Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Authentic Hero’s Quest June 3, 2014

Here’s another favorite of mine from August, 2011.  I hope you enjoy it.

The other day I read an article on the internet about a mostly male mindset called the “culture of honor”  which places such a high value on defending one’s reputation that it results in more risk-taking and accidental deaths. Reportedly, this way of thinking is most prevalent in small towns and rural areas of the South and West in such states as South Carolina, Wyoming, and Texas. I wondered: What myth inspires these unfortunate men to take such dangerous risks that they are killing themselves?  Why do they follow it?  I found my answer in the wisdom of two of my favorite authors: Joseph Campbell and Carol S. Pearson.

Campbell tells us that classic hero myths feature powerful male warriors who slay dragons to prove themselves and become masters of the world. Instead of recognizing this as a metaphor for the ego’s heroic struggle for consciousness, patriarchal cultures have tended to take it as a literal model for external achievement, encouraging people to climb to the tops of hierarchies where they can define what the heroic ideal is and decide who is entitled to it: usually the few. We see the dark side of this interpretation in ruthless political leaders and business moguls who deliberately spread lies and foster conflict and hatred to keep their money and power rather than trust the masses enough to share with them.

Pearson describes another unhealthy consequence: “focusing only on this [interpretation of the] heroic archetype limits everyone’s options. Many…men, for example, feel ennui because they need to grow beyond the Warrior modality, yet they find themselves stuck there because it not only is defined as the heroic ideal but is also equated with masculinity.  Men consciously or unconsciously believe they cannot give up that definition of themselves without also giving up their sense of superiority to others — especially to women.” Pearson gives the example of the main character of Owen Wister’s book, The Virginian, who leaves his bride on their wedding day to fight a duel for honor’s sake. Why? Because the only other role available to him is the victim, or antihero.

An obsession with the hero-kills-the-villain-and-rescues-the-victim plot distorts healthy heroic behavior (having the courage to fight for ourselves and change our worlds for the better) into the dangerous “culture of honor” ideal we see among the young working-class and minority men who still embrace it in many parts of the world. Isolation, impoverishment, religious fanaticism, social disenfranchisement and inadequate education all feed this mentality. The only thing apt to change it is the awareness that not everyone thinks this way and there are healthier alternatives.

Pearson’s research in the 1980’s revealed that women were rediscovering the true meaning of the dragon-slaying myth. Their story in which there are no real villains or victims — just heroes who bring new life to us all — is being adopted by males and females alike. While the timing and order may be slightly different for men and women, we all go through the same basic stages of growth in claiming our heroism.  “And ultimately for both [genders], heroism is a matter of integrity, of becoming more and more themselves at each stage in their development.” This is the Jungian path of individuation.

The heroic, self-disciplined quest to avoid the inauthentic and the superficial conquers the slumbering dragon of unconsciousness and births the courage to be true to one’s inner wisdom. An individuating person knows, in Pearson’s words, that “assertion and receptivity are yang and yin — a life rhythm, not a duality.”  Freed from the tyranny of conflict between opposites, such a person names our divisiveness and promotes care, cooperation, compassion, community and unity. Do you know someone who fits this description of an authentic hero?

Art:  Rogier Van der Weyden, St. George and the Dragon

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 

 

Caryatids and Queens April 8, 2014

Femininity is universally associated with beauty, softness, tenderness, receptivity, relationship, and caring. While some equate these qualities with weakness, Spirit Warriors know they make us stronger than we ever imagined possible. Of the many symbols suggesting this kind of strength, none speaks as strongly to me as the caryatid.

Caryatids are gigantic columns or pillars in the form of beautiful, fully draped females. A very old architectural device, they were originally used to support immense entablatures in sacred public buildings. In ancient times it was said that seven priestesses founded major oracle shrines. These priestesses had different names in various parts of the world. In the Middle East they were known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, hence their common usage as columns holding up temple roofs. These same pillars are referred to in Proverbs 9:1: “Wisdom [Sophia] hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” On the Acropolis at Athens, caryatids are associated with the strong and independent goddess, Artemis Caryatis, from whom they get their name.

My first glimpse of caryatids at the British Museum filled me with awe and wonder. In them I saw feminine beauty, gentleness, independence, spirituality and mystery blended with majestic, connected, immovable strength. I was looking at a manifestation of, and metaphor for, the Queen archetype. This is a feminine aspect of power and strength with which every psyche is furnished regardless of gender.

A defining characteristic of the caryatid’s strength is her queenly way of serving society. She is strong enough to support huge social structures involving a variety of people, skill levels and activities, but never takes on more than she can handle, never gets crushed under the weight of her responsibilities.

Nor does she claim godlike perfection and omnipotence for herself: no savior complex for her! She simply receives what she is strong enough to receive; contains what she is large enough to contain; gives what is hers to give. Her strength is not based on compulsions to prove anything or pretend to be something she is not, but on a clear understanding of the nature of her gifts, dimensions of her interior space, and limits of her authority.

Like caryatids, mature Queens have a sense of social responsibility. They are pillars of society who are always there to listen and understand; share in pain or joy; defend the innocent, weak, vulnerable and disenfranchised; and advance culture. They have a quiet, grounded strength that does not belittle, gossip, or betray confidences. They accept without rejecting differing opinions and protect without exploiting weakness. They do not relinquish softness; rather theirs is the softness of the lioness, not the lamb. Although receptive, they are never doormats. They nurture but never smother. Theirs is the warm and life-giving receptivity of the womb, not the cold hardness of the tomb.

Caryatids and Queens stand tall and firm with eyes wide open. With steadfast devotion and resolve they support institutions and endeavors which are in everyone’s best interest. We emulate their strength when we subordinate our ego’s will to the greater good and work for the betterment of all without betraying our personal standpoints. May we all, female and male alike, manifest more of this wise use of feminine strength.

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 

 

 

Learning From Our Lady of the Beasts April 16, 2013

“The Earth Mother is…the eternally fruitful source of everything…. Each separate being is a manifestation of her; all things share in her life through an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth….Her animals….embody the deity herself, defining her personality and exemplifying her power.”  Buffie Johnson, Our Lady of the Beasts, Inner Traditions

The successful wielding of power to enhance our soul’s development is a primary concern of the feminine archetypes. For them, power is not about controlling otherness, but about loving and learning from otherness so that our souls are empowered to become what they were created to be. If this is to happen, our energies need to be redirected away from pursuits aimed at acquiring external, historical power toward those that bring internal, natural power. By natural power I mean the soul’s power to act from its rich, authentic core, unencumbered by the chains of fear, ignorance, and conformity. One way of loosening these chains is to learn from Earth Mother’s manifestations in nature.

The farther removed we are from nature, the less apt we are to hear Sophia’s voice or learn from her natural guidance. One night after an eventful weekend at our mountain home I recorded five valuable insights I had acquired, all of them necessary to my empowerment, and none of which I would have learned had I stayed indoors. Through my adult interactions with nature I am rediscovering something I knew as a child but never had the words for: staying close to nature brings me closer to my truest self.

A major step in my own return to nature began when, in my fifties, I fulfilled a childhood dream of buying my own horse to train: a two-and-a-half-year old gray thoroughbred I called Honey’s Shadow Dancer — gray to symbolize the union of the opposites of black and white for which I strive, Honey for his sweetness, Shadow to signify my desire to be always mindful of my own shadow, and Dancer to honor the ever-changing dance of life. For me, the physical care I lavished on him and our efforts to understand and trust one another were spiritual practices that were every bit as meaningful as my earlier, more cerebral ones.

Native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that for many native peoples Horse represents both physical and unearthly power, and that the impact of Horse’s domestication was akin to the discovery of fire. “Before Horse, humans were earthbound, heavy-laden, and slow creatures indeed. Once humans climbed on Horse’s back, they were as free and fleet as the wind. Through their special relationship with Horse, humans altered their self-concept beyond measure. Horse was the first animal medicine of civilization.”

The term animal medicine refers to life lessons learned from animals whose characteristics and habits demonstrate how to walk on our physical Earth Mother in harmony with the universe. Like Buffie Johnson, I think of the aspect of Earth Mother that conveys lessons through wild creatures and beloved animal companions as Our Lady of the Beasts. Next time I’ll share some empowering animal medicine she brought to me through my beloved teacher, Shadow.

What animal teachers has Our Lady of the Beasts sent to you?

Congratulations to the three winners of my blog tour giveaway: Nancy Hup , Vicki Edmundson, and Rick Boys. They’ll each receive an autographed copy of Healing the Sacred Divide, and Nancy, as first place winner, will also receive an Amazon gift card.  Thank you to them and to all who followed the tour.

 

Partnership Between the Scholar and Wisewoman October 19, 2012

In my last post I wrote about the Warrior and Mother archetypes. This time we’ll look at the Scholar and Wisewoman. The instinct for reflection is about the basic human “end” to be released from delusion.  There is something in all of us that wants to know and understand. Children want to see, feel, touch, taste, and smell everything.  As we grow older, if our curiosity is not stifled by too many rules and inhibitions, we want to understand why and how things work. Later still our curiosity about the world extends to the inner universe.  We just naturally feel good about ourselves when we acquire helpful new insights into our behavior because self-knowledge is its own fine reward.

The instinct for reflection is symbolized by the archetypes of Scholar and Wisewoman. The clear, piercing focus of the Scholar is motivated by the drive for self-preservation. He believes the key to our survival and self-fulfillment is the ability to reflect on life, study, acquire knowledge, and learn the secrets that will release us from our delusions. In the mandorla symbol of interlocked circles, our Scholar is the circle representing the left hemisphere of the brain, the logos that primarily processes information with focused consciousness and logical thinking by means of linear, rational, verbal thoughts and ideas. With his preference for clear discrimination and knowledge of objective phenomena, the Scholar’s specialty is the thinking of science and technology.

His archetypal partner, the part of us motivated by the drive for species-preservation, is the Wisewoman, our all-knowing mistress of the hidden arts.  Her specialties are the brain’s poorly understood right-hemisphere qualities of mythos.  The primary functions of mythos are diffuse awareness and analogical thinking. These spawn several ways of knowing: body awareness, spiritual awareness (knowledge of, and connection with, the Other), the ability to synthesize paradoxical messages from diverse sources, and the ability to create meaning from subjective experience, emotions, relationships,  intuition, gnosis, imagination, and symbols.

When the Scholar’s focus, clarity and objectivity are intentionally employed in service to exploring our unconscious depths, the Wisewoman’s intuitive connectedness, self-awareness and openness to otherness are unearthed and activated. Empowering both of these poles of the instinct for reflection strengthens our mindfulness and leads to expanding consciousness. This is a mental state of heightened awareness and receptivity to information coming to us from both the exterior and interior worlds.  Being open to both is the hallmark of partnership in the mental domain. The result of this inner marriage is the activation of the Sage archetype. Other names for this energy include mage, magician, philosopher, prophet/ess, sorcerer/ess, shaman, wizard, medicine woman/man, and wise old woman/man.

This form of archetypal energy can be identified by several specific skills. They include truth-seeker, mental juggler, light-bearer, lifelong learner, wall-wrecker (breaking through our resistance to otherness), chain-breaker (losing old habits and releasing attachments to outcomes), choice-maker, namer (of truth and reality), clown (or life-changing trickster), connector, and problem-solver.

Archetypal psychologist Carol S. Pearson says Sages have little or no need to control or change the world; they just want to understand it.  The Sage’s path is the journey to find out the truth—about ourselves, our world, and the universe.  At its highest levels, it is not simply about finding knowledge, but about becoming wise.  It is our Sage within who, like Wisdom People from every tradition in every age, resonates to the adages, “Know thyself,” “To thine own self be true,” and “That ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

The more free you feel to seek the truth, regardless of societal consequences, the more mature your Sage will be.  How badly do you want to know the truth? How powerful is your Sage?

Find Healing the Sacred Divide at www.amazon.com and http://www.larsonpublications.com

 

Culture of Cynicism August 3, 2012

What is wisdom?  As a child I thought all adults were wise and my parents wiser than anyone.  In junior high school civics class I decided America’s founding fathers must have had the corner on wisdom.  During high school I equated wisdom with good grades, high I.Q.’s, and belonging to the “right” religion. In college I realized all adults weren’t wise, the founding fathers didn’t have all the answers, and good grades, membership in Mensa, and correct belief do not necessarily make for wise choices. Still, I looked to my country and religion for wisdom.

I see now that there was a serious flaw in the way I defined wisdom. I thought it was about acquiring the kind of knowledge that the majority of people agree is important. Like knowing scientific and historical facts. Understanding and memorizing scriptures. Having answers to questions on Jeopardy. Following the leads of authorities. Knowing which fork to use at a dinner party.

But does knowing facts, trusting authorities, and impressing everyone really mean we’re wise? Of course not. We all know clever, intelligent people—schools and large corporations are full of them—who we’d never think of as wise. People who are arrogant. Mean-spirited. Impatient. Greedy. Uncaring. Judgmental. Prejudiced. Predatory. Abusive. People who get off on making you feel uncomfortable and inferior. Who enjoy making you squirm. Who don’t care how you feel because they only care about satisfying their unquenchable hunger for feeling worthy, whatever the cost.

Nobody considers people like this wise. Yet if they’re socially adroit, verbally clever, or wildly successful, we still tend to look up to them! Worse, if we’re young and vulnerable we think we must trust and obey them. This is the kind of thinking that makes it possible for the Jerry Sanduskys of the world to scar countless innocents for life. The kind that influences middle management to disown its feelings and betray its conscience while corporate executives destroy the financial security of millions of innocent people.

What has brought humanity to the bizarre place where so many intelligent people tolerate someone’s ability to beat the system by lying, cheating, and doing whatever it takes to win—as long as that person is articulate, attractive, and successful? Why do the media ignore the pain and desperation of those who lack economic stability and social privilege? Why do so many suffer in silence until someone with passion speaks out and turns the tide of public opinion against their oppressors? What brings about a societal mindset that influences a malcontent to retaliate against injustice by killing innocent people who just want to enjoy a night at the movies?

In a world where ignorance, callousness and cruelty are electronically absorbed by the collective soul every moment of every day, we’ve grown so numbed by images of psychological immaturity and social injustice that we’ve become a culture of cynicism. The collective believes it’s foolish to feel or care. It finds perky appearances and clever repartee’ more appealing than character and tender feeling. It considers itself wise in believing that safety lies in hardening the heart and putting Number One first. It assumes compassion is a fatal flaw.

But the individual who listens to the spirit of the deep knows that cynicism is a mask we wear to cover our soul’s devastation at being scorned by the spirit of the times. The collective mind has forgotten how to feel, but the soul remembers. It knows that whenever two people push past just thinking about compassion and actually feel it, the whole hard crust of the earth cracks open and healing new life thrusts through.

 

Meeting the Mistress of the Forest July 10, 2012

Once I read about a horse that lived in the same pasture for over 30 years, eating the same old tired grass, trying to find shade in the noonday heat under the same scrawny tree. After many years of neglect, the fence that separated this pasture from a lush, grassy meadow studded with beautiful leafy trees crumbled and eventually fell. Stepping over the fallen wood would have been a very simple matter for the horse, yet it stood at the border where it had always stood, looking longingly over at the grass as it had always looked.

I feel so sorry for that horse. It had become so accustomed to its old boundaries that it never noticed when they were outworn. I wish someone from the other side had called it over so it could have spent its final years grazing in a greener, fresher, infinitely more satisfying space.

Many of us have felt our spirits quicken through glimpses of something ineffable in the mist beyond normal awareness and longed to pursue it. But habitual assumptions are not easy to overcome. Moreover, the daily demands of life are so compelling that we usually defer our journey into the deeply alluring recesses of the forest until another day.

What are we to do if we do not want to end up like that horse? Luckily we humans have a special someone who beckons to us from beyond our outworn boundaries: she is the wisdom of the Deep Feminine traditionally called Sophia. But to hear her call we need to turn off the constant flow of words and listen with our hearts and bodies.

Her voice is very soft; her call, though compelling, is quiet. She speaks to us in urges, needs, wishes, emotions, feelings, synchronicities, yearnings, physical symptoms, accidents, instincts, nature, meaningful insights, joyful experiences, bursts of unexpected pleasure, creative ideas, images, symbols, dreams: all the things we have learned to ignore so we can perform with utmost efficiency in the rat race of daily life.

The message in her communiques seems so subversive that we have learned to ignore it too. Do not fear the unknown, she says when we are tempted to risk exploring the wilderness of our souls. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be content with the half life that comes from avoiding your fears. Feel your fears, follow your passions, experience your life with all your being. Open yourself and go deeper, for great treasures lie buried in your depths.

Following Sophia does not result in a quick fix, but if we will go boldly and persevere, the mansion doors to the eternal sacred that lies within will open unto us. The inhabitant of that mansion is the Self, our inner Beloved. Made of equal parts masculine and feminine energy, the Self is often symbolized by the King and Queen. Here in the West we project our King onto the distant Sky God and remain relatively ignorant of his feminine partner, Sophia, the Mistress of the Forest who is as close to us as our own breath and blood. Thus do we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from her wisdom and cross over into her sacred space.

So how, exactly, are we different from that old horse?

How has the Mistress of the Forest been speaking to you lately? What is she saying?

 

The Space Odyssey of Projection: Part III January 17, 2012

When relationships are problematic our ego finds it hard to believe that its lack of self-knowledge is part of the cause, but it is! Always! This is true whether the qualities we project onto others are negative, as in the examples from my last post, or positive. For instance, the people we admire or fall in love with have certain characteristics we unconsciously associate with our ideal selves. Those of us conditioned not to think too well of ourselves (lest we grow proud) often disown our positive qualities and ideals. In doing so, we lose conscious access to them and only regain it when we befriend others who look like our ideal. In reality, only parts of them are, but in the early throes of infatuation we never notice the parts which are not.  If we stay together long enough, however, they will become apparent and we will grow disenchanted.

If the relationship is to prosper we must withdraw our projections. In practice this means (1) acknowledging that the qualities we dislike in them are also parts of us, and (2) developing the positive qualities we’ve disowned in ourselves and assigned to them. Here’s why this works:

1: Withdrawing projections reduces separations and hostilities. Insofar as we believe our negative projections are true of others, they are acts of judgment which separate us.  Then completely innocent remarks are grounds for suspicion and misunderstanding and justification for blame.  Insofar as we believe our positive projections are true of others, they are one-sided contracts which we have written for them. Then if they break the contract we resent them for changing, misleading us, or forcing us to develop qualities we want them to carry.  “S/He betrayed me!” we think.  S/He was supposed to be the (choose one) logical one, wise one, practical one, romantic one, provider, nurturer, bill-payer, social director, problem-solver, creative thinker, muse, perfect lover, etc., but s/he’s changed!”

2: Withdrawing projections strengthens and heals relationships. Seeing that the value we thought was in the other is really in ourselves generates empathy and compassion. As our hearts soften we relate to others with more warmth, trust, openness, caring and honesty.

3. Withdrawing projections creates understanding and wisdom. It is not constructive to assume that our perspectives or values are common to everyone. It is constructive to recognize that they are true for us. When we neither over-value nor under-value our truths or those of others, we are on the road to wisdom.

4: Withdrawing projections re-energizes and empowers the body, mind, and spirit. Projection is a way of giving our libido, or psychological energy, to others. When we realize that the libido we invest in others is a projection, they lose their overpowering significance and the energy we invested in them returns to us. Knowing that the influence originates within us releases vitality, activates hidden potential and produces a oneness of being.  This brings a childlike state of bliss and a treasure of accumulated libido which can constantly stream forth like the energy of a child.

This is the psycho-spiritual meaning of the last image from the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which Dr. David Bowman is transformed into a fetus floating in space and gazing at the Earth from within a transparent orb of light. He has evolved through the hero’s journey and been reborn as an enlightened spirit warrior with a cosmic point of view. No longer projecting his inner truths onto others, no longer ruled by instinct or ego, he no longer wants to control society but only to benefit it.  In my projection, this is the  best possible outcome of every soul’s odyssey through inner space.

 

 
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