Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Is Enlightenment? January 10, 2017

mahavira_enlightenmentWhy am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Am I doing it? How can I know? Will I ever know? Is there an underlying pattern to it all?

These are some of the Big questions that philosophers, Spirit Persons, and ordinary seekers are compelled to ask and answer. Some rely solely on intellectual methods: following teachers, reading, studying, getting degrees, writing books. Some seek answers in traditional religions and ‘religious’ practices. Some experiment with various forms of self-reflection aimed at self-discovery, self-knowledge and consciousness. Some try combinations of these plus alternative practices like body work, mind-altering drugs and artistic pursuits.

As I noted in my last post, our hunger for answers to these questions is motivated by the ‘transcendent function,’ a form of archetypal energy we all inherit just by being human. As a reminder, here’s Jung’s definition:

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.

In other words, even though we think of enlightenment as a strictly spiritual pursuit, it also has psychological (mental/ emotional/intellectual) components. Further, I would argue that it has physical components. In fact, I have come to believe that enlightenment is not solely a function of any one aspect of human nature, but of the whole package.

Buddhism expresses this idea through four “Aims” or goals of human life. As I see it, each goal is met within a particular domain of human functioning. Each domain is fueled by a physical instinct and represented by a masculine and feminine archetype. These stand at either end of the pole of energy in which that instinct specializes.

To be fully functioning spirit persons, we need to awaken, activate, and heal our fullest potential—masculine and feminine—in each of these four areas. ~Jean Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 203.

Here’s my summary of these relationships:

(1) The aim of Lawful Order and Moral Virtue takes place in The Social Domain. Our social lives receive energy from our physical Instinct for Nurturance.  Psychologically, this instinct is symbolized by the King and Queen archetypes, our inner authority figures who govern our social behavior for the benefit of all.

(2) We accomplish our aim for Power and success in The Physical Domain. This goal is primarily accomplished through our Instinct for Activity. We cannot just think or will our way to success. Our bodies have to be engaged in studied, committed, goal-oriented and self-disciplined practices. For me, the Warrior and Mother archetypes represent the opposite poles of physical energy available to us in pursuit of our goals in the material world.

(3) Release from Delusion:  The Mental Domain. Our search for truth and enlightenment relies on our cognitive functioning, or intellect, which matures as we consciously activate our Instinct for Reflection and its archetypal representatives, the Scholar/Magician and Wisewoman.

(4) Love and pleasure:  The Emotional Domain.  To find emotional satisfaction in life, we need to activate our Instinct for Sex and its psychological equivalents, the Lover and Beloved archetypes. This does not necessarily require our participation in physical sex, but the aspect of our libido which specializes in this kind of energy does need to be activated. In other words, we need to experience passion, and being loved and loving in return.

Since Jung believed we have five instincts, and in keeping with his insight that the transcendent function progressively unites the opposites, I respectfully offer a fifth domain which is equally essential to enlightenment.

(5)  Perfection and Completion: The Spiritual Domain.  In my experience, spiritual growth is fueled primarily by our Instinct for Creativity: our capacity to imagine and find meaning in the inner forces which influence our journeys through life. Our creativity is symbolized by the Couple archetype, or Self, which gradually manifests in every area of our lives via the transcendent function.

I see the Couple as integrating the other four archetype pairs in a sacred marriage of fully individuated and fully related opposites.  This union activates the creative instinct and brings us into the spiritual domain and Epoch III integrated consciousness. ~Raffa, HSD, p. 203.

british_museum_room_1_enlightenmentAs you can see, the search for enlightenment cannot be compartmentalized into one domain, but requires cooperation between every part of us in every domain in which we function. I stress this point to dispel the common misconception that putting all our spiritual eggs into one basket—traditional religious participation and belief—is the only way to attain enlightenment. This obsession with using only intellect and emotion to connect with a loving God not only dismisses the sacredness of the physical body, but it ignores the fact that our actual words and behaviors can be decidedly unspiritual. Moreover, it can lead to a dangerous split between mind and body, spirit and soul.

In conclusion I would like to note that despite all the thought and energy I’ve given to the pursuit of enlightenment, I cannot say for certain what it is. As I wrote in response to a comment after last week’s post:

“I wish I knew what enlightenment is. If it’s a conscious, consistent, ongoing process of trying to understand, individuate, love, realize our true selves, and appreciate the miracle of our lives, then, perhaps all of us who do this kind of work could be considered such. I mean, we know we’re part of a process, and we’re consciously involved in it. But if enlightenment is not a process, but an end-product, then I know I’m not “there.” I keep re-hashing old stuff and coming up with new stuff to process, so in this definition, I’m only as ‘enlightened’ as my thoughts, behavior, and motivations are in this very moment!” ~Jean Raffa

Image Credits: Enlightenment: Wikimedia Commons.  

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.

 

What Principles Do You Live By? February 2, 2016

Unknown-1This past weekend I attended a symposium featuring the internationally renowned poet, David Whyte. As the subtle beauty of his words and images—and even more, the silence behind them—washed through me, an intense inner resonance asked to be heard. “This is a fellow traveler,” it said. “Pay attention,” it said.  “You can learn from this one,” it said.

He told stories, he recited poems, and over and over the same three threads ran through.  One was “the conversational nature of reality.”  This reminded me of an observation from the American Buddhist, Jack Kornfield,

“All of spiritual practice is a matter of relationship:  to ourselves, to others, to life’s situations…Whether we like it or not, we are always in relationship, always interconnected.” ~Jack Kornfield

David Whyte would no doubt add, “…always having a conversation.” Everything we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think or feel initiates a relationship, a conversation with otherness. Otherness that sparks our imagination.  Otherness that provides clues, if we’re observant, to who we really are.  Our ongoing conversations—sometimes between ourself and another, sometimes between Inner Ego and Inner Other—motivate us to reflect, form questions, discover new insights, and ultimately, act on what we know to be true.

Which brings me to a second thread that colors his poems:  the importance of asking “beautiful questions.” Again, not just of other people, but of all hidden otherness everywhere. For example, while sharing a story about the thoughts and feelings that an ancient stone carving of a woman’s face evoked, he said, “We stand on the threshold of what has not yet occurred…a possible future.  What is the invitation?” What is the invitation of this joy? These tears? That yearning?

A question like this invites us to take a new step, in a new direction, to a newer, truer reality.  Toward my growth. My truth. My reality. Toward the life I was born to live.

A third thread binds the others into the artful fabric of a life:  “Beauty is the harvest of presence.” It’s true. The seeds of our beauty are sown with our presence.  The bud of our beauty opens petal by petal as we practice presence moment by moment, day by day, year by year.

 “Start close in.  Don’t take a second or third step.  Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. Take a small step you can call your own. Start with your own question.” ~David Whyte

If we’re not listening to the Other right now there will be no conversations worth having. If we’re unaware of standing on the threshold of what has not yet occurred, of a possible future, we will never ask the beautiful question, “What would it mean for me to be the ancestor of my future self?” If we don’t stay present long enough to see and take the step we don’t want to take, the fabric of our lives will never flower into a work of art.

Inspired by the beautiful poem that is David Whyte, I have a beautiful question for you: “What threads run through your life?” Or as my friend Rachelle Mayers, a gifted videographer and media consultant, asked me three months ago:  “What principles do you live by?”

Here was my response:

 

Image Credit:  Pinterest, unknown.

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.

 

Weeding the Soul’s Garden December 8, 2015

Your ego is a key player in your soul’s journey to wholeness. A strong, mature ego aids your psycho-spiritual growth; a weak and fearful ego holds you back. Tracking your dreams gives you a better understanding of your ego’s status. Your ego shows up every night as you, the dreamer: the one climbing the mountain, driving too fast down the dark road, running from the stranger, forgetting to feed the baby, standing naked in a crowd.

In my dream The Elephant in the Cave, the “I” trying to bar the door was my ego, and the elephant symbolized a strong inner force I didn’t want to acknowledge as part of me. In other words, my ego was frightened, rigid, closed, and one-sided. Ouch. Several months later, my dream Going Against the Current confirmed that my dreamwork was paying off. But was I finished? Had my ego grown open, strong, and brave? Not by a long shot. A few months after that I dreamed Hiding from the Enemy. There was the fear again. Even though I (my ego) was taking my inner life seriously, the dream said I was still afraid of something in my unconscious, still trying to hide from it. Still rigid. Still one-sided. What was this all about? I had no idea.

Fast forward about a year when along came a dream I called Killing the Weeds:

I’m carrying a container of weed killer with a thin tube coming out of the top. I’m careful not to touch the tip of the tube because I don’t want to get poison on my fingers. I walk along a patterned brick path adjoining the foundation of a large house and let the point of the tube fall on two large weeds that have sprouted up in the cement joint between the path and the house.

This was confusing. Weeds are Nature, and although most of us want to get rid of weeds, they’re not always bad. A weed in one part of the world is a greenhouse plant in another. What if I was trying to kill something in myself that was actually good? It was only when I put the dream into the context of my waking life that I saw what it could mean. A few days earlier I had made an uncharacteristically outspoken speech to a group of Episcopalians and two priests had openly disagreed with something I said. To my surprise, I was devastated by the implied criticism of these religious authorities.

My dream explained my discomfort. Until that point in my life, pleasing and impressing conventional authorities had been fundamental to my personality (the foundation of the house).  Not rocking the boat, not disturbing or annoying others, not creating conflict, not doing or saying anything that someone might think of as bad, avoiding criticism:  these things almost felt like life or death issues to me.  Sure, I had some rebellious feelings and original thoughts and unmet needs of my own, but I was extremely careful not to let any of them leak through the “good girl” persona (social mask) that had served me so well since childhood, especially when it came to my education and religion. I had achieved a certain amount of success in the eyes of my world by hiding my true self behind my persona, and I was simply too fearful and insecure to risk taking it off.

But after about two years of Jungian studies and dreamwork, I was beginning see my need for society’s approval as a pesky, unwanted trait (weeds) that had forced its way through the rigid foundation of my spiritual journey (patterned brick path). Realizing that my strong need to conform marred my prospects for continued growth, I had chosen to rid myself of it by pursuing self-knowledge (my dream ego was killing the weeds).

For the most part, this had been very empowering. My persona was becoming a bit more flexible and my ego was growing stronger. But there was still an immature part of me that feared losing the approval of religious authorities. Questioning my traditional religious beliefs felt subversive and dangerous, as if I might lose the approval of God, and my inner child was deeply afraid of being punished (poisoned).

Now I know why I resisted my soul’s flowering for so long: The ego’s fear of retribution for being different is a soul-killer! We feel so much safer conforming to the wishes of authority figures than challenging them. Don’t we learn the importance of obedience as children? But there comes a time in the life of every individual when we need to grow up, develop our own authority, find our own voice, and speak and act from our soul’s truths. When that time comes, it’s up to our ego to enter the soul’s garden, take off our mask, have a look around, and start weeding.

Last week I told you about my new YouTube video series called Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery , and shared the first video, The Theatre of the Ego.  This time I invite you to view the second one, The Theatre of the Persona.  You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page,) on my website , and at this link:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU   Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.

 

 

 

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.

 

Which Feminine Archetypes Are Strongest In You? November 24, 2015

If you haven’t read last week’s post, you might want to go there first to hear my thoughts about the basic masculine archetypes.  This time I want to highlight the feminine ones.  Please remember that these energies and qualities, so-called “masculine” and “feminine,” are part of the psychological inheritance of everyone, regardless of gender. It’s only society that assigns some of them to men and others to women, and these associations can very from culture to culture.  Unfortunately, this limits all of us to only a portion of our fullest potential.

In my system, the feminine archetypes are the Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These images of our basic instincts serve our “feminine” drive for species-preservation and relationship. The ways we see and use their energies are transformed over time as our egos mature through three “feminine” phases: the innocent Maiden, the life-giving Mother, and the wise Crone.

In the first phase we unconsciously serve the drive to preserve our species by emphasizing relationships, conforming to tribal/cultural standards, and sexual activity; in the second, the cycles of life force us us to become more aware of our individual needs; and in the third, attending to our inner, spiritual selves becomes as important as meeting the needs of others.

Our Queen is a culture mother and the feminine sovereign of the psyche. Like the goddess Hera, a Queen in the Maiden phase automatically honors her duty to society without reflection. Her growth is usually instigated by some sort of crisis —rape or love, parenthood, illness, divorce, or loss of a loved one—which destroys the Maiden’s virgin innocence and instigates the Mother’s suffering. If she develops a conscience and learns moral responsibility she becomes a caring Crone/Queen of personal sovereignty, moral virtue, respect for individual differences, and social leadership.

The Mother archetype represents our instinct for physically serving the birth/death/rebirth life cycle.  In our unreflective Maiden phase our Mother is, like the warrior goddess Artemis and Mother Nature herself, as capable of destroying life as mothering it, simply because she is not very aware of the significance of otherness and puts her own needs first. In our Mother phase our Mother archetype struggles to understand and serve the needs of individuals as much as her own and the activity of the impersonal Great Mother who gives and takes all  life. As our egos mature, the Crone Mother helps us value the life in our bodies and souls as much as life outside ourselves.

The Wisewoman is diffusely aware of, and deeply sensitive to, the maternal depths of the unconscious.  In our unreflective phase she is like Greece’s Persephone, Stephen King’s Carrie, and Walt Disnery’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Because we lack the experience and logical thought to handle the vast unknown, our Maiden can get us into trouble with archetypal powers we don’t understand and can’t control. Our transformation into the Mother phase begins when our mistakes force us to distinguish between objective facts and subjective symbols in the inner and outer worlds. Our Crone Wisewoman integrates logos with mythos to see the big picture, understands how the parts connect, and creates personal psychological and spiritual meaning.

The Beloved is the magnetic principle in relationships. Our Maiden Beloved is like Aphrodite: an innocent, unconscious seductress driven to attract sexual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment by attracting and pleasing others. Our Mother phase begins when we suffer the conflict between wanting to please our lovers and wanting to discard them when they no longer please us. Our Crone Beloved is like a hospitable, emotionally authentic hostess who lives in beauty, inspires others, and gives what we could only hint at in our youthful phase: full sensory and emotional intimacy with fully respected and loved otherness.

12246976_1115151578525043_7102838831078503786_nWhereas shadow masculinity destroys otherness, shadow femininity is self-destructive. A compulsive Queen can burn us out if we give too much of ourselves. Our Mother can sabotage our relationships by being too receptive or smothering. An obsessive Wisewoman can cause us to be depressed and overwhelmed by the unconscious. And if our egos obsess over the outer appearance of beauty, our Beloved can compel us to sacrifice the true beauty of our souls. But as we accept our feminine sides and partner them with our masculine sides, their union can give birth to a Spirit Warrior of perfected selfhood and completed relationships.

What does your attitude toward the feminine archetypes say about your ego’s maturity and your acceptance of the feminine side of your psyche? How are your relationships and service to our species evolving in ways that benefit all?

I wish you all a happy and love-filled Thanksgiving Holiday.  I am so very thankful for you, my internet community. You have enriched my life immeasurably.

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.

 

Avatar and Cultural Transformation November 10, 2015

Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet to come to birth.  The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.  Carl Jung

Culture is created by the human psyche.  Intended or not, there is a psychological dimension to every art form. This is nowhere more evident than in James Cameron’s 2009 epic science-fiction film Avatar, a personal favorite.

Avatar’s characters, symbols and themes are updated versions of archetypes featured in stories from every nation, generation, and religion throughout history. Its symbols of interconnectedness—the wormy squirmy tentacled pony tails that bond with similar anatomical appendages of bizarre beasts, and the electrochemical connections between tree roots—are imaginatively resonant of ancient Hinduism’s Diamond Net of Indra, Jung’s collective unconscious, and quantum physics’ holographic universe. And its themes of self-discovery, initiation, revolution, transformation, and redemption have been with us since the first story ever told around a fire.

This lush film eloquently depicts the transformation occurring in humanity’s heroic journey into wholeness and consciousness. It does so by contrasting an ego that succeeds by opening to otherness and change with one that fails because it refuses to grow. Indulge me for a moment as I engage in a bit of imaginative word play to illustrate my point.

The time is the mid-22nd century. The place is Pandora, (mythically, the Greek goddess whose curiosity unleashed all the evils onto the world but whose ultimate legacy was hope). Pandora is a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system that is being colonized to mine a rare mineral. The plot revolves around the expansion of the mining colony which is threatening the existence of the local tribe of natives known as Na’vi.

Corporal Jake (Biblically, Jacob was Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson who overcame adversity to become the patriarch of the Israelites) Sully is a soldier whose body is bound to a wheel chair and whose soul has been sullied—i.e. contaminated and made impure—by bitterness, self-pity, and the aggressive mind-set of his dominator culture. Yet, by the end of the story, he is transformed into a heroic Warrior and passionate Lover.

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.  Carl Jung

After undergoing training to be an avatar, Jake’s crippled body rests in a remote location while his mind inhabits a genetically engineered Na’vi body that interacts with the natives.  His bravery, his respect for princess Neytiri (who says”nay” to tyranny and is Sully’s equal, savior, and Beloved), and his receptivity to the foreign ways of her culture all lead to his redemption and the salvation of the Na’vi.

And what might the name Na’vi symbolize? This tribe has long navigated safely through a difficult world by honoring the sacred underlying patterns of life. But because the people will not capitulate to the dominator ego mentality which has destroyed Earth, their culture is in danger of extinction.

Other archetypal themes are represented by the Na’vi’s spiritual leader Mo’at, (an abbreviation of Mother Earth?) who is a blend of the Jungian archetypes of Queen, Earth Mother, Wisewoman, and Beloved. Her earth-based values and connections to Nature are the glue that have enabled the Na’vi to flourish thus far.  Then there’s Jake’s mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine (a saintly name if ever there was one), who symbolizes the archetypal Queen’s regard for shared authority and individual differences and the Wisewoman’s intuitive intelligence and pursuit of truth.

Finally we have a plot with the necessary obstacles every hero must overcome: the self-absorbed and self-serving ego symbolized by Selfridge, corporate administrator of the mining program; and the obsessive Warrior mentality of the head of security, Colonel Miles Quaritch (from quarantine, a place of detention? Or quarrel, an angry dispute? Or quartz, a hard rock?). Cameron’s soulless dark invader, like Lucas’s Darth Vader, has miles to go in his own journey because of his rock-hard rigidity and unrelenting itch to maintain his power regardless of the cost to anyone or anything.

So here we have a story about a brave, heroic ego vs. a rigid, fearful ego. Earthly and cosmic connectedness vs. personal self-interest.  Accepting our shadows. Opening to otherness. Learning from feminine wisdom and nature. Moving toward balance. Uniting opposites with respect and love. Using our Warrior energy to protect and empower the vulnerable. Overcoming crippling disadvantages to become a force for positive change.

This haunting story is more than just another movie.  It is a mythic reflection of us at our worst and best. Of our blind ego with its rigid and self-righteous attitudes. Of our dysfunctional dark shadow that clings to old habits and blindly fouls our planetary nest. Of our power-hungry Warrior who continues to dominate families, neighborhoods and societies.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.  Carl Jung

Our hope lies with Jake who represents the resilience, creative imagination, and heroic potential of every ego, no matter how much suffering it endures, to overcome its lethargy and choose consciousness:  consciousness of our light shadow with its unique gifts and ideals and sensitivity and care. Consciousness of our healthy Warrior with the courage to say no to ingrained attitudes and practices that produce chaos, pollution and destruction. Consciousness of the love waiting to blossom between healthy femininity and masculinity.

Image Credit:  Google Images

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.

 

Meeting the Mistress of the Forest August 11, 2015

Once I read about a horse that lived in the same pasture for over 30 years, eating the same old tired grass, trying to find shade in the noonday heat under the same scrawny tree. After many years of neglect, the fence that separated this pasture from a lush, grassy meadow studded with beautiful leafy trees crumbled and eventually fell. Stepping over the fallen wood would have been a very simple matter for the horse, yet it stood at the border where it had always stood, looking longingly over at the grass as it had always looked.

I feel so sorry for that horse. It had become so accustomed to its old boundaries that it never noticed when they were outworn. I wish someone from the other side had called it over so it could have spent its final years grazing in a greener, fresher, infinitely more satisfying space.

Many of us have felt our spirits quicken through glimpses of something ineffable in the mist beyond normal awareness and longed to pursue it. But concerns about the judgment of others and habitual assumptions about what we think we should be thinking and doing are not easy to recognize or change. Moreover, the daily demands of life are so compelling that we usually defer our journey into the deeply alluring recesses of the forest until another day.

What are we to do if we do not want to end up like that horse? Luckily we humans have a special someone who beckons to us from beyond our outworn boundaries: she is the wisdom of the Deep Feminine traditionally called Sophia. But to hear her call we need to turn off the constant flow of words and listen with our hearts and bodies.

The promptings that come from this inner being are so faintly heard at first, however strong on their own plane, that we tend to disregard them as trivial. This is the tragedy of man. The voices that so often mislead him into pain-bringing courses–his passion, his ego, and blind intellect–are loud and clamant. The whisper that guides him aright and to God is timid and soft. Paul Brunton (22-1-201)

Her voice is very soft; her call, though compelling, is quiet. She speaks to us in urges, needs, wishes, emotions, feelings, yearnings, questions about the meaning and purpose of our life, attractions to people, ideas and activities, synchronicities, physical symptoms, accidents, instincts, nature, meaningful insights, joyful experiences, bursts of unexpected pleasure, creative ideas, images, symbols, dreams: all the things we have learned to ignore so we can perform with utmost efficiency in the rat race of daily life.

The message in her communiques seems so subversive that we have learned to ignore it too. Do not fear the unknown, she says when we are tempted to risk exploring the wilderness of our souls. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be content with the half life that comes from avoiding your fears. Feel your fears, enjoy your pleasures, experience your life with all your being. Open yourself and go deeper, for great treasures lie buried in your depths.

Following Sophia does not result in a quick fix, but if we will go boldly and persevere, the mansion doors to the eternal sacred that lies within will open unto us. The inhabitant of that mansion is the Self, our inner Beloved. Made of equal parts masculine and feminine energy, (Animus and Anima, in Jungian terms), the Self is often symbolized by the King and Queen. Here in the West we project our King onto the distant Sky God and remain relatively ignorant of his feminine partner, Sophia, the Mistress of the Forest who is as close to us as our own breath and blood. Thus do we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from her wisdom and cross over into her sacred space.

So how, exactly, are you different from that old horse?

How has the Mistress of the Forest been speaking to you lately? What is she saying?

Image credits:  Google Free Images

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.

 

Terry Pratchett on Life, Death and the Hero’s Journey March 16, 2015

Our neighbor's tabebuia tree

Our neighbor’s tabebuia tree

As I write this, it’s March 16, one day after the Ides of March.  This time of year has long been celebrated by religious observances honoring the delicate tension between Life and Death.  Poised at the end of Winter, March 15 still lies in the margins of Death. Yet, just a few days from now, Spring will arrive with its promise of rebirth and new Life.

Perhaps an intuitive awareness of the thin boundary between Life and Death is why this pair of opposites is on my mind today.  It started this morning when I took Izzie, my granddog, for a walk and was dazzled by Nature’s celebration of extravagant new colors and scents.  Then, when I returned to my computer and saw notification of someone’s retweet of a quote I posted on twitter last Thursday, I was reminded of Death.

“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.” ~Terry Pratchett

Blossoms on our lemon tree

Blossoms on our lemon tree

Sir Terry Pratchett, a writer who sold over 85 million books around the world, finally “let go” last Thursday, March 12, 2015.  Despite his diagnosis of a rare form of Alzheimer’s eight years ago, he continued to write. According to one article, last summer he completed his 41st novel in the Discworld series in which he collaborated with friend and fellow author, Neil Gaiman.

The article continues, “Just hours after he died, Death, known for his signature habit of ALWAYS SPEAKING IN CAPITALS in Pratchett’s novels, appeared on his twitter account with this news: “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”

“Death…is one of the most popular and prominent characters of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. He appears in 38 out of the 40 Discworld books published so far. In five of them, Death is a leading character.”

Yes, he was fascinated with Death, but if anyone loved and celebrated Life too, this man did.

Azaleas

Azaleas

“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.”

“So much universe, and so little time.”

Perhaps in reference to his early love for science fiction and his passion for creating comical fantasies with bizarre characters and other-worldly settings, he wrote:

“It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.”

An astute observer of human nature, a natural philosopher who asked the Big questions about Life and Death, and a moralist, Pratchett’s most endearing stylistic signature was his cheeky, yet vulnerable, irreverence:

“It’s not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing.”

“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.”

“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”~I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett

“‘And what would humans be without love?’ RARE, said Death.” ~Sourcery, Terry Pratchett

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Finally, Terry Pratchett was a terrific story-teller. Everyone likes a good story, but not all of us like the same kind of good story. For example, I know several inveterate book lovers who have no interest in mythology or some of the newer genres like science fiction and modern fantasy. I get the feeling some of them consider these to be cruder or more frivolous forms of writing than classics or “serious” contemporary writing. Being an avid fan of all three genres as well as many of the classics, I’ve often wondered why.

I think the answer lies in the parallel passions of readers and the authors whose books they adore. The great stories of mythology, for instance, generally have the most appeal for seekers oriented to philosophy, religion, and spirituality.

The same people also tend to love the works of writers like Dante’ (The Divine Comedy), Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf and Siddhartha), Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn),  and Kate Chopin (The Awakening), as well as more contemporary writers like Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet), John Fowles (The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus), and Ursula Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness and the Dispossessed).

What these books, Terry Pratchett’s books, and the people who love them have in common is that their stories were written by, and filled with, the wisdom of an individual who, having faced the terrors of Death, travels through Life in search of meaning, authenticity, self-knowledge and spiritual awakening on what Joseph Campbell called The Hero’s Journey.

Rest In Peace, Terry Pratchett. It is fitting that you left us during this season of transition from Death to new Life. The new world being born will be a bit kinder and wiser because you were in it.

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Image credits.  Small Gods/ThinkStock, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents/ThinkStock.

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.

 

 
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