided every day.  I guess this makes me a pilgrim.

How does travel impact you?

All quotes are from Phil Cousineau’s Art of Pilgrimage.

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.

 

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.

 

 
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