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.

 

Freedom to Feel February 3, 2012

As a young married woman I was utterly captivated by the film, Blume in Love, for reasons I didn’t understand. The same thing had happened three years earlier when I read my all-time favorite book: The Magus, by John Fowles. Why did I find it so incredibly fascinating? Did it have anything in common with Blume in Love, or were these just random coincidences? I didn’t know then. Forty years later, I do.

The Magus, published in 1966, was an instant success and is considered one of the top 100 best novels of the 20th century. The film which came out two years later is another story. This from Wikipedia: “The film was a critical disaster…Michael Caine himself has said that it was one of the worst films he had been involved in…because no one knew what it was all about. Woody Allen has made the comment that if he could live his life over again, he would do everything the same except for seeing The Magus.”

Who understood the message of The Magus in 1968? Certainly not the general public.  Even Fowles kept working on it until 1977 when he brought out a final version. Interest in psychoanalysis and mystical philosophy was growing in the West, but most of us, including women and some truly bad guys, still had the ego-driven mentality of a teenaged boy who wears the persona of a tough, white-hatted cowboy who defends the weak and is always on the side of right — even when it’s obvious to everyone else that he couldn’t be more wrong.

But the 100th monkey had hopped into a sinking canoe and we were in for a tumultuous ride down a raging river. The denizens of our collective unconscious had gained so much power that they were erupting in shocking phenomena: racial unrest, the Beatles with their Eastern religion and psychodelic drugs, the assassinations of our leaders, college sit-ins, the peace symbols and flower power of Haight-Ashbury’s hippies, the dissolving of the sexual double standard, violent protests against the Viet Nam War, and the charismatic and feminist movements.

Here’s my psychological explanation. Humanity had spent about 5,000 years developing and fine-tuning the ego, left-brained logos, and our masculine sides. All of this was a necessary part of our evolution, but then, in the first half of the 20th century, we experienced two devastating world wars, several smaller ones, and a new invention called “television.” Seeing his dark side reflected on the nightly news finally woke macho Old King Ego up. So he climbed down from his high horse and kissed Sophia, the sleeping Queen and High Priestess of the psyche who symbolizes feeling wisdom that comes from experience. We were evolving, getting back in touch with Eros, our feminine, caring, relationship-oriented side, and chaos always precedes times of great change.

So what does all hell breaking loose in Western society have to do with The Magus, Blume in Love, and me? Nicholas Urfe is near suicide due to an unauthentic life marked by unfeeling treatment of women. He’s drawn into the spell of a mysterious, magician-like man who uses a beautiful woman and an unconventional method to teach him how to feel again. Blume gets back in touch with his feelings when his desperate love for his Sophia-like divorced wife rekindles his feminine side. Like them and my society, I too was having unusual experiences that were arousing my inner feminine. Few from our generation knew what was happening, and many misused their new freedom to feel with disastrous results, but those who seized it and survived underwent life-changing initiations. Could it be that the dark Age of Unfeeling Reason is finally taking its place among the other dinosaurs of Earth’s chequered history?

 

A Thanksgiving Blessing November 23, 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 understand the repetitive nature of life’s processes so that they might acquire trust that each ending is also always a hopeful new beginning.

One memory from those workshops stands out from all 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 was very humbled and remember expressing that feeling, but have no recollection of what else I said. I have 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 where 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.

We have Life. What could be more worthy of thanks? May the miracle of being alive in this precious moment, this perfect Now, give you hope and gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day and in the days to come.

 

 
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