Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dreams As Spiritual Guides October 11, 2016

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When you are in the darkness you take the next thing, and that is a dream. And you can be sure that the dream is your nearest friend; the dream is the friend of those who are not guided any more by the traditional truth and in consequence are isolated. ~Carl Jung, the Symbolic Life, CW 18, Para 674

And if you lose yourself in the crowd, in the whole of humanity, you also never arrive at yourself; just as you can get lost in your isolation, you can also get lost in utter abandonment to the crowd. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 1020

For 27 years, my spiritual practice has been dreamwork. Dreams aren’t commonly thought of as spiritual aids but they absolutely are. Carl Jung demonstrated this in The Red Book in which he recorded what he learned about himself from visions and dreams over a three year period. This formed the material and inspiration for his groundbreaking insights into the true nature of the psyche, and for his belief that acquiring self-knowledge and becoming who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.

I wish I had understood this during the middle of my life. Throughout the 1980’s I functioned well in the outer world, juggling a home and family with college teaching. But inside I was struggling through a “dark night of the soul” crisis in which I was increasingly dissatisfied with my religion, my work, my relationships and myself.

Near the end of that decade I joined a Jungian study group. When I learned that dreams show us unknown aspects of ourselves in a visual, metaphorical, symbolic language, I began to record and work with mine. By the time I had this Big dream, I knew that taking my nocturnal dramas seriously was vital to my wellbeing.

Dream #155: “Going Against the Current.”

I’m walking downstream in a rushing river beside a rocky bank.  People are shooting by on rafts and I wonder how they keep from bashing themselves against the rocks. I turn around and laboriously make my way back upstream in water up to my chin.  The bottom is rough and rocky.  I reach up and hold onto some thin, flimsy branches sticking out over the water. This helps, but soon there are no more and I have to go on unaided.  

At the last turn I come up against thousands of people heading downstream. Friendly people press in on every side as I struggle against the current toward the place I’m supposed to be—my base camp. Sometimes I touch a head or shoulder to propel myself forward. When I reach the mouth of the river I put my palms together and gently part the people; this reminds them of Moses parting the Red Sea and they smile indulgently.  

Then I’m far out in the ocean in deep water, tired and afraid. Will I make it? A younger, blond-haired woman appears, only her head showing above the water. “That was smart of you,” she says. I know she’s strong and rested and will support me if I need to float for a while. Together we head slowly to my base far away on the left shore, a place I’ve never been but know to be my destination.

unknownIn exquisitely beautiful imagery, this dream told the story of my psycho-spiritual development. It said that when I began my journey (walking) through the unconscious (water) I was still aligned with the collective (going with the flow downstream). But I had become aware of the passing of time (river) and the danger of continuing to rush mindlessly along on the path of least resistance (downstream) while ignoring my undeveloped self and unfulfilled yearnings.

Redirecting my focus to my inner world was making my journey more difficult (going upstream). The form of spiritual support (branches) I had always clung to—the heavenly spirituality of the Sky God that requires conformity to dogma—was of no further help to me (the branches disappear) and I had to continue alone.

Like the children of Israel when they crossed the Red Sea, I was leaving my slavish allegiance to the collective (crowd of people) behind, and entering the unknown: my frightening and dangerous (deep water) unconscious self (the sea). There I caught a glimpse of my anima or soul (the blond woman), the feminine half of the Self which, in Jungian language, is partner to the masculine animus or spirit. Together they form our central archetype, our God-image, symbol-maker, and connection to the Sacred. The message of this dream was that assuming my own authority and trusting myself would bring me to my true self (base camp).

Until I discovered dreamwork, no books or scriptures, no religious beliefs or sacrifices or regular church attendance, none of my ego’s hard work or good behavior, no well-intentioned thoughts or knowledge or cleverness, no psychological expert or religious authority—nothing in my life had any lasting transforming or healing power for me. But this dream from the Self did.  The Self knew me.  It spoke to me in the symbols of this dream which it fashioned solely for me when it knew I was ready to listen.

My Beloved knew where I’d been, what I sought, where I was going. It knew I was turning my life around before I did. It reassured me that replacing my old life of passionless conformity with the great adventure of exploring my unconscious self was the right choice for me. Above all, it convinced me I could trust it to tell me the truth and guide me in the direction of my heart’s desire. Eventually this knowing emboldened me to leave work for which I was ill-suited to follow my passions for writing and self-knowledge. That choice has made all the difference between a false life of meaninglessness, dissatisfaction and confusion, and the real life of increasing clarity, trust, meaning and peace I’m living now.

imagesContrary to popular belief, discovering and being true to who you are beneath the mask you wear, and doing it for the sake of love, is the authentic spiritual journey. What did you dream last night? What did you learn about yourself?

Photo Credit: “Going Against the Current,”Luo Quingzhen, Google Images.  Salmon going upstream: unknown, Wikimedia Commons. “Danube Salmon Swimming Against the Current,” unknown, 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.

 

Why Do I Meditate? April 5, 2016

I’m at my desk reading the Goethe quote on my coffee mug: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” I feel the truth of this deeply, but wonder if I really understand it or can express it adequately. I want to try.

I close my eyes to feel the life in my body and follow my breath. Tiny tinglings everywhere…chest and belly rising and falling…the air conditioner fan whirring away to my left, an airplane humming overhead…the solid floor beneath my feet…the warmth of my clasped hands…the softness of my velvet robe.

I open my eyes and look out the window at the stand of bald cypress with their knotty brown trunks and newly green foliage. I watch the soft sway of their gray Spanish moss beards. I wait…for what I don’t know. I smile. It’s a relief not to need to know. A love bug lands on the window at eye level. No, wait; it’s two love bugs! My smile expands. My heart seems to expand too. I’m enjoying this tiny reminder of love. Fluttering leaves sparkle. Some show their paler sides; others are a deeper green. A dragonfly flits by. Cottony clouds with dove gray undersides sink slowly below the cypress canopy.

I rise and step outside to see if the great blue heron is still fishing across the creek. S/he’s gone, but a pair of black-feathered, yellow-legged, red-billed birds (young coots?) fly past, then abruptly make a U-turn and hurry back in the opposite direction.

I remember the brilliant cardinal that kept dropping by one day last week to peck at the picture window, either flirting with his image or trying to pass through the sky’s reflection. I Googled the symbolism of cardinals and found this: [The cardinal] “reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility.” Good advice. But that was a few days ago. I return to this moment.

Caroline Myss

Caroline Myss

Other random thoughts intrude and I invite them to pass on so I can stay present. I realize I’m hoping to close these musings with some sort of sign or synchronicity I can share to prove how rewarding just appreciating this day can be! But nothing is showing up and I’m running out of writing space.

Wait. Something is showing up. (As I write these words a cardinal darts by…is it my cardinal?… but that isn’t what I mean.) What shows up after I’ve written the previous paragraph is an awareness of my ego’s influence over my thoughts and writing. My ego wants a sign it can use to be impressive, but my soul just wants to be! And just as I was thinking this the cardinal passed by. I guess I did receive a sign after all: ego pride!  I smile and let it be. Self-knowledge is healing but self-criticism erodes my confidence and robs me of this moment. Simply being aware of everything, including my baser tendencies, is the true value of this day.

Why do I meditate? Because it slows down my monkey mind and makes me more mindful of my body. Because when I’m mindful of my body, I experience this fleeting miracle of being.  Because experiencing the miracle of being—being alive, being me, having this body, this day, this comfortable place to live, my health, people who love me—fills me with love and gratitude. And when I remember love and gratitude, I remember to choose love more often that day, no matter what’s happening in my outer world. For me, that’s reason enough.

Photo Credits:  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 also at Amazon as well as KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

 

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.

 

Anima/Animus: The Archetype of Contrasexuality December 22, 2015

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Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung. “The Philosophical Tree” (1945). In CW 13: Alchemical Studies. P.335

So far in this series about the five major players in every psyche, I’ve written about the ego, our center of consciousness; the persona, our social mask;  and the shadow, our disowned qualities.  The remaining players are buried much deeper in our unconscious, and can only be accessed after we’ve learned about, and come to terms with, the very real and potentially toxic powers of our shadows.  Until this happens, we will not reach the fourth level of the psyche or mature self-knowledge.

To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.  Carl Jung. “Good and Evil in Analytical Psychology” (1959). In CW 10. Civilization in Transition. P.872

Getting in the middle is good!  Seeing ourselves from two sides—i.e. conscious and unconscious, good and evil—frees us to discover our full individuality.  We do this by meeting and coming to terms with the anima/animus archetype of contrasexuality. This pair represents the two fundamental energies of the psyche.

Jung said the anima is the unconscious feminine.  He believed she is a particularly potent force in the psyche of a man, but today it might be more appropriate to say of a person whose ego identifies primarily with maleness. Historically thought of as soul, Jung associated our unconscious feminine sides with Eros, the principle of feeling and relationship.

Conversely, the animus is the unconscious masculine, a unusually powerful force in one whose ego identifies primarily with femaleness.  Historically thought of as spirit, Jung associated our unconscious masculine sides with Logos, the principle of rationality.

Until very recently, humanity has not understood that everyone contains all the qualities associated with both energies, and so has made the mistake of assigning specific and limiting roles to the genders. Even Jung tended to be confusing when writing about this issue, as he believed that every woman’s psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, and every male’s on the principle of Logos. But might he have been influenced by gender stereotypes which were so strongly imposed in his time?  For in organizing the personality types into the two opposites of Logos thinking and Eros feeling, he acknowledged that both potentials exist in every psyche. So why assign each to a gender? In other words, even this great psychological pioneer had difficulty being clear about this issue.

Anumus Anima, Why? Wendy Stark, YouTube

Credits: Animus Anima, Why? Wendy Stark, YouTube

I think Erich Neumann said it best when wrote in The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton University Press, 1954) xxii n. 7:

“…we use the terms “masculine” and “feminine” throughout the book, not as personal sex-linked characteristics, but as symbolic expressions. . . . The symbolism of “masculine” and “feminine” is archetypal and therefore transpersonal; in the various cultures concerned, it is erroneously projected upon persons as though they carried its qualities. In reality every individual is a psychological hybrid.”

There is no final word on this issue as yet, either in the Jungian community or the general public.  The stereotypes about gender that have prevailed throughout the patriarchal era (about 5,000 + years) have confused and severely constrained the psychological development of all of us. However, we are beginning to understand that the creation and evolution of every form of life, both physical and psychic, only occurs when these two complementary forms of energy merge in a reciprocal partnership. Neither form is superior or inferior to the other and nothing new can be created by either one alone.

The anima/animus archetype manifests as new potentials that most of us will only consciously develop after we’ve fulfilled the basic tasks of the first half of life:  getting an education, developing our interests and skills, proving ourselves in jobs, finding love partners, and establishing a home and family. In our dreams, our anima/animus qualities appear as unusually fascinating and influential women and men who compel us to challenge and change outmoded attitudes, thoughts and emotions. Opening our minds and reflecting on these changes spurs healthy growth;  rejecting them out of fear or stereotypical thinking stunts further growth into mature consciousness.

As I write this, it’s Dec. 21, 2015, Winter Solstice Eve, the darkest night of the year. In the following video I share my very first recorded dream. It’s very fitting that it featured my animus as an attractive, seductive man who wanted to enlighten me about love. Fortunately, I was ready to push past my fear and learn what he wanted to teach me. Please enjoy my holiday offering to you: The Dream Theatre of the Anima/Animus.  This dream brought more light into my psyche. May it do the same for you.

 

 

Muse, Anima, or Soul? September 1, 2015

The Ponte Vecchio (

The Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”) in Florence, Italy

Recently a reader asked this question: “If a woman performs the function of being an artist’s ‘muse’ and if the artist believes (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell in ‘The White Goddess”) that ‘she is a representative of the goddess deconstructing and remaking him’ then where does muse/anima begin and end?”

I wasn’t exactly sure I understood the question fully, but here’s how I replied…in a slightly revised form now that I’ve decided to make a post of it.

Well, right off hand I’d say that the muse is one of several functions of the Anima.  Anima is the name Carl Jung gave to a man’s unconscious feminine side. As I use the term however, I essentially mean the unconscious or undeveloped feminine in everyone.  Sometimes I use Anima and Soul interchangably.  I do the same with the unconscious masculine:  i.e. Animus or Spirit. 

Our feminine side is associated with empathy, intimately relating, nurturing, receptivity, tender feelings, the instincts, and all the soulful, material, physical aspects of human life. Whichever of these are not consciously developed remain in the unconscious as our Anima.

Our instincts are the source of all creativity:  i.e. we need to eat (the instinct for nurturance), so we create weapons and tools to catch and kill animals and fish. Or look for work we can enjoy and earn money doing. Paradoxically, we contain an instinct for creativity itself, although not everyone activates it as much as artists and other unusually creative people. 

Patriarchal culture educates us into a one-sided way of thinking and behaving with values that are active, productive, dynamic, goal- and achievement-oriented, practical, clear, structured, logical, linear and competitive.  In this masculine-oriented environment, many of us repress our Soul into the unconscious, thus losing the ability to care deeply and have empathy for others, cultivate intimate relationships, feel and express tender emotions, tend lovingly to our bodies and the everyday physical requirements of life, and be receptive to our own repressed needs and instincts. Soul requires more time, quiet, stillness, space, receptivity and contemplation to get in touch with the inner life—including inspiring inner images, visions, dreams and imagination—than the fast track allows.

As a result, many, if not most, men project their Anima onto a woman and let her carry it for them.  A man can learn  a lot about Soul vicariously through her, but he won’t necessarily learn to experience his own Soul, which might be quite different from hers.

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” ~Dante Alighieri

Dante sees Beatrice for the first time.

Dante sees Beatrice for the first time.

This can create real problems between them because he expects her to behave “appropriately,”  i.e. as his own idealized feminine side would.  When she doesn’t mirror his ideal image, or Anima, he may be critical, disappointed, or angry at her. This is because he doesn’t see her as she really is, or even necessarily like her;  he can only see her and appreciate her when she appears to be who he wants her to be.  Yet if she leaves him, he can be devastated.  It’s as if she’s taken away an essential part of him.  Which she has:  his connection to his feminine side.

Now, let’s assume this man has a strong, conscious connection with his creative instinct, and is a writer, artist, poet, composer, actor, etc. Let’s also assume that the woman onto whom he has projected his Anima inspires him to use his creative instinct in unusually imaginative and enormously satisfying ways.  In this case, the woman also assumes the function of his muse.  As such, she provides him with an important connection to the “inspiratrix” aspect of his own Anima.

This is exactly what happened to Dante when he first saw the girl Beatrice on the Ponte Veccio in Florence.  His Anima awoke with a lightning flash and immediately took residence in her image. Even though he married someone else and Beatrice died at a young age, her image forever after functioned as his Anima/Muse/Beloved and inspired him to write The Divine Comedy.

In bringing him in touch with his deeper inner life, the muse as his Beloved also provided access to his entire Soul, not just the inspiratrix part of her, but also the other instinctual parts that helped him care and feel deeply, develop intimate relationships, learn about his own feminine side, and ultimately connect with his Self.  It was this  inner relationship with his Soul and her conscious union with his Spiritual side that activated his authentic Self, expanded his vision into the Sacred Realm, and illuminated his brilliant masterpiece.

Unfortunately, most men never see the woman to whom they are profoundly attracted as an individual in her own right. Nor do they realize that the reason they are so attracted to her is because she represents the feminine half of their own authentic Self.

The Divine ComedyBut a man who can learn about his own Soul from the woman onto whom he projects it—i.e. a man who recognizes that the qualities he admires in her belong to him, and who can gain access to these qualities whether she is physically with him or not—is the most fortunate of men. Why? Because to consciously activate and create harmony between one’s own Soul and Spirit is the whole point of the human journey…or should I say, of the Divine Comedy?

And what is that point? To consciously make of one’s own life a work of art.

Image credits:  The Ponte Vecchio, http://www.asceville.org, Google Images. Dante and Beatrice, Henry Holiday, Wikipedia. Divine Comedy, 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, Inc.

 

Seeing Through the Mist August 25, 2015

I spent the first half of my life in a mist, blind to all that is truly sacred. A spiritual seeker from the age of 17, I had plenty of ideas about what was sacred, but they came from other people. Only very rarely did I actually experience the sacred for myself. Then I discovered the symbolic meaning in dreams and myths.

Myths are cultural expressions of humanity’s relationship to the gods. While not necessarily literally true on the outside, myths are always true on the inside because they address the truths of the soul. Dreams are personal myths. Imaginatively exploring the symbols and themes of our dreams to gain insights into our personal issues, then seeing how they are addressed and resolved in cultural myths, can help us grow our spirits and recover our souls.

In A History of God, former nun Karen Armstrong says, “The only way we can conceive of God, who remains imperceptible to the senses and to logical proof, is by means of symbols, which it is the chief function of the imaginative mind to interpret.” And in The Holy Longing, Jungian analyst Connie Zweig writes, “In effect, the life of the imagination is the spiritual life.”

Three months after I began to practice regular dreamwork I was staying at the beach when I had dream #46. I called it “Temple in the Wilderness.”

I walk through woods on a path cut through the earth. I’m seeking a stream I know to be at the bottom end of the path. I find it where it spills into the sea and follow it to a mist-shrouded garden. In it are ruins of a Greek temple; one column remains upright. In awe, I kneel to examine some creamy-white flowers. Near the bottom of the plant is a pyramid-shaped arrangement of four glowing, waxy white horses facing the four directions. Surrounding them are blossoms so beautiful I can hardly take them in. A puppy named Prince playfully grabs my hand, inviting me to follow him. A young woman asks his name and is pleased to hear it. Two other people bring food for the puppy. After seeing a couple walking hand-in-hand through the distant mist I awaken.

This dream fascinated me so I worked through the plot by exploring my associations for the symbols: path, woods, stream, sea, garden, Greek temple, column, mist, kneeling, white flowers, glowing horses, the four directions, the puppy Prince who wants to guide me somewhere, the people who feed him, and the couple walking through the mist.  Then I explored cultural and archetypal associations for the symbols I wanted more information about.

The final result was a mythical narrative with an underlying theme of compassion and love. Deeply moved, I felt as if a cold, hard place in my heart was softening, melting down, and warming up.

The body remembers. To honor this feeling so I would never forget it I made a ritual that morning of walking down to the beach with an ice cube in my hand. Kneeling in the sand, I held it in the warm salty water until it melted.

After that I deepened my study of symbolism and myths. Two years later I redesigned my dining room to remind me of the misty temple in the woods, resigned from my job, and began writing a manuscript which became The Bridge to Wholeness. That first book about the inner life opens with an original myth that is a metaphor for my spiritual journey.

As author and spirit warrior William Horden has said, “to those of us attuned to the one psyche, no one can fool us into thinking we are just indulging in our ‘imagination’. We have had a taste of the ever-new bubbling fountain of creation…from that point on, for the intoxicated soul thirsty for more of the gods’ nectar, there is only the creative act…the ‘making’ that reveals the artist within each of us.”

This is holy work. With each creative act we make to honor the truths bubbling up from our source, we re-myth our lives and enter the sacred realm that has always awaited us beyond the mist.

Image credit:  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.

 

 
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