Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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.

 

 

The Anima’s Role in a Man’s Spiritual Journey January 6, 2015

anima_animus1Now that the holidays are over, I’d like to return to the topic I started a few weeks ago. I wrote about a man who, in the middle of his life, had a powerful dream in which he briefly identified with being a woman. What could this mean from the perspective of Jungian psychology?

In his work life, this man had become a highly successful and respected authority in his field. He was a responsible, law-abiding citizen and a loving husband, father, and social benefactor. Looking from the outside, one might ask, “What more could he possibly lack or want?” What more but a satisfying and meaningful inner life?

This introspective, scrupulous man is aware of the universe beneath the surface of his life. For him, filling society’s roles, following conventional rules, and acquiring worldly success are not enough. He is realizing his fulfillment lies in coming to terms with his whole self, including his unconscious feminine side. Something deep within him wants more than external observances: it wants internal congruence. It wants more than the appearance of caring and compassion: it wants the deeply felt reality. It wants more than the attainment of social power and authority: it wants a connection with his inner spiritual power and authority.

In his book Jung and the Lost Gospels, Dr. Stephan Hoeller summarizes the psycho-spiritual task of the serious seeker: “In Jung’s psychology, women need to integrate their animus, and men must do the same with their anima; the bringing to consciousness of the contrasexual image of each person permits entry into the kingdom of individuation and consequent wholeness.”

The word anima literally means soul. Jung saw the main qualities of the anima as relatedness and mediation, both between self and other and between ego and unconscious. The foundation for these qualities is love, or Eros, with its attributes of intimacy, harmony, tolerance, empathy, compassion, etc. In Volume 16 of Jung’s Collected Works he summarized the four stages in which a man’s anima develops: from the purely biological in which a woman is equated with the mother and only represents something to be fertilized; to an aesthetic and romantic level in which sex still dominates but woman has acquired some value as an individual; to a stage of religious devotion in which Eros is elevated to spiritual motherhood; and finally to Sophia, Wisdom.

Dreams of women show men at least two things about their unconscious selves: unknown feelings and attitudes toward femininity, and the health and maturity of their anima. In the dreams of a man who fears, distrusts, or disdains women and represses his “feminine” qualities, his anima will show up as an angry shrew, hag, witch, nag, victim, tease, or dangerous siren, and his dream ego will usually respond to her in ways typical for him in waking life.

Conversely, the dreams of a man who is accepting his feminine side — i.e. getting in touch with his feelings, developing respect for women, learning to express tender emotions, becoming comfortable with intimacy, growing more understanding and nurturing in his relationships, etc. — will be visited by increasingly friendly, kind, helpful, loving, trustworthy, and profoundly fascinating women.

Thus is the wicked witch transformed into the beautiful princess who awaits the prince’s kiss.  Thus does the feminine Spirit Warrior awaken and bestow her blessings of self-acceptance, true wisdom, and spiritual meaning on a man who is, himself, becoming a Spirit Warrior.

Next time I’ll discuss the role of men in women’s dreams.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

What Do Dreams Have To Do With “Real” Life? Part II July 22, 2014

IndividuationandArchetypeLast time I shared a dream from over 20 years ago titled “Two Snakes in the Tree of Life.” So what did that dream have to do with “real” life?  Actually, dreams ARE real life.  They happen to everyone, even some animals.  They are facts.  We do not make them up.  They come from a place beyond Ego’s control: the unconscious.  Our unawareness of the unconscious does not negate its reality;  each dream proves its existence. When we trust it and explore its nightly dramas, ordinary life is transformed into the greatest adventure of all: living our own myth.

This is my all-time favorite dream and I’m still processing its message. It arrived shortly after I finished my first book about the inner life, The Bridge to Wholeness.  I had quit college teaching to follow my passion for writing, birthed my precious child, nurtured it through months of revisions, and was looking for a publisher. At a time when I was particularly vulnerable, this dream affirmed my choices and bolstered my courage to continue on my new path.

It is a mythic allegory about the psycho-spiritual initiation of my immature Ego (the little green snake) which had unconsciously identified with my culture’s masculine/Animus values.  It said that my destiny was to take the individuation (tree) journey through a dark and unknown way to integrate my Soul (brown female snake) into consciousness.

The Bridge to WholenessThe first stage of initiation was a slow awakening to Spirit through a lengthy immersion in the spiritual realm (hole).  This corresponded with the first half of my life when I escaped internal conflicts by immersing myself in church, the Bible, and masculine-oriented religious teachings.

The second stage began when the little green snake left the safe womb of conformity and ventured out on its own.  This was the right choice (right) for me, even though it opened me to the dangerous influence of the unconscious (left). The outer world equivalent to this plot development is that at age 37 I finally acknowledged my unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, overcame my inertia, and returned to college for my doctorate.

Act III featured an encounter with my earthy feminine Anima/Soul (brown female snake) who lived in the opposite, unconscious side of my psyche. Suddenly, her differing needs demanded equal time with Spirit.

In waking life I had come face to face with a moral dilemma, both sides of which were equally compelling, yet intolerable.  Fearful of making a terrible mistake that could have disastrous consequences, I tolerated the tension of their slow simmering in a Dark Night of the Soul for nine long years. Listening to the dialogues between Reason and Emotion, Conscious and Unconscious, Animus and Anima, Spirit and Soul, Ego and Self without giving in to my Ego’s desperate wish to escape was my salvation, for in the process, the alchemical vessel of my psyche was strengthened and empowered.

dreamtheatres2Fascinated by the strange image of the female snake biting down on the head of the little green snake, I looked for associations in Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Walker says that the serpent was originally identified with the Great Goddess and many ancient religions told stories about a male snake deity who was the Goddess’s consort.  Walker writes:

[This male snake]…gave himself up to be devoured by the Goddess.  The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex life of snakes, reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the 20th century:  that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him [italics mine] p. 904.

Bingo! This mythic image which I had never encountered before is an archetypal symbol of fertility, transformation and renewal! It appeared in my dream as a natural consequence of years of inner work and mirrored a life-changing transformation in my personality. This is why the last scene of the dream pointed not to death, but to new life. An apparent catastrophe was transformed into something sacred (rainbow) by the snakes’ bizarre embrace. The result was a more maturely individuated Ego and Animus (cowboy) and a deeply meaningful spirituality.

So my answer to,”What do dreams have to do with ‘real’ life?” is, “Everything that truly matters and is deeply real.”  They show us who we are: our greatest fears and deepest desires, our wounds and wishes, weaknesses and strengths.They tell us where we are and how to get where we want to go. They help us forgive our flaws and learn compassion for ourselves and others. They encourage our individuality and reward our healthy choices. They satisfy our soul’s yearning to be known and loved.

I still struggle daily to understand and accept myself, but thanks to my dreams and the writing through which I pour out my vital essence, I’m still evolving.  And beneath my ubiquitous self-doubt rests a solid foundation—laid by 25 years of recording and working on #4,552 dreams to date—of peaceful knowing.  My dreams tell me:  You are making a contribution only you can make. This is enough for me.

Your destiny is the result of the collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious. Carl Jung, Letters Volume I, p. 283.

Photos:  Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger is one of my favorite books by a Jungian analyst. It’s a must for the library of any serious seeker. To learn more about Jungian psychology from a layperson’s point of view check out any of my books.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Five A’s of Inventive Aging May 20, 2014

The Snail 1953 by Henri Matisse 1869-1954The latest meeting of my writer’s group, The Purple Pros, was rich with splendid conversation about art, poetry, literature and theatre. In my update I mentioned how after 24 years of  passionate—one might almost say obsessive—writing, teaching and speaking, I’ve been in a semi-fallow period since my last book came out. Little green shoots are popping up here and there, but as yet I have no clear direction. Lenny spoke of how various challenges and life changes leave her with little time to work on her long play and the four short ones she wants to start.  What with Margie newly remarried after years of non-stop writing, speaking, and presenting, it quickly became apparent that we had found our theme for the meeting: the transition from our highly productive and creative middle years into the autumns of our lives.

For her writing activity, Margie had synchronistically chosen the same theme.  She told us about visiting the Tate Museum’s exhibition of the cut-out art of Henri Matisse on her honeymoon. Bedridden and wheelchair-bound in the last decade of his life, Matisse was too frail to stand up or hold a brush for long.  So, still driven to create by his daemon—in classical mythology a daemon was a benevolent semi-divine nature spirit who drives humans forward and upward—his new medium became colored paper and his tool, scissors.  Margie shared some questions she’s been pondering since then and suggested we address any that appealed to us.

Two questions interested me: “Why is it important to re-invent myself at this stage of life?” and “What qualities would enable the reinvention of my craft?”  Since crossroads and transitions are common to all at crucial times in our lives, I decided to share my musings here. A thought:  If our daemons drive us to pursue and perfect our passions, our musings/muses infuse them with inspiration and creativity.  After all, my musings on Margie’s incisive questions inspired this new post at a time when I’ve been writing less than usual.

So, “Why is it important to reinvent myself at this stage of life?”  Because I may have completed my previous stage, but I’m not finished for good.  My life is a miraculous gift, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m not ready to sit on the riverbank watching the rest of it flow past. I don’t want to leave without having made all the contributions that my driven daemon, creative muse and unique soul can make. I may not be Henri Matisse or Virginia Woolfe but I am Jean Raffa!

“What qualities would enable the reinvention of my craft?”  Yes, writing is my craft, but so is my life. My ultimate mission is to make of myself and my life a work of art: something beautiful, original and meaningful, something that nourishes the growth not only of my soul but of others.  As I wrote my answer to this question I recognized five qualities that have helped me reinvent myself and will continue to do so:

  1. Attention:  Staying aware of my inner and outer life—what I’m feeling, sensing, intuiting, doing, and finding fulfilling and meaningful—in service to self-knowledge, authenticity and consciousness.
  2. Acceptance:  Releasing my resistance to things I can’t control or change.
  3. Appreciation:  Being grateful for whatever happens inside and outside of me, not just what I consider positive, but also what I’m inclined to view as negative, in the knowledge that every particle of life is valuable, necessary and instructive to my soul.
  4. Assimilation:  Consciously integrating my experiences and perceptions into a growing and changing life stream of creative energy that keeps me moving forward.
  5. Action:  Manifesting my soul’s creativity in my writing, loving and living so that my offerings will make a healing difference.

So far I’ve chosen to be a friend, wife, teacher, mother, Episcopal church-goer, homemaker, carpool driver, community volunteer, television producer, graduate student, college professor, vision quester, dream worker, shadow-tamer, author, workshop leader, social media networker, and music maker. Lately I hear the call to reinvent myself again. I don’t know what choices I’ll make or how they’ll turn out, but then I never did.  What I do know is that my daemon, muse, soul and I intend to keep reinventing our life until this one ends and the next begins.

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 

 

 

 

Easter to the Soul April 18, 2014

One of the oldest recorded myths comes from Sumeria and tells the story of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. After a period of growing, assuming her authority, working to bless the world with the gifts of civilization, courting, marrying, birthing and mothering, Inanna descends to the underworld to visit her sister Ereshkigal, its Queen. On the way down she is stripped one by one of all her earthly possessions: symbols of her beauty, success, femininity and the power she has worked so hard to attain. At the bottom she is met by Ereshkigal who has her hung naked on a meat hook. And there she hangs. But on the third day, with the help of her loyal priestess, Ninshubur, and Enki, the God of Culture, she’s rescued and returns to life in the world above.

This is an allegory of a universal truth. Like all great myths, which are stories about our relationships with the gods, it does not have to be factually true on the outside but is always true on the inside, the domain of the soul. The truth is, whether or not we all agree on the meaning, names or details, this story is relevant to every soul.

Physically, it’s about the seasonal Death/Rebirth cycles of vegetation and fertility. Psychologically, Joseph Campbell saw it as a metaphor for the soul’s empowerment and evolving consciousness via the descent into the unconscious, the experience of powerlessness, and the realization of our strength through facing our disowned shadow qualities. Spiritually, it’s about the universal longing for salvation and redemption through divine revelation and intervention.

To the ego it sometimes feels crucial that we get the facts right, possess the “correct” interpretation — especially the religious one — and reject the “wrong” one. But to the soul, these details are beside the point. To your soul and mine, this story is a celebration of the sacred miracle of life, and all three interpretations are equally true.

Every soul is grateful for the sun which brings warmth and light to our days so plants can grow and we can learn and improve and do the hard work that brings meaning and comfort to our lives. We’re all glad when each productive day is followed by a cooler, softer, moonlit night when we can rest, enjoy our loved ones, rejuvenate our bodies and spirits.

Our souls appreciate the exquisite balance of seasons whose alternating cycles likewise bring times of arising, thriving, descending, and dying. And every soul celebrates when the ego dies to its ignorance and meanness and awakens to its nobility in a miraculous new season of enlightened forgiveness, gratitude and compassion.

Above all, our souls know our ego selves did not make any of this happen. Something far greater, some Sacred Mystery over which we have no control, some benevolent, boundless, timeless Otherness set the processes of life in motion and keeps them working. And when we set apart times like this to stop and think about it, we remember that we are blessed beyond measure to participate in this miracle.

In this season of rebirth and renewal I send my blessings to all celebrators everywhere of the miracle of life.

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 

 

 
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