Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Meaning Can We Find in Numinous Encounters with Otherness? July 7, 2014

blackbearLast week I wrote about an encounter with a rattlesnake on our forested mountain property.  The day before that I found a skeleton of the head of something that looked like a baby alligator.  Friends later confirmed that it was another snake. A bigger one.  I had my third wild animal encounter in as many days the day after the live rattler appeared. This time it was a very large, very alive black bear! I had just arrived at a friend’s house to meet with my Jungian summer study group and it walked into her garden, knocked over a bird feeder she had filled only fifteen minutes earlier, and sat down to enjoy the feast. It wasn’t 30 feet away from her porch.

Humankind has always found significance in threeness.  Three fairy tale brothers set out to win a princess, a wolf terrorizes three little pigs, a little girl explores the forest home of three bears, a hero receives three wishes. Christianity has its trinity and its three wise men. If two movie stars or old friends died within a few weeks of each other, my mother always waited for the third.

We also attach spiritual meaning to animals.  Native American warriors were visited by their power animals on vision quests and in dreams.  A stray dog appears out of nowhere to bring comfort and companionship to a grieving widower. A widow whose husband loved hummingbirds has never seen a hummingbird in her garden until one taps on her kitchen window the afternoon of his funeral.  When Lawrence Anthony—a legend in South Africa who bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities—died on March 7, 2012, 31 wild elephants showed up at his home two days later to pay their respects.

Perivale BearSo I ask myself, what meaning is there for me in these three  “truly numinous encounter(s) with Other-ness?” as Jungian therapist Melissa LaFlamme said  about the rattlesnake.  She continues, “Very auspicious…. [snakes] come as Teachers of the ancients.”  Writer Elaine Mansfield agrees, “Wow, Jean. A visitation. Respect and caution needed, but what a gift to mine.”

Snakes are at home on the ground, in water, in trees. They shed their old skins (or old lives) and grow new ones to emerge reborn, transformed. Two snakes entwine the Rod of the god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicinal arts in Greek mythology. A similar image, the caduceus of the Greek god Hermes, is still a symbol for medicine and healing.

And what about bears?  I’ve written about them many times in earlier posts:  here, and here, here, here, and here.  A symbol of spiritual introversion in Native American lore and of psychological transformation and rebirth in Jungian psychology—bears hibernate in the winter, as if dead, and emerge in the spring as if reborn, often with a cub or two—Bear has been one of my two animal totems (the other is Horse) ever since it asked to be included in my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness. When we remodeled our summer home in the Smoky Mountains, a large bronze bear was installed in a place of honor. Over the years I’ve had several Big dreams about serpents and bears, (Jung saw both as symbols of the Self), but this is the first time a live rattlesnake or bear has appeared in close proximitiy to me.

Three encounters with Snake and Bear in three days.  Synchronicity. Fairy tales and myths. Vision quests—I’ve been on one since I was 17 through forest and mountain, both physical and spiritual. Jungian psychology. Animal Teachers. Writing. Healing. Teaching. Comfort. Dreams.  Spiritual introversion. Psychological transformation. Growing respect and gratitude for the gift of physical life. Home. The Self. These are my primary associations with last week’s numinous visitations.  They speak to the themes of my spiritual journey and connect my outer and inner worlds.

They say:  You are on the journey you were meant to take:  finding the meaning of your myth, living your passion, sharing what you have learned. You are a valuable part of the whole, sacred interconnected web of life. You are seen. You are known. You are loved.

And I am grateful.

Jean Raffa’s newest book, 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

 

Three: The Number of Spiritual Wholeness June 19, 2012

Every religion is based on the fundamental belief that it is possible for coarse, common, vulgar humanity to be transformed through a mysterious, sacred process into something special, valuable, beautiful, and lasting. Thus, there is a spiritual tradition of ascribing not two, but three aspects to the process of uniting our inner opposites, including our masculine and feminine sides.  

For example, Christianity has the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and ancient matriarchal religions were based on the triple Goddess of Mother, Maiden and Crone.  In essence, the third element suggests the new entity that comes into being as a result of the hierosgamos, the Sacred Inner Marriage.

The addition of the third element recognizes the psyche’s potential to grow out of its dualistic state of “twoness” into a transcendent “threeness,” a more spiritually wise and conscious way of being.  It represents our capacity to survive our initiations so as to develop a new way of honoring the quiet inner spiritual voice (i.e. the Holy Spirit or Wise Old Man) or the confident knowing of our deep, intuitive feminine wisdom, (i.e. the Wise Old Woman or Crone).  This means that the individual has discovered the aspect of God that dwells within every archetype, and has learned to listen to it and act on it with strength and integrity in everyday life. 

The following passage written by Jungian analyst Robert Bosnak in his book, Dreaming With an Aids Patient, describes the mysterious process that leads to three-ness as it manifests in the life of an individual who is committed to inner work:

“I’m reminded…of the image of marriage in alchemy.  Alchemists imagined the fusion of different metals into an alloy, a new metal, as a divine marriage where the king and the queen dissolved together in a dark stream of images.  They were reconstituted as a new being, a man-woman, a hermaphrodite, partaking of both sun and moon, gold and silver, the ultimate alloy. 

“The process the alchemists describe shows marriage [here Bosnak is referring to the inner marriage] as an ever more intensified struggle of opposing forces held together in a painful paradox.  This warring love leads to dissolution, in which the opposing forces fall apart and get a chance to reconstitute in a new form. 

“At one point, when the marital struggle has reached a point of frenzy—when the full force of the joint family neurosis has hit like a bomb—all that remains is the sense of burned-outness and death.  From all this darkness a new capacity for relationship emerges, hardened like a metal that has been switched time and again back and forth between the fire and the ice-cold water.  No living happily ever after for the alchemists.”

In other words, our ego’s determination to resolve the conflict between our conscious personality and a considerably intensified shadow which lives in a world of darkness can lead us to the depths, not only of cold depression, but of our lifeless souls. This same intolerable conflict is the catalyst that pushes us to find a way in which the two can live together; and if we can tolerate the fiery tension that comes with this search, it will launch us onto the path toward spiritual wholeness. 

“As within, so without.”  This is the same process that can transform an outer-world couple relationship, the topic of my next post.

You can order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at www.larsonpublications.com.

 

 
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