Healing Our Divides by Tending Our Creative Fire
By Jean Benedict Raffa, Ed.D.
When I started my first psychological book in the fall of 1989, I was near the end of a time of intense struggle with some painful inner conflicts. I had recently discovered Jungian psychology, and with it, my passions for writing and self-discovery. Thrilled to have an outlet for my uncomfortable inner life at last, I began writing a series of memoir-type essays in which I searched for meaning in some of my most puzzling experiences. Essentially, I was re-mything my life from a Jungian perspective.
I’d been working on my dreams for over a year, so I was delighted when they began providing material that often inspired the next day's work. Then one morning six months into this project I was sitting in front of my make-up mirror when a fairy tale wove its way into my awareness in a spontaneous session of active imagination. (I love the symbolism of the mirror which prompts reflection!) With a sudden insight I realized this story provided the plot, theme, and guiding metaphors for my emerging book! So it became the first chapter. A year later I sent a proposal and sample chapters to a few publishers. Guided by a hint from a dream and a suggestion from Jungian analyst and author Karen Signell, I sent one proposal to LuraMedia in San Diego, California. Within days, Lura Geiger called and told me she wanted it, and in 1992, my new creation, The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, was born!
My next book underwent a very different gestation. After Bridge was published I wanted to write a book that would help others understand their dreams. By then I had recorded almost four years of dreams and associations to their symbols, so it only took a few months to select, edit and compile them. The resulting book, Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work, addressed dreams about the ego, persona, shadow, animus and Self.
Encouraged by these successes and curious about some new awarenesses, my next project was a book about symbols of the Sacred Feminine. Fifteen years later, that book and four others existed only in my computer. I hadn’t found a publisher for any of them, but by then I had complete trust in my creative process, so I started another book! After three more years I had a new manuscript with a new focus that assimilated elements of the other five. Larson Publications launched Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World in the summer of 2012.
I share these details to illustrate how our creativity is fueled by our explorations into our unconscious depths. This is true regardless of our artistic genre or medium. Since 1989 I‘ve tended my inner fire with Jungian studies, dream work, writing, self-reflection and active imagination on a regular basis. I do this partly because I want to understand myself and share what I’ve learned about the inner journey. But I also do it for the inherent rewards: the healing insights, the growth, the sheer pleasure of it. It’s like raising a child. You start out by working hard at it because you must; but in the process you grow, change, and learn to love. And when your child finally enters the world on its own, it carries your transformed heart, psyche and soul with it.
Tending our creative fire also heals our relationships. Likewise, the focus of my books has broadened from learning to understand and love myself, to appreciating the differences in my loved ones and my culture, to accepting the various archetypal patterns that run through all humanity. This way of thinking has informed Healing the Sacred Divide, which to me feels like everyone’s story. I’d like to explain what I mean.
We are becoming increasingly polarized around divisive issues of faith, gender, cultural differences and politics. The blame for this does not rest with any one group, but with our own dualistic thinking. As long as we persist in assigning labels of ”good” and “bad” to pairs of opposites, whether male/female, me/you, human/divine, my religion/your religion, or our nation/their nation, we will perpetuate the problem.
Dualistic thinking is typical of our millennia-old epoch of Ego Consciousness. While this was an evolutionary step forward from the earlier epoch of Physical Consciousness we shared with other mammals, it no longer serves humanity’s best interests. Fortunately, with the help of depth psychology, the truths of the ancient admonitions to “Know Thyself” and “To Thine Own Self Be True” are entering collective consciousness in a big way. We’re getting it that understanding and uniting our inner opposites helps us understand and accept otherness. And we’re learning that the way to heal our divides is to tend our own creative fire.
A new epoch of integrated consciousness awaits. It is symbolized by a mandorla, the almond-shaped space of holy transformation formed by two overlapping circles. Like the mandorla, our creative imagination unites the opposites of body and spirit, human and divine. As we tend this fire, we midwife Mandorla Consciousness in ourselves and contribute to healing the divides between individuals and cultures. Because this radical middle way is not based on cultural beliefs but on personal experience, it is open to all regardless of religion. As such, I believe tending our creative fire is the holy work of our time and the path to acceptance of ourselves and each other.
Jean Raffa is an author, speaker and workshop leader. Her newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace With Ourselves, Each Other, and the World, is about psychological integration as a spiritual path to evolving consciousness. It recently received the 2013 Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious issues, values and themes, and for encouraging understanding between faith groups on a national level. http://www.religioncommunicators.org/wilbur-awards You can find more about Jean’s books at her website, www.jeanraffa.com. Matrignosis, her blog about inner wisdom, is at www.jeanraffa.wordpress.com.