Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Tree of Life: A Dream of Returning Light and Hope December 13, 2018

What follows is copied from this morning’s dream journal. It seems a fitting post for the holiday season this year. May you find meaning and hope in it during this dark, chaotic time.

Dream #5,000: Tree of Life

I’m in a room in which someone has set up a small square table, like a card table, and covered it with a white cloth. Toward the back center of the table is a small live, potted tree. The front of the table is empty, as if this is a serving table for a Christmas feast and the platters and bowls of food will be placed there.The tree is around 2 feet high. It’s a bit wonky, like Charlie Brown’s little tree, with five skimpy branches sprouting from either side of a central trunk. But unlike Chuck’s tree, it’s not an evergreen with leaves and greenery. It’s a deciduous tree which has shed its old leaves for the winter. This makes sense, since it’s the dead of winter. The branches of this tree are dotted with unusually large, obviously ripening buds which make me think of ornaments on a Christmas tree. As I awaken I hear myself narrating a description of the tree saying, “The Tree of Life, laden with buds (I wrote bulbs) and the promise of new life.”

This dream is very meaningful to me for several reasons. First, because at my first Wise Women’s group meeting a few weeks ago, Jan told us about a group of women who sponsor a movement to plant new trees in the deforested belt around the planet. At the end of our meeting I suggested that we all try to incubate a tree dream to share at our next meeting after the holidays. I was hoping to find some guidance and meaning for our group about the danger of deforestation that is threatening our planet. That night I had dream #4990 with images of a few trees with a few green leaves, but it didn’t bowl me over and I’ve had no more dreams about trees since. Until last night.

Second, last night, knowing the next dream I recorded and worked on would be my 5,000th, I again asked Dream Mother to please bring me an extra special tree dream. Boy, did she deliver!

I awoke some time around 4:00 with the image of this dream and the realization that I was repeating its final words about the Tree of Life. After that I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I got up, wrote it down, went back to bed, and starting thinking about my associations with it. The first thing I thought of was my blog post from some years ago about the symbolic meaning of dreams. I guess that’s what gave me the idea to post this one today.

Next, I thought about what I’ve been writing about in my next book and realized that the Tree of Life represents the trinitarian third force which brings unity between opposites, not just as a metaphysical reality, but also as a physical one. Metaphysically, a tree is an image of the Philosopher’s Stone. Physically, it is a metaphor for the human body, with its central trunk, five appendages (head, arms, and legs), and a feminine and masculine side. This reminded me of the Kabbalah’s sephirot which, in Judaism, represents the divine in humanity and also has a feminine and masculine side.

Then I realized that the Jewish menorah is a Tree of Life too — with its central candle-holder trunk, and four candle holders on each side — and that this image is also like the sephirot. Plus, the lighting of the menorah candles celebrates the divine spark of light, wisdom and divine inspiration that we bring to fullness in ourselves with our spiritual work. The reference to light reminded me of the confusion I had when writing down the dream about the similarity between the words “buds” and “bulbs” — buds signaling new life, and Christmas tree bulbs representing the return of light, and with it, new life.

Another thought was that the Tree of Life, the sephirot, the menorah, and the Christmas tree are all images of the Great Mother, or Sacred Mother, who births new life and light via the buds that will blossom into leaves and flowers with the return of spring. So it’s also an image of the Sacred Feminine which has lain dormant for so long in the collective unconscious but is now showing hopeful signs of rebirth. This gives me hope. With women becoming more involved in positions of authority and taking on projects like planting new trees, perhaps they can also influence the world’s governments to take this and other ecological threats more seriously. If they succeed, just as the darkness and barrenness of winter is always followed by the light and new growth of spring, Mother Nature can restore the health of our planet with her natural cycles of life. May it be so.

Finally, the dream felt like a reward from my unconscious for all the work I’ve been doing on my dreams over the last 30 years. It seems to suggest that at my age I am still capable of sprouting with new life, and it made me feel that I am known and loved by the Sacred. It felt like an affirmation and validation of what I’m writing about in my new book, and gave me hope that it might be well-received by the collective. So after lying awake thinking about my 5,000th recorded dream for the rest of the night, I arose at 7:30 and started making some valuable revisions to the last chapter.

Thank you to my readers for your many gifts of wisdom through the years. May your holiday season be filled with light, wisdom, new life, and divine inspiration.

Image credits:  Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree, https://www.macys.com/, The Tree of Life Metal Menorah by Scott Nelles, https://www.artfulhome.com/

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.

 

Musings From My Cave July 3, 2018

The old root cellar, a cave under a mountain.

The book is coming along—slowly, often joyfully, sometimes painfully. This is hard work, yet it really is the only thing I’m good for.

In theory I can do almost anything; certainly I have been told how. In practice I do as little as possible.  I pretend to myself that I would be quite happy in a hermit’s cave, living on gruel, if someone else would make the gruel. Gruel, like so many other things, is beyond me.  Margaret Atwood

So I’m here in the mountains, happily ensconced in my cave.

Thunder is no longer the voice of an angry God… No river contains a spirit… no snake the embodiment of wisdom, no mountain cave the home of a great demon. No voices now speak to man from stones, plants and animals, nor does he speak to them thinking they can hear. His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied. Carl Jung

That’s why I come here, where summers are cool and I reconnect with nature. When I’m in Florida I always imagine that when I return, my writing will flourish.

I would get a lot of writing done if I lived in isolation in a cave under a swamp.  Claire Cameron

Or a mountain… That’s what I keep telling myself.

I like solitude.  I”m very good at being disconnected.  I do a lot of disappearing. People who know me go, ‘Oh yeah, Mailman, she’s gone into her cave again.’ I’m like that, a bit of a hibernating bear. Like that crocodile that just sits there in the water and doesn’t do much.  I was always a bit of a dreamer as a kid, so that hasn’t changed.  Deborah Mailman

Wonder

Ever since I dreamed about a huge elephant breaking down a door to get out of a cave, I’ve been curious to know what’s inside. And who is this elephant? Why does she want to get out? What does she know that I don’t? At first I was terrified of what might be in that cave.

Thus it was that in obedience to the law laid down by his mother, and in obedience to the law of that unknown and nameless thing, fear, he kept away from the mouth of the cave. Jack London

But my need was such that I had to enter. After a few years of working with my dreams, my fear began to fall away and my cave became a sanctuary.

Truth is a demure lady, much too ladylike to knock you on your head and drag you to her cave. She is there, but people must want her, and seek her out. William F. Buckley Jr.

We live life in the marketplace and then we go off to the cave or to the meditation mat to replenish ourselves. Ram Das

For me, I think [art] exists in a cave. I am in a cave. Haile Gerima

I’ve learned a lot from exploring my cave.

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.  Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear.  Many of us would enter a tiger’s lair before we would enter a dark cave. While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us.  Joseph Campbell

What I want to see…

Now I see…

How you’re still always trapped.  How your head is in the cave, your eyes the cave mouth. How you live inside your head and only see what you want. How you only watch the shadows and make up your own meaning. Chuck Palahniuk

And I know that…

You are also caught with the fact that man is a creature who walks in two worlds and traces upon the walls of his cave the wonders and the nightmare experiences of his spiritual pilgrimage. Morris West

I love my cave. It’s where I hear my soul, see my dreams, make meaning.

I’d rather live in a cave with a view of a palace than live in a palace with a view of a cave. Karl Pilkington

The cavemen, when they saw the antelopes, they had to scratch them on to the caves because they needed to express the immediacy of what they were being affected by – and I love that. That is why I do what I do. I need to express myself. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Each story, novel, poem and play presents a vision of the world that illuminates the dark cave of life we stumble through. We can see better where we’re going, what sudden drop to avoid, where the cool water is running.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

For a long time, I thought I was getting wiser. And in some ways I was. But my cave is also a place to escape the harsh realities of life.

There is no crime more infamous than the violation of truth. It is apparent that men can be social beings no longer than they believe each other.  When speech is employed only as the vehicle of falsehood, every man must disunite himself from others, inhabit his own cave and seek prey only for himself. Samuel Johnson

Johnson was right on one level. Detaching from the world’s toxicity is a path to self-discovery and a means of self-preservation. For me, that’s been especially true in the last couple of years. Still, it’s equally true that

…Spiritual opening is not a withdrawal to some imagined realm or safe cave. It is not a pulling away, but a touching of all the experience of life with wisdom and with a heart of kindness, without any separation. Jack Kornfield

The world is only as fair as you can make it. Takes a lot of fight. A lot of fight.  But if you stay in here, in your little cave, that’s one less fighter on the side of fair.  Libba Bray

“How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn’t someone want to talk about it! We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 2022! Is it because we’re having so much fun at home we’ve forgotten the world? Is it because we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor and we just don’t care if they are? I’ve heard rumors; the world is starving, but we’re well fed. Is it true, the world works hard and we play? Is that why we’re hated so much? I’ve heard the rumors about hate too, once in a long while, over the years. Do you know why? I don’t, that’s sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes!” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

My life has been a fight to speak my truths, to not cave.

Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have essential and long overdue meetings on those days.  J K Rowling

But I also need to stay in relationship with the world. It seems I’m always walking a thin line, holding the tension between two equally valid truths.

At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide. F. Scott Fitzgerald

What are my convictions at seventy-five? Oceans in which I swim. You and I are made of quantum particles of star dust and photons of light, each one unique, every one connected with every other in an underlying sea of love. A place where every individual is separate and unified at the same time. Where all are known and loved.

Welcome out of the cave, my friend.  It’s a bit colder out here, but the stars are just beautiful.  Plato

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.

 

12 Symptoms of Your Psyche’s Immaturity April 10, 2018

 

Since the aims of the second half of life are different from those of the first, to linger too long in the youthful attitude produces a division of the will. Consciousness still presses forward in obedience, as it were, to its own inertia, but the unconscious lags behind, because the strength and inner resolve needed for further expansion have been sapped. This disunity with oneself begets discontent, and since one is not conscious of the real state of things one generally projects the reasons for it upon one’s partner. A critical atmosphere thus develops, the necessary prelude to conscious realization.  ~Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 331b

The mother bear is one of the most tender, nurturing, and fiercely protective mothers in the animal world. The first and most difficult lesson she teaches her new baby when they emerge from hibernation in the spring  is to stay hidden and quiet high up in a tree while she searches the forest for food. Soon the baby learns to stay in the tree until mother comes home and they are joyously reunited.

This goes on for about two years and then one day the mother bear trees her cub as usual. She goes out into the woods as usual. And she never comes back. It may seem cruel, but the good mother’s job not only is to protect but also to liberate. If she does not leave her cub when the time is right—a time roughly equivalent to adolescence in a human—and if the cub does not disobey the good mother by climbing down from the tree it will never survive to preserve the species.

We humans are like that cub. We began our lives as vulnerable, instinctive animals utterly dependent on Mother. She was the center of our universe and we had no choice but to submit to her, our caregivers, our teachers, our leaders because conformity to outer authorities kept us safe. In time we grew into adolescents with growing awareness of our egos and our agency. We believed we were thinking for ourselves and making our own choices. But most of the time we simply parroted what we’d been taught by others, claiming their preferences as our own and defending them with fervor. And when we found jobs and love partners and moved out of our parents’ homes, we thought we’d grown up.

But in the cosmic view of humanity’s history, our species is still in its adolescence. We may not be consciously tied to our mothers any more, but in the world of our psyche, our unconscious attitudes toward or against her still prevail and we have yet to take the hero’s journey to conscious individuation. How do we know we’re still in the tree?  Here are 12 symptoms:

  1. when things go wrong we proclaim our innocence while blaming our mother, father, partner, or someone else

  2. when we resent our mother for unresolved childhood grievances which govern our thoughts and behavior toward her instead of being able to forgive and love her as she is

  3. when we who are safe, well-fed, and comfortable resent our family for not serving our needs, our religion for not helping us change, and our government for not treating us fairly while taking no steps to rectify these situations on our own

  4. when we despise our flawed unworthiness and beg our gods to fix us instead of facing our inner realities and doing the necessary work to understand and heal ourselves

  5. when we’re afraid to listen to our own hearts, trust our own instincts, explore our own dreams, communicate honestly, and live our own lives in accordance to our interests, enthusiasms, and passions

  6. when we sulk, complain, and criticize others without accepting the responsibility for and consequences of our own negative attitudes and choices

  7. when our unconscious inner inertia prevails over our resolutions to change our toxic habits and attitudes

  8. when we want freedom, yet stay exactly where we are because conformity and familiarity are preferable to exploring the frightening unknown

  9. when we haven’t suffered the agony of making an original choice in the direction of our own hearts and passions

  10. when we can’t love ourselves or forgive each other

  11. when we resist changing our attitudes or values in directions that serve the greater good

  12. when we ignore the fears and fantasies that trap us in our trees

We are living in the twilight of the psyche’s immaturity. Those of us in the second half of life must accept responsibility for our part in contributing to the growing darkness. No one can save us but ourselves. We must leave our trees and become good mothers to ourselves, each other and the planet. If we cannot awaken from our dreamy fantasies and childish attitudes—if we cannot develop our own authority and speak the truths of our own spirits and souls with love, if we cannot face and deal with our disappointments, discontent, and fear of death, if we cannot live our own lives with the passion and joy we were born for—we will contribute nothing to the evolving consciousness which alone can birth a hopeful new dawn.

  CUB FANTASIES

There was a time when time stood still as death.

I shinnied up the mast of an old oak, breezes

ruffling my boat’s leafy sail, floating

dreamily over an ebony sea. One branch

was a mustang. We raced through the West

herding cows, chasing rustlers in black hats.

A three-pronged fork was an eagle’s

aerie where I savored new books…

as I awaited my mother’s return.

There was a time when time stood still as

death: I played house in log cabins outlined

with fallen twigs, imagined mother inside.

Prepared pretend lunches of crushed acorns

and mud, swept dirt floors and tangled roots

with dead branches, covered beds with crisp

leaf quilts, napped beneath a shaded

canopy, mother-made for me…

as I awaited my mother’s return.

Once, time moved as slowly as a glacier

and waiting and pretending were enough.

Now time surges like a raging river;

my gut growls and I am hungry, restless

to leave this tree despite the father bears

who crave me and my heresies for lunch.

But, oh, the bliss of frozen fantasy…

as I await my mother’s return!

How mature is your psyche?

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.

 

What Do Our Relationships Have to Do with Our Spirituality? February 7, 2017

Like you and me, an iceberg has a part we can see and a part we can't.

Like you and me, an iceberg has a part we can see and a part we can’t.

The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious [two opposing halves of one psyche] is called the ‘transcendent function’…. This function progressively unites the opposites. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.

In my January 4th post, “What Is Enlightenment?” I wrote,  “…even though we think of enlightenment as a strictly spiritual pursuit, it… is not solely a function of any one aspect of human nature, but of the whole package.” I went on to describe what I consider to be the fundamental psychological components of enlightenment. They consist of four archetypal couples—each consisting of a ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ form of energy—and a final androgynous archetype, The Couple, which evolves as we work to create reciprocal relationships between the other four pairs.

One reader made the following observation:

So, the Couple archetype may be just a beginning place, with the potential for infinite expansion and evolution. Any two energies, when they come together, exponentially increase the potential of each partner and create a new whole that radiates outward to impact an infinite number of other inter-related individuals. The Couple is not completion, it is only the point where “self” and “other” become one… and then become infinite. The “transcendence” occurs beyond self and other, beyond masculine and feminine. Kirsten Backstrom

I agree with Kirsten’s comment that the Couple is not completion. As I see it, it is a conscious, expanding, integrating way of thinking, being and living which aims for perfection and completion. In this respect it is a portal to transcendence. I’d like to expand on that idea here.

Last weekend I attended a talk by Father Rohr in which he made two profound statements:

“Organized religion has not taught high-level consciousness.” 

“Unless your religion is transforming your consciousness, it’s junk religion.” ~Richard Rohr, Speech in Winter Park, FL, Jan 28, 2017.

This from a Catholic priest.  How refreshing is that? Here’s the point I want to make: We are much more than we think we are, and reality is much more than we think it is. The thoughts and feelings of which we are aware are the tip of a massive iceberg, and we will never experience spiritual transformation (non-dualistic, high-level consciousness) until we admit the data of the unconscious, i.e. what lies below, into our awareness.

Two opposing hemispheres in intimate relationships make a third sacred entity: a child, your brain, the world, a new work of art.

Two opposing hemispheres in intimate relationships make a third sacred entity: a child, your brain, the world, a new work of art.

And how do we do that? As Richard Rohr says, “the relationship is the vehicle” that will take us there.

“God is absolute relatedness.  I would name salvation as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship.” Richard Rohr. Divine Dance, p. 46.

This is a truly profound statement. Once again, to quote Rohr,

“…the principle of one is lonely;  the principle of two is opp0sitional and moves you toward preference;  the principle of three is inherently moving, dynamic, and generative.”  Richard Rohr. The Divine Dance, p. 42.

Three. Trinity. The foundation of Christian theology. Any relationship between two opposing parts of ourselves, or between two individuals, is by nature oppositional. However, a long-lasting, committed relationship between any two entities is a sacred crucible in which two souls (or two opposing parts of one soul) can hope to attain psychological and spiritual maturity. This is why I’ve written:

I see the Couple as integrating the other four archetype pairs in a sacred marriage of fully individuated and fully related opposites.  This union activates the creative instinct and brings us into the spiritual domain and Epoch III integrated consciousness. ~Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 203.

Epoch III thinking is neither perfect nor complete. But at this point in human evolution, it is a step forward:  a portal to further growth. Moreover, as Kirsten noted, and as I write in Matrignosis and my books, the genders of the human partners whose interactions usher us into this domain is not an issue. Here’s Kirsten’s take on why:

“There are good reasons why “Two Spirit” people in many indigenous cultures have a significant role in spirituality, because they (we) literally transcend the human tendency to create dualistic models of relationships (both internal and external) that are actually intricate, reflective, webs of interdependence—more like Indra’s net than like pairs of complementary opposites….

“With gay relationships, we’ve got to experiment with going beyond the duality and open up the possibilities… because we don’t just fit the mold. In my own 29 year relationship, we’re constantly exploring new ways of balancing, responding, creating, and dancing with each other… I hope that’s true in any healthy relationship!”  ~Kirsten Backstrom

Ancient pagan and modern Christian symbolism: Androgyny.

Ancient pagan and modern Christian symbolism: Androgyny.

I find Kirsten’s thinking on this issue to be profound. I believe with my whole being that it is possible for partners in any couple relationship to relate in such a way that the creative instinct within each is activated. This enriches both their individual selves and their relationship such that each partner creates an original work of art of his/her own soul as well as of the relationship itself.

Moreover, their creative interaction in the space in-between activates a third entity, sometimes called the Holy Spirit, or God’s indwelling presence. This three-in-one relationship is a spiritually transformative love, a divine presence which transcends religious dogma, gender stereotypes, and dualism. Thus can we evolve into high-level consciousness and high-level spirituality.

“We…are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in an absolute relatedness.  We call this love.”  ~Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance, p. 47.

What do our relationships have to do with our spirituality?  Everything!

 

Thank you, Kirsten Backstrom, for inspiring this post.

Image credits:  Iceberg, Wikimedia Commons.  The brain’s hemispheres, Google Images. Androgyny, 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.

 

How Do We Grow? December 6, 2016

imagesA hunger to understand the forces that aided my psycho-spiritual growth has dogged me since I first wrote about the inner life 27 years ago. Intuitively, I structured my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, around stories of painful early experiences that had influenced my life. That’s when I realized it wasn’t my intellect or will power or idealism or good intentions or good behavior or following the rules or listening to sermons or heeding other peoples’ advice that instigated my growth. It was my painful experiences. 

These were experiences I couldn’t forget because they made a powerful impression on me, created difficult questions, internal conflict, fear, self-doubt and suffering. Like, why did Daddy divorce Mama and then die?  Was it because he was bad and God punished him?  Why did the Lone Ranger shoot me in my dream at the age of 10? Why was Ken mean to me in high school? Why did I get so angry at my fiancé for fearing for my safety and wanting to protect me? Was I selfish? Insensitive? Cruel?

We all experience things like this. It’s just the way the world is, the way the human psyche is structured.

To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 249.

Painful experiences create painful emotions. Painful emotions create conflicts. Pain and conflict are notices that something isn’t working, and opportunities to try something different. Even though everything we’ve ever learned has convinced us that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. Even though we know we are perfectly justified in being the way we are. Even though it’s so wrong and unfair we just want to forget it. Pain and conflict make us realize we can keep making the same old choices or make a new choice.  It’s our choice.

Adult suffering is caused by many things: physical pain, financial deprivation, illness, accidents, fear, self-hatred, regret;  bad memories, bad parenting, bad habits, bad luck, bad experiences, bad mistakes;  conflicting thoughts, painful emotions, a mind too rigid and closed, a mind too open and easily influenced; loyalty to old belief systems combined with fear of questioning them and risking something new; losses, betrayals, temptations; and any manner of other things. But whatever the cause of suffering and whatever else it may be, suffering is also a wake-up call from our unconscious asking us to pay attention, know that we have choices, and take action.

14918779_1402325989807599_6359112785560545926_oWhen we’ve had enough of suffering and summoned the courage to do something good for ourselves instead of waiting for something or someone to remove our suffering for us, we see an array of choices. We can change our partners, doctors, teachers, churches, addictions, bodies, lifestyle, home, job. Unfortunately, if our choices originate in fear of criticism or abandonment, anger, blame, self-hatred, self-pity, stubborn self-righteousness, or a refusal to take responsibility for our lives, they will take us from bad to worse. Fortunately, we can also choose to stop ignoring and despising our suffering and do something constructive to address it. Something like conducting our own research, reading a book, taking a class, committing to a practice, writing…anything we’re drawn to that brings insights about who we really are and why.

If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious. ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 132-133.

But without the right motivation, choice and action are still not enough. Our action has to come from an honest recognition that we can’t do it alone any more. We need help. And it has to come from a humble attitude that sincerely wants and asks for help. Furthermore, our asking has to come from an attitude of surrender for the sake of love. Finally, we have to stay open and mindful enough to notice help when it arrives. It can come from anywhere: an experience that brings us to our knees.  A dream that frightens and fascinates us.  A new teacher or opportunity. A mind-blowing synchronicity between inner and outer events. A chance comment from a family member or friend. And when help comes and we know in our gut that it is beneficial and true, we have to trust our instincts, jump on board, seize it with all our being, and hang on for dear life.

This is a process with which I’m intimately familiar. Although the insights I’ve gained from studying and using Carl Jung’s practices have changed my life, I’m not just parroting his theories. What I know to be true for me is based on personal experience. Somehow in the middle of my life I started taking my life seriously. Somehow I sensed that my suffering and self-absorption, painful and humiliating as they were, had a healing purpose. Somehow I tolerated the tension of staying with it. Somehow I know others can too.

Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it is letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful at some level. But part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). If we’re not willing to let go and die to our small, false self, we won’t enter into any new or sacred space. Fr. Richard Rohr. From his online meditation, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2016.

Bon voyage.

Image credits:  Growth:  Wikimedia Commons. Jung Quote: Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine.

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.

 

How Will Your Shadow Shape the Future of Our World? October 18, 2016

the_good_and_evil_angels_tate_blake“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular. ~Carl Jung, CW 13: Alchemical Studies, par 335. 

Opposites. A basic theorem of Jungian psychology is that for everything we know about ourselves—beliefs, values, attitudes, emotions—there is a corresponding unconscious opposite. This is because we see everything in terms of either-or, good-bad, and automatically disown and repress the less desirable option.

For example, your family stressed the importance of love and kindness.  Growing up you emulated these values and were affirmed for it. You think of yourself as a kind and loving person. Yet, there have been times when you were filled with anger and hate and your good intentions flew out the window. Nevertheless, because being anything less than “good” according to your family’s standards doesn’t fit your image of yourself, you’ve justified your “lapses.” After all, you know how hard you try, how well-meaning you are, so it had to have been the other person’s fault. You were right/good, so they were wrong/bad. Right?

But, guess what. Your “negative” emotions and thoughts don’t go away just because you deny or ignore them. They merely sink beneath your conscious awareness to a place where your ego can’t see them. We call this dark realm the unconscious. As your ego is the center of your conscious self, your shadow is the center of your unconscious self.  Since you’re a reasonable person, your ego is probably willing to admit to a few shadow qualities here and there.  But for every “flaw” you acknowledge, there are many others of which you have no conscious knowledge.

webb_sending_out_the_scapegoatProjection. This leads to a second basic theorem of Jungian psychology: Whatever we disown in ourselves we project onto others.  Those onto whom we project our shadow have a “flaw” similar to one of our own. Jungians say they have a “hook” onto which we can hang a disowned quality of our shadow. The hook can be a minor personality trait that can be easily overlooked or a major one that consistently causes problems for them and others. Either way, we are easily offended by people who remind us of our shadow. This gives us a simple way to see our shadows if we’re willing to look, and provides us with a handy scapegoat if we’re not.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections, Page 247.

Entropy. A third psychological reality Jung stressed is that when opposites remain isolated from one another, any disorder lurking within them remains constant or increases.  Thus, the longer we ignore our shadow, the more apt it is to cause trouble.  Refusing to acknowledge it when it shows up is therefore not only psychologically ignorant, but dangerous.  Unfortunately, the Western world does not recognize the shadow, either in individuals or in collective consciousness, and our ignorance perpetuates our prejudices, hypocrisy, broken relationships, self-righteousness, crime, war, and destruction of our planet.

images-2“Only an infantile person can pretend that evil is not at work everywhere, and the more unconscious he is, the more the devil drives him. It is just because of this inner connection with the black side of things that it is so incredibly easy for the mass man to commit the most appalling crimes without thinking. Only ruthless self-knowledge on the widest scale, which sees good and evil in correct perspective and can weigh up the motives of human action, offers some guarantee that the end-result will not turn out too badly.”  ~Carl Jung, Aion, ¶ 255.

This election season has pitted two candidates who couldn’t be more different against one another. Never, in the history of our country, has the divide between two potential presidents been wider. Never have so many citizens of the United States or the world been so shaken by this ugly polarization. Never has the collective shadow of America been so obvious to all.

Beneath all our conscious beliefs and rationalizations we are being influenced by our shadows.  The less self-aware among us are defending the candidate who most represents their ego’s self-image and who promises to serve their self-interest; and they are projecting evil onto the “other” candidate and anyone else who carries hooks for their repressed shadows.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”  ~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 236-237.

The only lasting contribution any of us can make to world health and planetary peace is to know our own shadow well enough to restrain it without projecting more darkness into a world that already has enough to destroy us all. One pair of opposites has the power to determine our fate. Love is the most powerful healing and unifying force in life. Hate is the most divisive and destructive.

images-4Hating our shadow and seeing it in others instead of ourselves will set us on a path of conflict and destruction. Owning our shadow will activate compassion, ethical behavior, wholeness and enlightened consciousness.Will we choose to see and befriend our shadow and the people who carry it, thereby serving love? Or will we choose to ignore our inner darkness and hate the people who remind us of it?

Which way will your vote go?

 Image Credits: The Good and Evil Angels, Blake, Wikimedia Commons. Sending Out the Scapegoat, Wikimedia Commons. Witch Hunt, Wikimedia Commons. The Red Button, 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.

 

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.

 

 
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