Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Elephant in the Cave August 12, 2014

Inner work is any practice that helps make the unconscious conscious; for example, dreamwork, art, journaling, psychotherapy, meditation, prayer, yoga, body work, active imagination, ritual, and so on. But the ego’s fear of seeing beneath the surface makes most of us naturally resistant to this kind of work. The ninth dream I ever recorded addressed this issue:

It is night and very dark. I try to lock an elephant in a cave, but when I push on the door to close it, it breaks. I run for help because I am afraid the elephant will get out and do some damage.

This dream is short, sweet, and very much to the point. What could be more frightening to a tiny ego than a massive elephant on a rampage? Who wouldn’t try to lock it in or run away?

In religious practices and literature, the elephant often symbolizes power, wisdom, and happiness. As a mount for Asian royalty, it represents sovereignty. And as an instinctual creature with advanced sensitivity, it symbolizes inner knowing and intuition. Since animals in dreams usually represent our instincts, (Jung said we have five: activity, nourishment, reflection, sex, and creativity), to me the elephant suggested my instinct for reflection because reflecting on our inner lives can activate these positive qualities.

What about the other two symbols in this dream? A cave is associated with birth (the Eastern church depicts Christ’s birth in a cave), the maternal womb, and sacred initiation rites. Like the unconscious, caves are dark places containing hidden potential and spiritual treasures.

A door represents a psychic force which, when closed, keeps us from knowing what lies behind it. But when it is broken or open, we can travel between the outer, conscious world of logic, reason, and objective fact, and the mysterious inner world of the unconscious.

While this dream helped me recognize my resistance to reflecting (elephant) on my personal unconscious (cave) because my ego was afraid of opening (door) to the unknown, it held much more meaning for me than I was capable of understanding then. At the time I thought the unknowns I feared were changing in ways that might be problematic for my family and discovering some hidden unworthy qualities, but after twenty-five years of inner work, I have rooted out a deeper, archetypal source of my fear.

All three symbols in this dream are related to spirituality. Western and Middle Eastern religions traditionally associate spirit with the distant masculine Sky God with whom they connect via mental abstractions: correct words, clear ideas, strong beliefs, and noble ideals. This approach has long devalued the spiritual significance of the soul which is associated with femininity: physical matter, the body, emotion, instinct, feeling, inner knowing, intuition and the birth/death/rebirth cycle of life.

Of what was I so afraid? To what has my religion had such stern resistance for the last 5,000 years? Simply this: The feminine aspect of the Mystery we call God. The Mystery incarnate in matter. The sovereignty, spiritual authority, power and wisdom of our own infinitely beautiful and loveable bodies and souls. The energies of Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom: the sacred spark that indwells us and all creation. Poor little ego.  So terrified of life!

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”~Joseph Campbell

Photo Credit:  Gregory Colbert

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.

 

Caryatids and Queens April 8, 2014

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, immovable strength. I was looking at a manifestation of, and metaphor for, the Queen archetype. This is a feminine aspect of power and strength with which every psyche is furnished regardless of gender.

A defining characteristic of the caryatid’s strength is her queenly way of serving society. She is strong enough to support huge social structures involving a variety of people, skill levels and activities, 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 authority.

Like caryatids, mature Queens have a sense of social responsibility. 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. May we all, female and male alike, manifest more of this wise use of feminine strength.

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 Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

The Heroic Making of a Soul March 28, 2014

Maiden/Princess

Maiden/Princess

Child

Child

Earlier this month on March 10, my darling child, Matrignosis, turned four years old.  As it has been with my human children, so it has been with Matrignosis in many ways: Pouring my passion into her and learning more about myself as she’s grown has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life.  Indeed, the overwhelming maternal feelings I have for her and what she’s taught me are reflected in the name I gave her:  matri (Lat. Mother), and gnosis (Gk. knowledge).

Yet, as she has developed through my creative outpourings, Matrignosis has been not only Child, but also Maiden, Mother and Crone to me.  All are part of the life cycle of women and the Sacred Feminine in whatever guise we see her: Goddess, Sophia, Anima, Soul, Yin, Mother Nature, Durga, Kali, the drive for species-preservation…..

As Child she represents my youthful innocence—all the instinctual feeling, vulnerability, wonder and openness I once had and to which I am returning, this time with awareness. (See Dreams of the Divine Child.)

As Maiden she is my dreaming Princess who lives in the questions and tolerates the tension between immaturity and maturity, ignorance and knowing, waiting for a kiss to guide her next steps in the dance. (See The Golden Bear.)

As Mother and Queen she has willingly embraced the otherness of masculinity.  In so doing, she has suffered the loss of innocence, established the boundaries of her identity, struggled to assume her sovereignty, and celebrated the birth of fresh, hopeful new life.  (See The Queen: Lioness of the Psyche)

As a Crone who is slowly and lovingly being stripped of youth’s illusions, she is opening to the mystery of Death while blessing the beauty and wisdom of her body,  experiences, and each fleeting moment of her miraculous life.  (See A Dream of Crones  and Crone Love.)

Matrignosis contains all these qualities and more, as do I. She also reflects my Shadow, the parts of me that are ignorant, self-centered, proud, stubborn, judgmental, defensive, unforgiving.  In some posts I’ve shared my flaws. In others I’ve withheld them. And sometimes they’ve snuck through the cracks in my Persona without my awareness, just as my Shadow sometimes erupts in my behavior.  That’s what Shadows do and I’m okay with that. There’s no human being so transparent that light passes through without casting a shadow.

Yet I am not just a physical body with a flawed personality.  I’m also an evolving soul with a sincere passion for self-knowledge, a deep love for Spirit, and a powerful desire to pass along what I have learned.  As such, Matrignosis is as much a testament to my soul’s healthy truths and accomplishments as to my ego’s unhealed wounds.

The combination of both is what makes me human.  My willingness to take my soul seriously enough to face and admit to both is what makes me heroic.  The same is true of you and every soul who suffers the shame of ignorance, who is appalled when your Shadow overrules reason and good intentions, who enters the struggle for understanding because you want learn how to love and help other suffering souls.  You. Are. Heroic!

And so in conclusion to this celebration of Matrignosis’s fourth birthday, I’d like to say that of all the good things she has brought into my life over the past four years, the courage to claim my soul’s heroism and let its light shine without apology or fear of judgment brings the most satisfaction.

Thank you for reading and sharing your truths here.  It means the world to me to have created this in-between space where heroic souls can meet.

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Crone

Crone

This is for you, Tony.  Did you ever know you are my hero?

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 Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

Art: Debutante, by Helen Scobel Raffa. 

Art: Wisdom Lady by C. Victor Posing. Used with permission.

 

The Well of Feminine Power March 25, 2014

In European and Chinese thought, the feminine principle is associated with passivity and the masculine with action. In Hinduism, however, the feminine is associated with creativity and action, and the masculine with manifestation.

The primary image of the feminine principle in Hinduism is the goddess Durga. In a myth called the Devi Mahatmya, a buffalo-headed yogi has become a monster whom none of the gods can overthrow. So the gods stand in a circle, send their energies back to where they came from, and a great black cloud appears. Out of it comes Durga, the goddess with eighteen arms. In each hand is a symbol of one of the gods. With the combined power of these symbols, she alone is able to defeat the monster.

In this story, masculine power is a specific form of the life energy that is feminine. As Joseph Campbell says in Pathways to Bliss, the feminine is the source of the energy and the masculine is its specification in any particular direction. She is the energy out of which creation arises, he is every visible manifestation of that energy. She is the whole; he is each individual part. This intuition from many spiritual traditions is probably why the feminine has long been associated with the dark sea of the unconscious, and the masculine with the ego consciousness which emerges from this maternal matrix.

Although the masculine and feminine principles are metaphors for the basic energies of every psyche, most of us associate them with the genders. As a result, Campbell says it’s much easier for a woman to identify with masculinity than for a male who is committed to his particular form to identify with femininity. All she has to do is take on a specification of the power that is already hers, but he has to give up his ego identity and personal field of power which feels like disintegrating into a formless void. This, of course, is exactly what the Buddha did, and that, says Campbell, was a heroic act of the first order.

In a perfect world, both forms of energy would be valued equally and every child would be helped to discover and activate his or her own unique blend of interests, skills and powers without regard to gender. But most of us have not yet attained that heroic level of consciousness. An immature ego with limited consciousness equates power with physical prowess and power over others. Sensing the magnitude of feminine power and fearing anything more powerful than itself, it represses the feminine principle in the psyche; and if it identifies with maleness, it will also tend to dominate and exploit females.

A well is a symbol of the feminine principle, the womb of the Great Mother, the human psyche.  We all contain Durga’s power: the totality of human potential. Our ego is only one form of that potential. We can choose to identify only with the familiar and comfortable qualities that are sanctioned by our families; or, if we want to, we can choose to activate our fullest power by accepting everything about ourselves we associate with the feminine principle, including tender feelings, instincts, caring, nurturing, evil, suffering, the capacity for intimate relationships, an understanding heart, intuition, etc.

In empowering Durga we can attain our destiny. What monsters hold you back from attaining your destiny? What do you have to lose by enlisting Durga’s help to overcome them?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncEbook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon, and at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

Learning From Our Lady of the Beasts April 16, 2013

“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. Next time I’ll share some empowering animal medicine she brought to me through my beloved teacher, Shadow.

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

Congratulations to the three winners of my blog tour giveaway: Nancy Hup , Vicki Edmundson, and Rick Boys. They’ll each receive an autographed copy of Healing the Sacred Divide, and Nancy, as first place winner, will also receive an Amazon gift card.  Thank you to them and to all who followed the tour.

 

The Art of Tending the Fire March 26, 2013

An ancient theorem of enlightenment is As within, so without. Essentially, this means that we humans project the themes and processes of our souls outward into the physical world, which then functions like a giant movie screen. If we will look at this screen through the eyes of Sophia—by which I mean with right-hemisphere mythos—we will see our inner dramas enacted everywhere and this seeing will enhance our self-awareness.

For example, the following themes of the ego’s heroic journey into consciousness are found not only in ancient rituals, scriptures, and myths, but in current books, films, songs, paintings, sculptures, and other creative works:

Separation (leaving the safety and comfort of the maternal matrix to find your identity),

Achievement (strengthening your ego by finding and proving your individuality),

Sacrifice (changing your ego’s attitude toward power),

Suffering (entering the dark abyss of the unconscious),

Surrender, Death, Descent (losing the safety and comfort of familiar assumptions and conventional formulas; submitting to an authority greater than the world’s opinions),

Receiving help from unexpected sources (befriending your shadow and feminine side),

Rebirth (acquiring self-knowledge and more consciousness; being released from the prisons of rigid belief systems; becoming empowered to make original choices),

Return (re-entering the community on your own terms as a maturing, authentic individual),

Reunion (being reunited with feminine feeling and participating in the sacred marriage in which your inner opposites are united), and

Blessing (bringing healing new consciousness to your community).

These archetypal themes are developed in such literary works as Somerset Maughm’s The Razor’s Edge, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, John Fowles’ The Magus, and even the humorous Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins. Films include Alan Ball’s American Beauty, M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Village and Lady in the Water, and George Lucas’sStar Wars series. The songs of Kris Kristofferson and other musicians likewise address many of these issues. Ultimately, the symbols and motifs of every work of art are imaginative manifestations of the artist’s need to understand and express him/herself, evolve into greater consciousness, and share what s/he has learned with others. Some artists know this; others don’t have a clue.

Imaginatively tracking the underlying threads of psychological and spiritual meaning that we find in myth, literature, film, art, our dreams and even the everyday events of our waking lives, is soul-making work.  As Jungian analyst Monika Wikman says, “The symbolizing function alive in the imagination unites the opposites of spirit and body and brings us into experience with the third, the intermediary, realm, which is both corporeal and spiritual and also more than the sum of the parts. The star in humankind—the living imagination and its connection to the divine—mediates psyche/body dimensions and misalignments…”  Using our imagination to find personal meaning in the themes and images that speak to us heals divides that prevent us from becoming our true selves.

The alchemists understood the transforming value of imagination. They addressed it with their symbolism of tending the fire and cooking earthly elements until they were distilled into their purest essences.  The essences were lifted into the heavens to mingle with and be fertilized by what Jung called the “seeds of the stars,”  their celestial, archetypal source.  Thus renewed, they returned to purify and renew the earth. This was a metaphor for transforming the baser, earthier elements of our psyches in ways that bring us spiritual awareness,  emotional warmth and the light of consciousness.

Our transformation does not happen quickly or easily. It is, as Wikman notes,  a never-ending process of cultivating “inner attentiveness to the life of the soul, and learning how to live and work with this flame that burns within in ways that are life enhancing, rather than destructive.”  This leads us “into growing awareness and participation in new transmutations between heaven and earth, between human and divine…[wherein]…we and the guiding spirit of wisdom grow in relationship to one another.”

If wisdom is the goal we seek, tending our inner fire is the art that will take us there.

 

Meeting the Mistress of the Forest July 10, 2012

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 habitual assumptions are not easy to overcome. 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.

Her voice is very soft; her call, though compelling, is quiet. She speaks to us in urges, needs, wishes, emotions, feelings, synchronicities, yearnings, 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, follow your passions, 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, 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 we different from that old horse?

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

 

 
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