Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Lesson from September 11: Is Our Dualistic Thinking Doing Us In? September 18, 2012

Eleven years ago this month people around the world witnessed a tragedy that etched indelible images onto collective consciousness. The most iconic are the fiery explosions as the airplanes hit the Twin Towers and the skyscrapers crumbling amidst billowing clouds of black smoke.

A famous adage from sages of antiquity is “As above, so below.” A corollary saying is “As without, so within.” These ideas arose from the intuition that the universe is one whole, living entity in which every pair of opposites is inextricably connected. Thus, whatever happens in the “spiritual heights” of Heaven is likewise replicated on the physical Earth. Likewise, images and events in the physical world relate to and reflect the contents of our minds.

While this might seem to imply a magical thinking cause-and-effect relationship in which, for example, we do something bad and God punishes us, or a child believes that his wanting something bad to happen to his brother is what made it happen, this is not the case. Rather, as recent discoveries in quantum physics have shown, it simply means that because of the connectedness between everything that is, inner mental and outer physical changes automatically occur together.

This is the explanation for what Carl Jung called “synchronicities,” or meaningful coincidences: when a symbol or event in the physical world parallels an inner state of being. For example, you dream about a person you haven’t seen in years and bump into him the next day. When things like this happen we grow in wisdom by recognizing their significance and asking, “What does this person mean to me? Why have we reconnected today?” Or at the global level, “What does this tragedy mean for humanity?” From this perspective, we can learn from the events of 9-11.

Look at the symbolism. A skyscraper is a hierarchical structure. In the towers of banks, hotels, condominiums and corporations, the most prestigious level is the top. Thus, like the Egyptian pyramids, the Biblical Tower of Babylon or the towers that wealthy citizens of San Gimignano, Italy built during the Middle Ages, skyscrapers represent the way our minds are structured. So far the ego has a history of creating impossibly high ideals and working obsessively to show the world that we have successfully attained the heights: of knowledge, understanding and perfection (scientific, psychological and spiritual). Of order and virtue. Of power and success. Unfortunately, our testaments to our heroic upward striving are usually accomplished at great expense to our psycho-spiritual depths as well as to the people at the bottom of the hierarchy.

So what does this terrorist attack on U.S. soil and the leveling of its two highest towers say about humanity’s collective mindset? That our dualistic thinking is doing us in. That our one-sided obsession with the hierarchical dominator model of striving, competing and proving ourselves at the expense of otherness—a model which has dominated civilized man’s thinking for about 5,000 years and triggered history’s countless wars—is no longer viable. That the seemingly impervious structures of our most beloved institutions are crumbling. And that the human psyche has evolved to the point where if we want to avoid more of the same, we must learn how to integrate otherness and heal the divides that separate us from ourselves and each other.

It is my hope that one day history will look back on 9-11 and know that its victims did not die in vain.  That the images of their ashes that were broadcast around the world that day introduced a new vision into the collective psyche in which of all of us are one united and interconnected whole. “As without, so within.”

Have events since 9-11 borne out my hope of wider acceptance of this vision? I’ll write about that next time.

There’s more on this topic in my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

Alice, the Anima, and Anorexia February 21, 2012

I was pondering two questions this morning as we drove to the airport after a long family weekend away: What should I write about for this post? and How should I answer a recent e-mail from an Iranian student? She’s writing a thesis about the anima and animus archetypes in two of Virginia Woolfe’s books and wonders how to approach her task. Should she just look for images represented by the writer or should she study the characters or events as a Jungian analyst would?

When the pilot said we’d reached 10,000 feet, all five grandchildren, plus a few parents and one grandparent, whipped out their “electronic devices.” Having solved the airline magazine’s sudoku on the way up, I whipped out my kindle and settled in to enjoy Adventure in Archetype: Depth Psychology and the Humanities, by Jungian mythologist Mark Greene. And guess what!

You guessed it: Synchronicity was in action once again. Chapter 1 is about how Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be seen as a projection of Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson’s (Lewis Carroll’s) anima complex. And Greene approaches this topic like a Jungian analyst! This was my answer for Maryam, the student, and now it is the topic for this post. This is especially fitting since my last post was also about the anima, even though I didn’t identify it as such. (Oh, how I love my job!)

For those who need a reminder, anima is Jung’s term for the unconscious feminine and animus is the unconscious masculine. When Jung was developing these theories privileged European men and women were still under enormous pressure to conform to strict gender stereotypes. Thus, Jung thought bringing the anima into conscious awareness was a task for men (because men had long been taught to repress their feeling function which was associated with women) and integrating the animus was for women (taught to repress their thinking function because intellectual matters were for men). But as role stereotypes began to crumble in the West during the 1960’s and both genders acquired more freedom to express the truths of their souls, it became apparent that this rule no longer held. Thus neo-Jungians (of which I am one) operate under the assumption that both genders contain both archetypes which need to be consciously accepted and integrated.

So I’d like to share a few of Greene’s conclusions here and in my next post, and tie them in with my last post about feminism. In Chapter 1 Greene notes that Alice is very uneasy throughout the story and most of her anxieties are connected with changes in her body and the problems she has whenever she wants to eat. Remember the empty jar of marmalade she seizes when falling down the rabbit hole? How she eats things that make her grow too big or too small? Or gets so frustrated at the Mad Hatter’s tea party? Greene suggests that Alice’s problems can be seen to reflect the state of  Dodgson’s undernourished and frustrated anima. Then Greene concludes with this remarkable statement:”His visceral treatment of the act of eating…may also be foreshadowing from the 19th century some of the contemporary angst surrounding the integration of food, in general, and anorexia and other eating disorders among teenage girls, in particular.”

Here are some questions I’m asking myself: What if repressing the anima is, indeed, the underlying reason for the dramatic increases in diabetes, obesity, anorexia, bulimia, and stress-related health problems? Could there be a connection with breast cancer? Autism? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be wiser to spend our money educating the general populace to think psychologically than on knee-jerk band-aid solutions? Wouldn’t it be healthier to accept our feminine sides?

 

 
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