Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Ruling the Inner Chamber August 19, 2014

Dreamwork has been my most rewarding and consistent spiritual practice for 25 years. You might not think of dreams as having anything to do with spirituality but they absolutely do. Carl Jung demonstrated this with exquisite beauty in his recently published The Red Book in which he recorded some of his most meaningful waking and sleeping dreams. Everything he did for the rest of his brilliant and productive life was based on the findings he recorded in that book, which represents three years of committed inner work. Ultimately, his conclusion about the value of this work was that to become who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.

Jung is not the first person to understand this, although he was one of the first Western medical professionals to study it for himself and write about it in a way that could be comprehended and accepted by the Western scientific mind. Indeed, many Asian traditions have taught this concept for thousands of years. Consider this quote by the Hindu professor Ravi Ravindra:

“The struggle to know who I am, in truth and in spirit, is the spiritual quest. The movement in myself from the mask to the face, from the personality to the person, from the performing actor to the ruler of the inner chamber, is the spiritual journey. To live, work, and suffer on this shore in faithfulness to the whispers from the other shore is spiritual life. To keep the flame of spiritual yearning alive is to be radically open to the present and to refuse to settle for comforting religious dogma, philosophic certainties, and social sanctions.”

Contrary to popular belief, authentic spirituality is not just a function of how many souls we save or how well we know scriptures or how hard we pray or how many rules we keep or what we believe or how often we attend our place of worship or how much money we donate to the poor. Likewise, spiritual maturity is not limited to a particular religion or set of beliefs. Rather, it is a function of our ego’s willingness to further the unfolding of our capacity for full living, endless loving, and authentic being.

We’re supposed to discover our true selves and connect with the sacred Mystery within. We’re supposed to learn how to accept and love ourselves because that’s how we learn to accept and love others. Every religion has spawned mature spirit persons whose mystical experiences and intuitions taught them that God indwells the soul. This means that our spiritual growth is not just a function of searching for God outside ourselves but also of honoring the “kingdom” within. (I could just as well have said “queendom” but it wouldn’t resonate as deeply as this more familiar term for sovereignty. I wish there were a gender-neutral word for the inner chamber that is not one-sidedly masculine, but ruled by both the King and Queen archetypes. Any ideas?)

Here’s what St. Teresa of Avila had to say about this realm:

“There is a secret place. A radiant sanctuary. As real as your own kitchen. More real than that. Constructed of the purest elements. Overflowing with the ten thousand beautiful things. Worlds within worlds. Forests, rivers. Velvet coverlets thrown over featherbeds, fountains bubbling beneath a canopy of stars. Bountiful forests, universal libraries. A wine cellar offering an intoxication so sweet you will never be sober again. A clarity so complete you will never again forget.

This magnificent refuge is inside you. Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway…

No one else controls access to this perfect place. Give yourself your own unconditional permission to go there. … Believe the incredible truth that the Beloved has chosen for his dwelling place the core of your own being because that is the single most beautiful place in all of creation. Waste no time. Enter the centre of your soul.”

– Saint Teresa of Avila, “The Interior Castle”, translated by Mirabai Starr

The search for self-knowledge is a path to spiritual maturity and dreams are invaluable tools on that path because they show us unsuspected aspects of our unconscious selves. With every insight we gain, the closer we move to connecting with our sacred core, finding personal meaning, and fulfilling the purpose of our unique life.

What did you dream last night?

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.

 

Active Imagination: A Tool for Self-Discovery May 4, 2012

I’ve used many tools on my continuing journey to self-understanding and internal transformation. One is called active imagination. This technique was invented and tested by Carl Jung during his deepest period of self-exploration between 1913 and 1916. Believing that our unconscious mind wants to communicate with our conscious mind, he conceived of a method to facilitate this. It is a process of visualizing unconscious issues by focusing on a concern, feeling or dream image, then entering a meditative state and inviting images to act them out.

An important difference between active imagination and ordinary fantasy is that far from being a random ramble into imaginary wish-fulfilling situations that give pleasure to the ego, the person enters the process as an observer who wants to understand, interacts with the characters and images as they emerge without censoring them, and records what happens. Jung recorded his experiences in writing and by painting beautiful mandalas, many of which can be found in his brilliant record of that time, The Red Book.

Wikipedia explains it thusly: “Key to the process of active imagination is the goal of exerting as little influence as possible on mental images as they unfold. For example, if a person were recording a spoken visualization of a scene or object from a dream, Jung’s approach would ask the practitioner to observe the scene, watch for changes, and report them, rather than to consciously fill the scene with one’s desired changes. One would then respond genuinely to these changes, and report any further changes in the scene. This approach is meant to ensure that the unconscious contents express themselves without overbearing influence from the conscious mind. At the same time, however, Jung was insistent that some form of participation in active imagination was essential: ‘You yourself must enter into the process with your personal reactions…as if the drama being enacted before your eyes were real’.”

Here’s how it works for me. I find a quiet, comfortable, private, and distraction-free place to sit, usually in front of my computer so I can record what is happening as I go along. Then I focus on an issue or concern or dream image that I have a question about and write it down. I light a candle to signify to my unconscious that I am setting aside a sacred time to listen to it, close my eyes, imagine myself in a beautiful, safe place, then, after clearing my mind, I ask my question and wait. When a thought, feeling or image shows up, even an unlikeable one, I don’t reject it. I just let it come, and without forcing the issue, I wait to see what happens. If nothing does, I might ask my original question again, or any other that occurs to me.

When I feel ready, I take a moment to write down what has happened so far, then return to where I left off. I write conversations like dialogues in plays, describing who’s speaking after brief designations like “Me” and “Stranger,” or maybe just the initials “M” and “S” so the writing takes up as little time as possible. Then I return and continue until I feel a sense of closure. The whole process usually takes me about a half hour.

One word of caution: if you are particularly impressionable this might not be right for you: the powers of the collective unconscious can be overwhelming. As Jung warned, “The method is not entirely without danger, because it may carry the patient too far away from  reality.” But if you decide to try, I hope you’ll let me know how it went and what you learned!  Enjoy.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Whispering Symbols: Dot and Circle March 27, 2012

I am too committed to my psychological and spiritual growth to cling to assumptions that have no practical value for me.  If believing in the connectedness of all life and the meaning in all things did not produce observable healthy change, I would accommodate myself to what did; but the fact is that mythos—the symbolic way of thinking that is sister to masculine logos—has served me exceedingly well in my efforts to become more conscious, whole, and connected.

Mythos is the language of the body, heart, and soul. It is associated with the feminine realm—i.e., all that is mysterious, unconscious, creative, felt, organic, and personally compelling. It whispers to us in feelings, physical symptoms, imagination, fantasy, and dreams that reveal unconscious dimensions of ourselves.

Both logos and mythos contribute to our fullest development. Children use mythos thinking automatically. This is why they respond to everything new with spontaneity, enthusiasm, joy and wonder.  But once the “masculine” phase of external striving begins, logos and the ego tend to dominate our thinking and spirituality, and life begins to lose its savor. Those who never leave mythos behind or who return to it later on discover undeveloped aspects of themselves by following meaningful symbols, powerful emotions, cognitive dissonance, uncomfortable personal dilemmas, and bodily symptoms through the labyrinth of the unconscious.

Symbols unlock doors to hidden chambers of ourselves wherein we discover purpose and meaning. Some symbols only have meaning for certain individuals or groups; others have universal appeal. Take, for example, a dot and a circle.  Why does every culture on the planet use these simple designs in religion, art, architecture, literature, and adornment?  Is this just an amazing coincidence, or is there something profound within each of us to which they speak?

In A Dictionary of Symbols, J.E. Cirlot tells us that a dot is a symbol of unity and the Origin.  A circle suggests infinity, the All.  And a circle with a dot or hole in the center represents the center of infinity, i.e., emanation or first cause. These symbols all speak to the same psychic reality, the Self which contains our predisposition to believe in a sacred realm, shapes our images and ideas about it, and motivates the spiritual search.

We cannot “know” our Source of Being—the eternal essence that we call God, Goddess, Father, Mother, Jahweh, Allah, Great Spirit, or whatever term you prefer—and words alone can never describe all that we intuit.  But the universal symbols of the dot and the circle resonate deeply.

Eastern religions have produced myriad renderings of circular mandalas, each with a center point, upon which devotees may focus their thoughts during meditation.  Similarly,  native peoples throughout the Western world have long created sacred circles in sand paintings and arrangements of stones as aids to worship in religious ceremonies. Jung saw mandalas as symbols of individuation, and his The Red Book contains many of the exquisite images he painted during his most intense time of inner exploration.

These and other symbols—like geometric shapes, abstract designs,  certain kinds of people, activities, animals, plants, elements, imaginary beings or objects—capture our attention with mysterious power because they carry important meaning for us. What symbols and activities attracted your childhood imagination and appeared in your fantasies? Do they still appeal to you today?  What do they say about your passions and journey through life? How can you bring them into your life to create more meaning and fulfillment?

 

Ruling the Inner Chamber January 20, 2012

Dreamwork has been my most rewarding and consistent spiritual practice for 22 years. You might not think of dreams as having anything to do with spirituality but they absolutely do. Carl Jung demonstrated this with exquisite beauty in his recently published The Red Book in which he recorded some of his most meaningful waking and sleeping dreams. Everything he did for the rest of his brilliant and productive life was based on the findings he recorded in that book, which represents three years of committed inner work. Ultimately, his conclusion about the value of this work was that to become who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.

Jung is not the first person to understand this, although he was one of the first Western medical professionals to study it for himself and write about it in a way that could be comprehended and accepted by the Western scientific mind. Indeed, many Asian traditions have taught this concept for thousands of years. Consider this quote by the Hindu professor Ravi Ravindra:

“The struggle to know who I am, in truth and in spirit, is the spiritual quest. The movement in myself from the mask to the face, from the personality to the person, from the performing actor to the ruler of the inner chamber, is the spiritual journey. To live, work, and suffer on this shore in faithfulness to the whispers from the other shore is spiritual life. To keep the flame of spiritual yearning alive is to be radically open to the present and to refuse to settle for comforting religious dogma, philosophic certainties, and social sanctions.”

Contrary to popular belief, authentic spirituality is not just a function of how many souls we save or how well we know scriptures or how hard we pray or how many rules we keep or what we believe or how often we attend our place of worship or how much money we donate to the poor. Likewise, spiritual maturity is not limited to a particular religion or set of beliefs. Rather, it is a function of our willingness to further the unfolding of our capacity for full living, endless loving, and authentic being.

We’re supposed to discover our true selves and connect with the sacred Mystery within. We’re supposed to learn how to accept and love ourselves because that’s how we learn to accept and love others. Every religion has spawned mature spirit persons whose mystical experiences and intuitions taught them that God indwells the soul. This means that our spiritual growth is not just a function of searching for God outside ourselves but also of honoring the “kingdom” within. (I could just as well have said “queendom” but it wouldn’t resonate as deeply as this more familiar term for sovereignty. I wish there were a gender-neutral word for the inner chamber that is not one-sidedly masculine, but honors both the masculine and feminine drives of every psyche. Any ideas?)

The search for self-knowledge is a path to spiritual maturity and dreams are invaluable tools on that path because they show us unsuspected aspects of our unconscious selves. These insights heal us and our relationships and bring spiritual meaning to our lives.  Why? Because knowing that we are known and loved by something with far more power than our puny ego, something sacred that lives within us and only wants the best for us, increases our sense of self-worth and helps us live with more forgiveness, integrity and compassion.  If  learning from our dreams how to rule our inner chamber is not a spiritual practice I don’t know what is!

What did you dream last night?

 

Gnosis: The Wisdom of Experiencing August 14, 2010

When my God-image was wholly masculine I was like a computer in a darkened room. My head was a storehouse of data and my mind was a whirlwind of non-stop activity filling every corner of the screen with a continuous flow of thoughts, words, ideas, questions, and concerns. I knew many facts and theories about the outer world, and I knew how to make them sound and look good, but I understood little about my inner life. In effect, the bright screen I presented to the world was only a pinpoint of light in a vast darkness. Meanwhile, beyond my dark room was an unknown universe of light, feeling, meaning, sensation, and beauty.

My introduction to that universe was gradual. In the 30 years between 17 and 47 I underwent three crises of meaning triggered by life experiences that compelled me to question the purpose of my life and the spiritual beliefs I looked to as guides. Each time, after searching for new sources of spiritual sustenance, I was given a glimpse into the realm beyond: twice by way of physical, sensory experiences that had no traditional, logical, or scientific explanations, and the third time by way of some “big” dreams that provided invaluable guidance. Through these experiences my believing was gradually replaced by knowing that something sacred existed in me that had nothing to do with my ego. I knew it because I had experienced it.

I had no idea where my experiences came from or why they happened, and I can prove nothing about them to anyone. But they happened, these physical, sensory, life-altering, inner events. These “feminine” spiritual awakenings. These gifts of grace. And they changed me, inflaming my languishing spirit and restoring meaning to a soul that had practically dried up for lack of it.

Jung pointed out that “the ideas which form the content of every religion are not primarily the product of an externally originating revelation, but of a subjective revelation from within the human psyche.” For him, for the Christian Gnostics, and for everyone who has ever struggled to overcome the limitations of the spirit of the times which does not address the spirit of the depths, a new kind of certainty arises from unexplainable, personally compelling phenomena. Belief in outer authorities simply cannot stand up to an interior event — whether it is a powerful new insight, dream, vision, synchronistic experience, or profound emotion — which opens our hearts and fills us with awe, wonder, reverence, compassion, and meaning.

Once Dr. Jung was asked if he believed in God. His reply was something like, “I do not need to believe in God; I know.” In Jungian psychology our minds and spirits are equated with the masculine principle and our bodies and souls with the feminine principle. Dr. Jung’s reply indicates that he had experienced the Great Mystery in the feminine Way that originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, and that he had used its unique language to inform and enrich his own spiritual journey. His recently published The Red Book is a brilliant testament to the value of this way of connecting with the Mystery as a life-transforming spiritual path.

Personally meaningful spiritual experiences give rise to gnosis, the spiritual knowing that transforms our ego’s heroic struggle for consciousness from single-minded self-centeredness into centeredness in the Self, the source of all our spiritual striving.

What spiritual experiences have helped you become more centered in the Self?

 

Ruling the Inner Chamber April 10, 2010

Dreamwork has been my most rewarding and consistent spiritual practice for 22 years. You might not think of dreams as having anything to do with spirituality but they absolutely do. Carl Jung demonstrated this with exquisite beauty in his recently published The Red Book in which he recorded some of his most meaningful waking and sleeping dreams. Everything he did for the rest of his brilliant and productive life was based on the findings he recorded in that book, which represents three years of committed inner work. Ultimately, his conclusion about the value of this work was that to become who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.

Jung is not the first person to understand this, although he was one of the first Western medical professionals to study it for himself and write about it in a way that could be comprehended and accepted by the Western scientific mind. Indeed, many Asian traditions have taught this concept for thousands of years. Consider this quote by the Hindu professor Ravi Ravindra:

“The struggle to know who I am, in truth and in spirit, is the spiritual quest. The movement in myself from the mask to the face, from the personality to the person, from the performing actor to the ruler of the inner chamber, is the spiritual journey. To live, work, and suffer on this shore in faithfulness to the whispers from the other shore is spiritual life. To keep the flame of spiritual yearning alive is to be radically open to the present and to refuse to settle for comforting religious dogma, philosophic certainties, and social sanctions.”

Contrary to popular belief, authentic spirituality is not just a function of how many souls we save or how well we know scriptures or how hard we pray or how many rules we keep or what we believe or how often we attend our place of worship or how much money we donate to the poor. Likewise, spiritual maturity is not limited to a particular religion or set of beliefs. Rather, it is a function of our ego’s willingness to further the unfolding of our capacity for full living, endless loving, and authentic being.

We’re supposed to discover our true selves and connect with the sacred Mystery within. We’re supposed to learn how to accept and love ourselves because that’s how we learn to accept and love others. Every religion has spawned mature spirit persons whose mystical experiences and intuitions taught them that God indwells the soul. This means that our spiritual growth is not just a function of searching for God outside ourselves but also of honoring the “kingdom” within. (I could just as well have said “queendom” but it wouldn’t resonate as deeply as this more familiar term for sovereignty. I wish there were a gender-neutral word for the inner chamber that is not one-sidedly masculine, but ruled by both the King and Queen archetypes. Any ideas?)

The search for self-knowledge is a path to spiritual maturity and dreams are invaluable tools on that path because they show us unsuspected aspects of our unconscious selves. With every insight we gain, the closer we move to connecting with our sacred core, finding personal meaning, and fulfilling the purpose of our unique life.

What did you dream last night?

 

 
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