Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Thanksgiving Blessing November 26, 2019

I began writing Matrignosis in March of 2010. This post, A Thanksgiving Blessing, was published on November 23 of that year. It was a time of renewed hope and joy at the wondrous blessing of having five grandchildren. They’re nine years older now, and I’m so thankful to be able to tell you that they’re all well and thriving. My beloved granddog Bear, is gone, but memories of him still warm my heart. We have a new granddog now, and Izzy holds a special place of her own in our hearts. 

Here’s the original post, slightly revised, from November 23 of 2010.

Years ago when The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth was first published, I presented several workshops about the differences between the life cycles of men and women. Using the model of the ancient descent myths which preceded hero myths and often featured women whose journeys followed a pattern of sacrifice, suffering, death, and rebirth — for example, the Sumerian myth of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth — I encouraged participants to reflect on how they had experienced these stages in their own lives.

My purpose was threefold. First, I wanted them to understand the differences between how their feminine and masculine sides experience life, and to know that both are valid and worthy of our attention. Second, I wanted to guide them in an experience of inner work that would expand their self-knowledge. Third, I wanted them to appreciate the repetitive nature of life’s processes so that they might acquire trust that each ending, even the death of the body, is also a threshold to a hopeful new beginning.

One memory from those workshops stands out from the others. Having experienced a lengthy and painful death-like period in the middle of my life, I was speaking about the hope and gratitude that had followed it when a psychiatrist asked me a question. “I have a client who is a deeply depressed and bitter quadriplegic,” she told us. “He can’t do anything for himself. He will spend the rest of his life this way. He is not religious. What hope can I give him about rebirth? What should he be grateful for?”

The room was silent. My first thoughts were, Who am I to be talking about rebirth when I’ve never had a death experience remotely like the one this man is suffering at this very moment? What kind of hope does he have? I had an answer, but in that moment I couldn’t think how to express it in a way that wouldn’t sound flippant. I felt very humbled and remember sharing that emotion, but have no recollection of what else I said. I’ve carried that question with me ever since and would like to answer it to the best of my ability now, just in case that doctor or patient, or someone like them, might someday find my thoughts helpful.

If you are reading this post on the day of its publication two days before Thanksgiving, I am on a plane headed for Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia, sites of some of the most horrendous killing fields on the planet. There, vast numbers of human beings suffered and died in ways I cannot imagine or bear to think about. What was left for them to be grateful for in their last moments?

Life. They had Sophia’s sacred spark of Life. Until their last breaths they had traces of sensory awareness, memories, thoughts, feelings. Perhaps they saw the sunlight sparkle on a blade of grass, felt a cool breeze, remembered the taste of chocolate ice cream or the feel of a mother’s tender touch, experienced a rush of love for their lovers, children, or grandchildren.

You and I have Life. We have the capacity to be conscious of it and present to it in this moment. We can choose to let go of the past, stop worrying about the future, and attend to what is. Here. Now. Life within us, life around us. What could be more worthy of thanks?

No matter where you are or what you are suffering, you can be present to the miracle of being alive in this precious moment, this perfect Now. May your awareness bring you hope and gratitude this Thanksgiving Day and in the days to come.

 

Caryatids and Queens September 17, 2019

Femininity is universally associated with beauty, softness, tenderness, receptivity, relationship, and caring. While some equate these qualities with weakness, Spirit Warriors know they make us stronger than we ever imagined possible. Of the many symbols suggesting this kind of strength, none speaks as strongly to me as the caryatid.

Caryatids are gigantic columns or pillars in the form of beautiful, fully draped females. A very old architectural device, they were originally used to support immense entablatures in sacred public buildings. In ancient times it was said that seven priestesses founded major oracle shrines. These priestesses had different names in various parts of the world. In the Middle East they were known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, hence their common usage as columns holding up temple roofs. These same pillars are referred to in Proverbs 9:1: “Wisdom [Sophia] hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” On the Acropolis at Athens, caryatids are associated with the strong and independent goddess, Artemis Caryatis, from whom they get their name.

My first glimpse of caryatids at the British Museum filled me with awe and wonder. In them I saw feminine beauty, gentleness, independence, spirituality and mystery blended with majestic, connected, sense of community, and the immovable strength and indomitable will to take a stand for social responsibility. I was looking at the Queen archetype.

A defining characteristic of the caryatid’s strength is her queenly way of serving society. She is strong enough to support huge public buildings in which many activities take place every day, but never takes on more than she can handle, never gets crushed under the weight of her responsibilities.

Nor does she claim godlike perfection and omnipotence for herself: no savior complex for her! She simply receives what she is strong enough to receive; contains what she is large enough to contain; gives what is hers to give. Her strength is not based on compulsions to prove anything or pretend to be something she is not, but on a clear understanding of the nature of her gifts, dimensions of her interior space, and limits of her strength and authority.

Like caryatids, mature Queens have a strong need to nurture their communities. They are pillars of society who are always there to listen and understand; share in pain or joy; defend the innocent, weak, vulnerable and disenfranchised; and advance culture. They have a quiet, grounded strength that does not belittle, gossip, or betray confidences. They accept without rejecting differing opinions and protect without exploiting weakness. They do not relinquish softness; rather theirs is the softness of the lioness, not the lamb. Although receptive, they are never doormats. They nurture but never smother. Theirs is the warm and life-giving receptivity of the womb, not the cold hardness of the tomb.

Caryatids and Queens stand tall and firm with eyes wide open. With steadfast devotion and resolve they support institutions and endeavors which are in everyone’s best interest. We emulate their strength when we subordinate our ego’s will to the greater good and work for the betterment of all without betraying our personal standpoints.

Historically, the feminine principle in all of us–and the women onto whom patriarchy projects it–has endured thousands of years of negative stereotypes and repression. We are fortunate to live in a time when women are finally taking positions of leadership in the mainstream of society. Some of them are very angry. Can you blame them? I, for one, cannot.

Everyone, male or female, who has ever been repressed, abused, dismissed, taken for granted, or struggled to be taken seriously and heard with respect goes through a rage stage before they grow wise enough to take responsibility for their angry shadow and attain their full wisdom and power. History shows that for people of strong character and good will, given enough time and experience, their anger over the injustices they have suffered eventually dissolves and is replaced with an ethic of care, compassion, justice, and social responsibility.

This is true both of individuals and the civilizations we produce. After all, wasn’t it the rage of our forebears at the injustices they suffered in other countries that brought most of them to America? Didn’t that rage give rise to the wisdom that drove the writing of the Declaration of Independence? Didn’t it fuel the Revolutionary War and secure the ratification of the U.S. Constitution?

Underneath our wounds, deep in our unconscious selves, every one of us contains the capacity to develop the Queen’s determination and indomitable will to do the right thing: to support, protect, and nurture everyone in our society, regardless of age, gender, race, social class, or religion. May we all, female and male alike, manifest more of this wise use of feminine strength.

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

Learning From Our Lady of the Beasts March 8, 2016

“The Earth Mother is…the eternally fruitful source of everything…. Each separate being is a manifestation of her; all things share in her life through an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth….Her animals….embody the deity herself, defining her personality and exemplifying her power.”  Buffie Johnson, Our Lady of the Beasts, Inner Traditions

The successful wielding of power to enhance our soul’s development is a primary concern of the feminine archetypes. For them, power is not about controlling otherness, but about loving and learning from otherness so that our souls are empowered to become what they were created to be. If this is to happen, our energies need to be redirected away from pursuits aimed at acquiring external, historical power toward those that bring internal, natural power. By natural power I mean the soul’s power to act from its rich, authentic core, unencumbered by the chains of fear, ignorance, and conformity. One way of loosening these chains is to learn from Earth Mother’s manifestations in nature.

The farther removed we are from nature, the less apt we are to hear Sophia’s voice or learn from her natural guidance. One night after an eventful weekend at our mountain home I recorded five valuable insights I had acquired, all of them necessary to my empowerment, and none of which I would have learned had I stayed indoors. Through my adult interactions with nature I am rediscovering something I knew as a child but never had the words for: staying close to nature brings me closer to my truest self.

A major step in my own return to nature began when, in my fifties, I fulfilled a childhood dream of buying my own horse to train: a two-and-a-half-year old gray thoroughbred I called Honey’s Shadow Dancer — gray to symbolize the union of the opposites of black and white for which I strive, Honey for his sweetness, Shadow to signify my desire to be always mindful of my own shadow, and Dancer to honor the ever-changing dance of life. For me, the physical care I lavished on him and our efforts to understand and trust one another were spiritual practices that were every bit as meaningful as my earlier, more cerebral ones.

Native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that for many native peoples Horse represents both physical and unearthly power, and that the impact of Horse’s domestication was akin to the discovery of fire. “Before Horse, humans were earthbound, heavy-laden, and slow creatures indeed. Once humans climbed on Horse’s back, they were as free and fleet as the wind. Through their special relationship with Horse, humans altered their self-concept beyond measure. Horse was the first animal medicine of civilization.”

The term animal medicine refers to life lessons learned from animals whose characteristics and habits demonstrate how to walk on our physical Earth Mother in harmony with the universe. Like Buffie Johnson, I think of the aspect of Earth Mother that conveys lessons through wild creatures and beloved animal companions as Our Lady of the Beasts.

What animal teachers has Our Lady of the Beasts sent to you?

Image Credit:  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.

 

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.

 

The Role of the Animus in a Woman’s Spiritual Journey January 12, 2015

 

anima-animus2Jung developed his theories about anima and animus in a place and time where gender stereotypes ruled. Despite his intention to draw from “the spirit of the depths” where these archetypes have universal meaning, to modern sensibilities some of his ideas might seem to have been contaminated by the spirit of his times.

For example, in his day men were generally considered to be more intellectually capable and women more emotional, and these assumptions occasionally crop up in his writing. To us this is obviously related to the fact that women in his time were still subjugated in many ways, including being denied equal educational and work opportunities.

Nonetheless, Jung developed far more objectivity in this area than most people before or since. Because of this, and because ignorance about these issues creates so many problems in our inner lives, work, and relationships, his descriptions of anima and animus are very useful.

In essence, he believed the animus matures as we cultivate an independent, non-socially conditioned idea of ourselves, growing more aware of what we truly believe and feel, and developing more initiative, courage, objectivity and spiritual wisdom. If the anima’s “soulful” activity is centered on caring and nourishing inner and outer relationships to preserve the species, the animus’s “spiritual” activity is focused on becoming more conscious and individuated to preserve oneself. In the big picture, of course, both ways of being are vital to the mature development of soul and spirit, individual and species.

Jungians believe that like the anima, the animus develops in four stages. In Jung’s Man and His Symbols, he cites analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz who writes that in the first stage the animus appears as “a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or ‘muscle man'” such as Tarzan. Next, the animus demonstrates initiative and has the capacity for planned action; thus, it might show up in a dream as a student, salesman, inventor, war hero, hunter, etc. Third, it becomes associated with inspired verbal and intellectual proficiency and might manifest as a dream image of a poet, professor, clergyman, lawyer, or politician. At its most mature it becomes, like Hermes and Sophia, a messenger of the gods who mediates between the unconscious and conscious mind via dreams, synchronicities, visions, and creative imagination. Thus, the highest calling of the animus, is, like the anima, to embody Wisdom and incarnate meaning.

Is this a true and accurate description of the animus?  No one really knows because our ideas about masculinity and femininity have been forming for thousands of years and vary widely from culture to culture.  I have no doubt that as the ego grows more conscious these ideas will continue to evolve. But currently in the West we tend to think of a healthy animus as the part of us with the strength, motivation, self-discipline, and courage to peel away the layers hiding the Self’s light, and we recognize him in the temptation to risk letting that light shine through until we are transparent in our uniqueness.

In the long run our uniqueness may not look anything at all like traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity. It will simply look like the soulful, spiritual being we really are.  The purpose of both anima and animus is to help our ego selves know and act from our fuller, authentic selves and develop loving relationships with everything and everyone, regardless of what others may think.

Photo Credit:  Google Images, Anima-Animus.  I can’t find out who the artist is.  If anyone knows, please let me know so I can give him/her credit.

Ebook versions of Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are atAmazonKoboBarnes 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.

 

The Interior Designer Within September 9, 2014

Celebrating my 10th birthday in my childhood home

Celebrating my 10th birthday in my childhood home

In the middle of my life I was forced to face some uncomfortable realities about myself. During that time I had many “unsuitable house” dreams. Their message was clear: if I moved into the “house” I had spent years designing and building I would be miserable. I had no idea why.

Now I do. Practically every choice I had made to that point was based on my need to please others and prove my worth. Because my focus was on how I appeared in the outer world I had no idea who I really was or what would make me happy. It felt selfish to even think that way! My only hope came from studying Jungian psychology and taking my dreams seriously.  Today I am living proof of the benefits of this inner work. To show you what I mean, here’s a “house” dream from a few nights ago.

Dream #4569: I’m Leading a Dream Group at My Childhood Home

I’m in my childhood house. It has been totally remodeled from a shabby little Victorian cottage into the most lovely and satisfying place I could imagine. I’m in the new dining room. It spans the width of the house in the space where the old kitchen and dining room used to be. I’m facing the front of the house where the screened porch, living room, my bedroom, and new kitchen are. Behind me is the back half of the house: Mom’s bedroom, the bathroom, the hall in between, and the back porch. This middle place is where I write.

The dining table is long, white, and surrounded by white chairs. There are flowers in the center and a few place settings in shades of white, cream, beige and soft greens. The adjoining kitchen is now in the front half of the house and mostly white too. It’s all very open, expansive and filled with light. I am awe-struck by how perfect it is for me.

I see people with books and notebooks coming through the front door into the living room. I realize they’re here for today’s dream group. I’m not quite ready yet so I ask the woman hovering nearby if she’ll offer them some water while I get ready. I’m already dressed in casual white capris and a loose white shirt, but haven’t done my hair or makeup. I look into the mirror on the table beside my work area and realize I look fine and will only need a minute.

The others are sitting in front of the house in a big circle under the trees. There are more people on the left side than the right with empty chairs in between. I ask them to form a smaller circle so everyone can see and hear everyone else.  I’m feeling relaxed and comfortable, happy that these people have come to my home to work on their dreams with me, and looking forward to today’s group.

birthday2Assocations:

The last sentence says it all. This is how I’ve been feeling lately:  casual, unhurried, in love with the remodel of my childhood house (my psyche:  the way I’m living now), and deeply grateful to have a circle of like-minded friends who want to discover their true selves and discuss their dreams with me (that would be you guys!!). Upon reflection (mirror), I realize I don’t fret nearly so much as I used to about appearances (makeup). And I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned (dream group). I love this life which is the exact opposite of how I used to live!

Who is the mysterious woman hovering nearby?  I never actually see her, but she’s appeared in many dreams, especially recently. I’m pretty sure she’s the same woman who rescued me when I found myself in deep water in “Going Against the Current,” one of the earliest dreams I recorded.  I think she’s Sophia, the Sacred Feminine who has been helping me remodel my house since I started working on my dreams.

Here are my reasons for telling you this.  First, no matter how good things may look from the outside, the inner life is a struggle for everyone. Second, we each have an interior designer who knows how to remodel our house in a way that is perfect for us.  Third, the price for her help is engaging in a regular practice that brings self-knowledge. Fourth, working on my dreams works for me.

What are your house dreams telling you?

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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