Thursday, September 20, 2007


In our class last session, we read and discussed The Odyssey. It quickly became apparent that Odysseus struggle to return home may be a quintessential masculine psychological and developmental story, but it didn’t resonate with the women in the class. And Penelope’s passive role as the long-suffering and take-a-perennial-backseat wife didn’t resonate either.

I want us to entertain in this course, Empowerment of Feminine Values, this question: Is it the case that ego consciousness for both women and men has been overlaid with patriarchal, hierarchical structures to such an extent that feminine values are neither recognized nor lived in modern cultures?

Another way to ask the question is with an image. Image our emerging consciousness as a very large balloon. Now imagine that balloon being inflated inside some kind of structure--large, small, rectangular, circular, but a definite bounded structure. That balloon will take on the shape, volume, and size of its limited environment. Now imagine yourself confined inside that balloon. What will its interior feel like? Is it possible to imagine anything outside the balloon? What happens when you hear things emanating from beyond the balloon skin?

Now step outside the balloon and take a look. Imagine there are many structures with many inflated balloons in your sight. Imagine there are even connections between the balloons so that travel through them and outside them is possible. Imagine getting stuck in one balloon temporarily, that you are unable to find the door to escape.

When ego consciousness is confined to one ‘balloon,’ as it were, we say that it is an ego identified with its consciousness. With the ability to step outside and examine several or many ‘balloons,’ we are talking about an ego that is disidentified, an, ego that is free to travel, more or less, between and through various states of consciousness. The ‘one-balloon’ state can lead to an ego consciousness that finds life boring and sterile: There is nothing new under the sun. I am the way I am, and the world is the way it is; I can’t do anything about it.

On the other hand, an ego that has the ability to entertain various states of consciousness is much freer. Such an ego may be capable of changing itself and the world it finds itself in.

However, like Chinese boxes, there may be balloons around balloons around balloons. Let’s remember that in our analogy, balloons not only limit, they protect. Sometimes that protection is a very necessary thing. We might label that protection psychological defense mechanisms, for example. There are, however, healthy defense mechanisms and not-so-healthy ones.

This little text, Descent to the Goddess, is a challenge to a common psychological state. Let’s call it the good-mother complex. The angry, devouring, haggish, and powerful mother figure is a frightening reality for many of us, and we will go to great lengths to avoid her, even so far as to deny her very existence. Women and men are acculturated to demur to the negative mother but not to respect her. The energies bound up in this very real but largely unconscious archetypal figure can emerge in insidious and often damaging ways. Perhaps they emerge in men as flight over fight and in women as self-destructive tendencies. Men simply will not engage with angry women. And women have few healthy outlets for justifiable outrage, and hence tend to internalize it.

If our primary symbol for this dual-natured mother archetype is Mother Earth, we can readily understand the outrage she is expressing at the ways she has been treated. Fortunately, our species is starting to listen up.

As we read and discuss this text and our topic over the next several weeks, let's pay attention to our dreams, to synchronistic experiences, to the 'balloons' of our lives. Perhaps in doing so we can enter into the realm of the Great Mother and give her more authentic expression in our lives.

Here are some other texts that are relevant to our topic.

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