Friday, December 07, 2018

Altered State of Mind: Parables of an Alchemist Part 2

Altered State of Mind: Parables of an Alchemist – Part 2

Something happened. Seems it would be easy to describe something so simple. But it’s more complicated than the straight-forward sentence, “I retired.” I did retire from active work in the Episcopal Church. I made the choice, happily. I’ve been working since I was seventeen. I’ve worked for the Houston Astros, the Milwaukee Brewers, Coolidge Unified School District, Grand Canyon University, and The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. I’ve had many masters and now it’s time to be my own. I can choose what to do and when to do it. I’ve become a full-time writer without the necessity of a day job. That feels really good.

But change, even desired good change, comes with transition—the movement from one place, or stage, or chapter to the next. Transition is the process of change. Sometimes we want things to change, like our weight, or our diet, or our work situation, or where we live, or who we live with, but we don’t do anything about it—we are unwilling to go through the transition, the process. Of course, there is change that we can’t control, getting older is the best example. But sometimes other people make decisions that force us to change, layoffs, unwanted divorce, our health, a family death. Change happens. Transition is the process we go through to get to the other side of change.

Prior to retiring, I was an interim pastor. The church’s previous pastor had suddenly, without warning, been removed from the position. It was a shock to almost everyone, including me. Sunday the priest was leading worship. Monday the priest didn’t have a job. Chaos ensued. The congregation was stunned, confused, bewildered, frustrated, angry, numb. And I was thrust into the position of being the congregation’s interim pastor. A dark cloud hung over all of us. In alchemy such an experience is known as “nigredo.” This stage of alchemy is painful because the heat has been turned up and everything is whirling around. The soup of our soul had begun cooking.

For a year, the congregation went through the process of asking hard questions, airing grievances, expressing anger, and grieving, lots of grieving. The transition through this stage was only possible because people were listened to and no one tried to fix their problems, because change had already happened and going back to the way things were, was, as is always the case, not possible. Collectively, though not necessarily individually, they begun to transition to the next stage.

The next stage began when they decided to move forward and seek a new pastor. They talked about their dreams for the future, their hopes for a new leader, and how they would live life together in a new paradigm. In alchemical terms, this is known as “albedo.” It’s when the chick begins pecking out of the egg because it knows it can no longer live in the darkness. The chick must break through, into the light. This stage can be very frightening, panic can set it, a collective claustrophobia can envelope us. Will we ever see the light again? But then a sliver of brightness elbows its way into our darkness and fresh air rushes in; we feel reborn. Once out of the egg, the hard work of standing on our own two feet begins. We wobble around, but finally we get our legs under us, and then we find our stride. We feel like we’re heading into a new land.

And that’s when things get weird. Things aren’t all wonderful under the sun’s brightness. We get to the first obstacle, a cliff. We feel like we’re ready to fly to the other side. We’re a raven who should be able to fly high in the air. We see ourselves as a peacock with a beautiful plume. We tell ourselves that we are ready. But then we realize we are raven with a peacock tail, we look cool, but can’t fly over the crevasse open before us. In alchemy this is the stage of “rubedo.” We have to stay the course, keep working in order to make the final transition.

With the hard work of deep listening to the divine, our soul, and others, reflecting on what has happened, re-imagining what can happen, and leaning into what the transition means—positive change happens—the gold we desire is produced. The Phoenix rises from the ashes and resurrection becomes a reality. We do this work, at first for our self, but then as we go through the transition, we discover that all this work has been for the sake of others as well. The gold heals us and those around us.

While everyone in the congregation was suffering through this transition process, so was I. Making my way through each stage, chaos, breaking out of the egg, and weirdness. But now, as the congregation has hired a new pastor, they are ready to step into that stage of gold. And while they do that, I step off into retirement.

And what does that mean for me? It means I have to endure another round of alchemy. More change. Transition. And I must go through each stage again, nigredo, albedo, rubedo, hoping for gold. This first week feels like what Matthew Fox calls ReFirement. I’ve re-entered the cauldron’s heat. A lot of painful transitions of my past have resurfaced for me to process through once again. I’m having very strange dreams that I have to work with. One minute I’m elated with relief and the next depressed for no reason. I feel like I simultaneously have a huge hangover and the best afterglow possible.

I told the congregation they would repeatedly go through this process. But now they are conscious of it and have new tools to re-imagine themselves and not repeat the errors of their history. Same goes for me. More experience with the process and better tools to manage the waves of uncertainty. And the one thing I can count on is that more change is coming.

As a part of this transition, my son, Dr Neil Stafford, PsyD, and I are starting a new podcast, “A Therapist and an Alchemist.” Our first episode explores the topic of change and transition in much more depth. Our first conversation will appear very soon. Please join us in the conversation.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Baseball Imitates Life

Dedicated to Jessie Lee Moss, May 3, 1939 – November 18, 2018

“Bull Durham” has remained an iconic film, not because men love baseball, but because women understand that the game imitates life. I grew up in a family, where at Thanksgiving, men watched football and the women talked about Spring Training. Men are men, their attention will move to the next shiny object of whatever sport is before them. Women in our family, however, knew deep in the essence of their being, that the seasons of baseball mirrored the cycles of life.

My family roots lie in Oklahoma, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, and baseball. Men played Saturday afternoon games on town teams. Family and friends gathered for the serious matter of bragging rights. Bitter rivalries often carried over into the week’s work place. The women knew the intricacies of the sport and the children mimicked their parents. Later in life, my mother would often recount having watched her father, her husband, her son, and her grandson all play baseball. Almost every woman in our family has a similar baseball pedigree.

Some of my fondest memories were of visiting my great-grandmother. As a young boy who carried two gloves and ball everywhere, she was always willing to play catch with me. As a teenager, she gave me a metal pin commemorating Jackie Robinson’s Rookie-of-the-Year season. Obviously, I still have it, along with my thousands of baseball cards.

My grandfather’s oft repeated tale of his relationship with Gene Autry, singer, movie legend, and eventual owner of the then California Angels, has mythic significance in our family. Before Autry left Oklahoma, their families lived in the Tulsa region. During the World Series, Autry would translate the play-by-play telegraph messages and post them on a giant manually operated scoreboard at the local train station. Men and women would hang around, talk politics and smoke, while getting the inning by inning updates. Family legend has it that Autry was sweet on my great-aunt. She would always deny the story with a twinkle in her eye. The plot of “Bull Durham” came naturally by its narrative that had been ground in a myth repeated for generations.

Our family’s loyalties divided between the St Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers, and the New York Yankees. Much of that was fueled by geography and regular World Series exposure. The Cardinals were close by and the Yankees and Dodgers were national rivals. When the early games appeared on TV, Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese simply fanned the flames. Those loyalties have softened over time with family migration, syndicated television, and additional MLB teams. The passion for the game, however, has not diminished nor the women’s knowledge of the game and its symbolic meaning.

Jessie Lee Moss, my mother’s cousin, passed away this week. We visited her last summer at her home in rural Oklahoma, not far from where she had spent her entire life. She was a lifetime Cardinals fan. A real fan. A true fan. She watched all 162 games and understood the nuance of every subtle move. When we showed up at her home, she paused the game to record it. I told her we would very be glad to watch the game with her, but she told us it was better if she watched it alone. It was her polite way of telling us she didn’t want to be distracted by our familial chit-chat while she was watching the Cardinals battle for a playoff spot. We understood and kept our visit to a reasonable time.

Today, I can hear my mother and Jessie laughing together. Most of the women of their generation had a similar laugh—hearty and rooted in simple pleasures born of painful sacrifice. Many of them suffered a natural melancholy; loss, grief, and death had left its wounds on their souls. They were woman who worked hard, played hard, and loved with passion. They spoke truth to power, suffered no man’s foolishness, and loved their family with every ounce of life’s blood. When these women watched baseball, their lives were reflected in the mundane pace of the game that requires attention to every detail. And even with the most careful planning, to win half the games is earned success. The only failure is not to give your all. Strikes outs happen every day; everyone makes errors; some days you just can’t throw a strike to save your life. But then, there are those moments, though rare, when you hit a game winning home run, or you strike out the side in the bottom of the ninth, those times when your team embraces you in love, respect, and appreciation. You live for those days. It is the good times that we remember, but it is those bad times that make us what we are. That is the truth of baseball.

In a “League of Their Own,” a movie about women’s professional baseball during World War II, the manager tells the one his players, “There’s no crying in baseball.” That line gets repeated too often, for its not true. There is a lot of crying in baseball. But it’s usually hidden in the souls of the brokenhearted. Jessie Lee, we are grieving our loss today. And we will cry, not only in brokenhearted souls, but outwardly, where everyone can see. And it’s okay, because we love you and we will miss you.

Today, Jessie Lee, as your number is being eternally retired, you are embraced by all your family, past and present. You played the game well. You showed up for every inning with all you had. You finished every season with gusto, no matter how well the team played. You rested in the off season. And you anticipated Spring Training with great joy. Now it’s your turn to take a final lap around the field and receive well deserved accolades as you are being inducted in Life’s Hall of Fame.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

An Altered State of Mind: Parables of an Alchemist

“An Altered State of Mind: Parables of an Alchemist”

Part 1—The Dragon and the Muse

At three in the morning, the darkness feels permanent. My partner breathes deep in her dreams, while the dragon is tightly curled in the warmth of his corner pile of blankets. The night had frozen in place. Against reason, my body left its warmth in my lover’s bed. My feet braced against the floor’s cold surprise of my presence. Even with thirty years of familiarity, my feet shuffled in protection and my hands groped for assurance. The labyrinthine walk through the hundred years of hallways and down the twisted stairs, left me staring out a frosty kitchen window into night’s grip of blackness. I am fearful of my comfort with the darkness; but I don’t want to disturb the feeling of being disturbed.

On All Hallows Eve, my internal clock rolled over to remind my soul that I’ve traveled around the sun 65 times. On that first pilgrimage day, long ago at the exact same in the morning, my dad left my frightened and bleeding mom on the doctor’s back room table. He had been instructed to fetch the nurse from another Oklahoma farmhouse down the road. My trickster-treat nearly killed my mother.

Pondering the darkness of this cold morning, I wondered if it wouldn’t be better if the sun never came up again. At least we might not be subjected to the continual onslaught of emotional terror; mass shootings at synagogues, churches, schools, civil service offices, concerts, and local bars, all too familiar hate crimes, racism exercised from authority figures with weapons, homophobia and the of the denied rights of transgender people, the fear evoked from the non-threat of the oppressed in a walking caravan 900 miles away, a war-torn man-made famine that is starving millions, abandoned refugees, global unrest, and mentally unstable leadership. Nothing feels “great” and I tremble at the past horrors that might happen “again.” I can feel the apocalyptic horse coming to collect her due for those who falsely assume they are the bride.

My depression headed South. My head throbbed. I needed coffee and medication. But I couldn’t stand to be blinded by artificial light. Instead, I sat in the dark and waited to see if the sun actually made another appearance before caffeinating and medicating. If, perchance, the king chose to hide on the other side of the horizon—I had been practicing my blind man’s shuffle.

The dragon stirred. I could hear him begin his serpentine journey through the darkened house. His name is Jesus Jameson, and he’s been living with us for thirteen years. He lost his eyes three years ago. I just heard him bump into the credenza down the hall. For some reason he always bangs his head on the same furniture. The familiarity of pain, I guess. Jesus is headed for the back door, evidently, he needed the old man’s nightly relief. He wound his way under my chair, reminding me, that if I ever wrote anything again, I should say that though he looks like a Jack Russell—he acts like a fire breathing dragon. He might be the prophetic image of my future. Maybe the thought of such things has caused the words of my soul to wander aimlessly for a time.

I intentionally stopped working on a book two years ago when I began the stint as an interim pastor. My spiritual guide suggested that working with people in such pain could bleed into my writing. At first, I shrugged him off. But after deleting a few dozen pages of garbage, the book went on sabbatical. I kept writing sermons and the occasional book review. That seemed like an amenable way to assuage the muse. I assumed she was hanging around, though I hadn’t seen her since I had stopped working on my book. Two months ago, I decided to stop writing sermons because I rarely ever looked at my notes when delivering the message. The paper I held was more like a pneumonic device or a talisman, prompting my memory. But an unexpected consequence of not writing the sermons revealed that the muse had either gone away or was taking a very long nap. I had been keeping my journal, my notebooks, and recording my dreams, but the muse must have been bored—she was silent.

On All Hallows Eve, I woke up with the words “The Dragon and the Muse” circling through my mind. I laid in bed a while thinking I might go back to sleep. But then I heard a familiar voice threaten me with, “write it or lose it.” I wasn’t going to take a chance. I had no idea what those words meant, but I scratched them in my notebook and stared into the darkness, waiting.

The dragon wandered back into the house. He banged his head on the credenza. He probably went back to bed. I thought about following him, now that I had the odd words tucked away in my notebook and nothing else seemed to be flowing.

And then I heard something stirring at the back of the house. It sounded like someone with an aged body painfully struggling their way down the hallway. Maybe the dragon was teaching someone to walk in the dark? I wondered what Jesus felt like when he couldn’t heal the blind man on the first pass.

And then I felt a presence engulf the room. A wave of brilliance radiated into my darkness; so intense I could see nothing but her glory. The Muse has awakened and she had been transmuted into the Queen of the Crone Forest, Mother of the Black Sun. She gained power as she drank my lusty need to know her again.

Euphoria arose from an empty cold cave deep within my body. The room spun but the Muse caught me before I tumbled into nothingness.

“My love,” she whispered. “Can you see me?”

“Strangely so,” I said.

“The eye of your imagination has been liberated. Come, follow me into the realm beyond this reality.”

She flowed into the Light of the Darkness, me clutching her warm dark gentle hand. “Look,” she said. And I witnessed her swallowing the rising sun.

We stepped into altered consciousness—the realm of the seen and unseen, the real and the imagined, the dead and the living—where what could be is becoming.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Re-Fire-Ment, To Move Beyond Being Human

“The Order of the Sacred Earth (OSE) is a self-organizing, emergent movement—a network of individuals and communities who are committing to the pledge “to be the best lover and defender of the Earth I can be.” Author, activist, and priest, Matthew Fox, has a vision and he has cast that vision in this one concise sentence. To contemplate the action necessary for his dream of the salvation of humankind and planet Earth, he has invited two young adult visionaries, Skylar Wilson and Jennifer Listug, to join him in his latest book, “Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action.”

Fox has committed his life to reimagining the way Christians “live, move, and have their being” in the world. In the asking of the deepest questions of faith, Fox has touched millions through his wisdom, which has been manifested in his books, talks, and school. By asking the questions of himself, his readers, and the divine, Fox has evolved over the years. His ideas have taken him beyond the reimagination of Christianity into the more pressuring need of imagining a future world where humans still exist. His vision calls for the creation of new type of “order” where we can work together for the benefit of Earth, our island home.

Like many of us, Fox has witnessed the ravaging of our planet and the devasting effects that now confront us. He, like others, have called for immediate action. And he, like a few others, have asked the question about how might global warming (and the denial of its reality), be related to other global issues like racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ rights, xenophobia, tribalism, nationalism, religious intolerance, and sectarianism. He and his co-visionaries have wisely deduced that the way we treat each other is the also the way we treat the Earth—without regard. Simply put, if we truly loved our neighbors as ourselves, we would love Mother Earth equally as well. The single premise of love is the glue that holds his proposal together.

The OSE is in the stage of emergence. It was birthed at a Solstice ceremony in the Winter of 2017. The event was attended by eighty people and witnessed by hundreds via the internet and at satellite locations. The founder’s intent is that the new order will be built on flexible principles, practiced by individuals who meet in OSE Pods (small bioregional communities). The only expectation is that everyone will take the same vow, “to be the best lover and defender of the Earth I can be.” There will be not be a central location, nor a centralized group driving any agenda—truly the order will be self-organizing and in a perpetual state of emergence (evolution).

In the opening chapter, Fox provides the non-religious groundwork for the OSE using his Creation Spirituality. While the religious are welcome, spirituality, particularly eco-spirituality, is the underlying ethos of the order. His vision relies on the ancient wisdom of intergenerational relationships, where the young lead and the elders are sages. And his dream is that those who align themselves with the OSE will live, move, and have their being in the world as mystic-warriors. Mystics as lovers of Mother Earth and the mystery of our inter-wovenness within all of creation; and warriors as prophets, willing to take risks in order to ensure not only the healthy survival of all, but the emergence of something new.

That something new appears in chapters two and three written by his young co-authors. These two chapters are imaginative and bold. While developing a new community on Earth, they are willing to call out what must be left behind, outgrown religion and crumbling institutions. Wilson and Listug are envisioning the next evolution of humanity; “a new ecological postmodernism,” an “Earth-human symbiosis,” so that “we may become more than human.” The first concept is verily well developed, the other two are simply postulates without form that are left to our imagination. I would guess such wonderings are for future conversations as the OSE evolves.

I, too, that humanity and the earth we live on are in a perilous state. My only burning question for the authors, however, would be, “I wonder if Mother Earth is the one who needs saving?” Much like the divine, the Earth (though they may be one and the same) may be quite capable of taking care of themselves. Humanity, however, is another matter. We do need saving. For Mother Earth and the Divine “universal life intelligence” may well have had enough of our unwillingness “to be in sacred service to the Earth.” And thus, they may call an end to the human experiment. Such is the allure of the Order of the Sacred Earth—here may a network of people who take seriously the need for all humanity to work together our salvation and subsequently that of the earth on which we live. Found within the OSE may lie the secret of life beyond human.

The “Order of the Sacred Earth” moved me to consider my own action. This book has given some structure, a house, an order, if you will, about how I live, move, and have my being in the world. I would love to be involved in a sustained conversation with Fox, Wilson, and Listug—all fascinating and imaginative people whose dream is captivating. This book and its ideas have caused me to enter into a period of discernment. To consider what Fox calls “reFIREment” instead of retirement. I wonder what that could look like—to move beyond a life of being human.

Friday, September 07, 2018

This Guy Poops in a Bucket

“We are at the end of the world as we know it,” writes Marcus Peter Rempel in Life at the End of Us vs Them. He is a contemplative farmer and activist, who has written his observations of the culture from which he cannot escape. Rempel speaks as a twenty-first century Thomas Merton, who in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, challenged his readers to accept their complicity in the emerging chaos of the 1960’s. Rempel confronts his contemporary readers with no less a warning against the demise of the Earth and her inhabitants. And unless we happen to live on a small farm or a monastery, Rempel, like Merton, forces us to stretch our individualist imagination out of its particular circumstance and into the broader commonwealth of collective citizenship.

With forthright courage, Rempel, who is a Mennonite, takes on Interfaith relations, Inter-cultural dialogue, eco-spirituality, the spirituality of sex, biblical interpretation, the role of government, the importance of friendship, and living a life together. His spiritual wisdom is nourished from the “lament of the dead;” learning from the voices of Rene Girard and Ivan Illich. Rempel’s work is no less prophetic than his mentors.

Like Girard and Illich, Rempel writes from the borderlands of the Christian tradition, though there is never a doubt he is a disciple of Christ and a follower of Jesus’ teachings. His book is written “as encouragement to see how far out ahead of us Jesus has gone into the world, working in mysterious ways.” At times he seems to speak from the realm of the ancient Jewish prophets. He suffers not the theologically illiterate, nor a contemporary traditional mis-reading of scripture. Rempel’s work ripples the surface of Christian complacency with an apocalyptic critique of Western Culture and the Church universal.

I am afraid, though, that Rempel may, at times, be a bit too optimistic. His hopefulness could stem from the aroma of his homemade fertilizer strewn on his luscious pasture or from living in Canada. Whatever the root of his vision, it could be understood as homegrown Resurrection naiveté. “Things truly are coming together in our time, even as the risk grows, more than ever, of things flying apart…(there) are intimations of that harmony surprising peace where endless strife has been presumed.” I would pray his prophecy of light outshines my dark cynicism.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Jody has Seen the Light of God

Life is filled with magical moments. If we keep our senses, our mind, and our heart open to the possibility of the miraculous, we can anticipate the appearance of the mystical. But, we must constantly aware, because these mysterious events can happen in the most unexpected places. This summer, I had the opportunity to visit my extended family in Oklahoma. We spent three wonderful days immersed in old pictures and family stories. Every moment felt like a new breath in a familiar setting; vital and precious. Amidst the laughter and tears, there plenty of holy moments. One instance, I would say, I even sat in the presence of the one holy living God—and we weren’t anywhere near a church.

John and I are cousins. He and Kathie live on several acres east of Tulsa. John is a musician, artist, craftsman, and a holy man, though he would never admit to the latter. Adjacent to the house John and Kathie built, sits Jody’s Little House. Jody is Kathie’s brother. He will tell you he is forty-six and that he has Down’s Syndrome. Jody is friendly, but not effusive. He laughs shyly, covering his mouth. And his stories often flow between his words, actions, and sign language. Jody makes me happy just being in his presence, like the laughing Buddha that sits in my office. John wrote a song about his brother-in-law. “No one has more friends than Jody, except God; well maybe Jody has more.”

On her visit, John was telling me about his mother, Jessie, who is very ill. Jody said he had been praying for her. He showed me how he prays. He sits on the floor in yoga pose; the back of his hands resting on his knees, thumb to middle finger, in mudra. He places his opened bible on the floor in front of him while he is surrounded by several small candles in a semi-circle.

Jody said he sits there in meditation. Pointing to his head then his heart, he said, “And I move my thoughts from here to here. When I get all my thoughts from here to here.” He repeated the motion of pointing to his head then his heart. “Then I ask God whatever I’m praying for…over and over again…Be with Jessie. Be with Jessie. Be with Jessie.”

I asked Jody if he ever sees anything while he’s praying. Pointing again. “When I move all my thoughts from my head to my heart. Then I pray over and over and over again…I see angels. And when I keep praying, the angels will open the gates of heaven and then I can go into heaven and pray to God.”

What does God look like, I asked Jody. “Light,” he said. We sat in the still silence of Jody’s glowing light for a long time. Resting in Jody’s aura, I could feel the warmth of the Light of the Divine.

At times, I have found myself praying to God to meet my needs; to meet the needs of the starving masses; and at times asking God to prove Divine existence by granting us a miracle. I have asked God all these things in the name of Jesus the Christ – thinking that Jesus might be the one who would perform the miracle.

But the scriptures teach us that Jesus didn’t walk on the earth preforming miracles, in the name of God, for the sake of those he healed. The miracles were to teach his earthly followers, including us, that they too could perform miracles for the sake of others. Jesus told his followers that they would do even greater miracles than he had done. (John 14:12)

Jesus taught us the key to the magic. But it’s so subtle, I have often overlooked it. Between the miracle of feeding the masses and walking on water, Jesus revealed his secret. “When Jesus realized they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (John 6:1-21) Repeatedly, throughout Jesus’ life, he sought solitude—in the closet, in the garden, in the desert, in the mountains. He needed to get away from the swirl of the world so that he could be alone with God. In his meditation and prayer, he found the resources that he needed to fulfill the needs of others.

What Jesus discovered, however, was that he didn’t need God to “give” him those resources—whatever he needed, God had already given him. And that is what Jesus was trying to teach us. We already have the resources within our Self. We were created in the image of God. Therefore, in our godly DNA, we already possess the energy, the power, and the grace we need to be a miracle in some else’s life.

On the surface, though, it seems hard, if not impossible, to believe that we can bring about miracles in other’s lives. But, whether we believe it or not, we can be like Jody and we can pray for others. We can sit in stillness before the Word and the light of God. We can move our thoughts from our head to our heart. And when we can move all our thoughts from our head into our heart, there, in that place we can wait for the angels of God—who will open the gates of heaven—allowing us to walk into the Light and be heard by the one holy living God. And that’s probably miracle enough to change the world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Changing the World without Words

I’m working on a new book, “Blue Jesus.” I’ve been trying to discover my sister’s silent inner world. Dinah has Prader-Willi Syndrome. She’s mentally and physically disabled and has a vocabulary of about forty-five words. Dinah speaks in sentences of one, two, maybe three words. What lies behind her blue eyes is a mystery. The paradox is that I think she’s a visible icon of the unseen inner world; the world where God resides. In her visible world that is silent, Dinah is a mirror of God—a God who is also a silent mystery.

To begin to understand Dinah as a total person—mind, body, psyche, and spirit—I started with her name. What’s in a name? I think Dinah, and I, and everyone would be a different person if we had been given some other name. A name can be a key to understanding who we are, our history, our psychic DNA—our name can give us clues to understanding our inner world, our soul, our unconscious if you will. “Dinah” a Hebrew name found in the Bible, which means, “one who knows and discerns.” That’s a pretty fair description of my sister. From out of her silence, at moments least expected, she can deliver a magical word of wisdom. For several years now, I’ve been on a quest to discover more than these few slivers of wisdom. I want to uncover her God given wisdom and I think that wisdom is hidden in her art.

Twenty years ago, Dinah created a linocut she titled, “Blue Jesus.” I’ve come to believe that “Blue Jesus” is Dinah’s self-portrait; it’s a picture of her soul. Dinah’s Blue Jesus is what Carl Jung called a mandala, a revelation from the inner world, the unconscious. Jung said that the mandala can reveal things hidden within our ancient unknown mysteries; even when we may not be able to articulate or even understand the meaning of the art we created. Dinah’s art, seen as a mandala, can reveal what’s happening in her silent world.

Along with Blue Jesus, at least three other pieces of Dinah’s artwork could be considered mandalas. In particular: The Rooster, The Stars, and The Sunrise. These four mandalas contain multiple layers of ancient hidden symbols and meanings that are windows into her inner world.

“The Rooster” is a sun-animal, a god of time, a symbol equated with resurrection. Dinah’s rooster has a blue heart—like Blue Jesus—blue often represents wisdom and clarity of thought. The Rooster is crowing at the sun. In the center of the sun, Dinah pained a green eye. These colors and images all have rich meanings.

“The Stars” depict heavenly images as squares, divided into four spaces, each surrounded by triangles. Such symbolism is alchemical and provides a profound opportunity to explore Dinah’s personal process of maturation; what Jung called individuation.

“The Sunrise,” I believe, is an expression of her journey into higher levels of consciousness. The sun rises out of a sea of mysterious faces. The brilliant yellow sun, the symbol of the philosopher’s stone, of higher consciousness, radiates with the multiple colors of the peacock’s tail—a symbol of the development of Dinah’s inner world.

I have yet to scratch the surface of the meaning hidden within these pieces of art. This is just a glimpse into the process of what it’s like for any of us to uncover our own inner, unconscious world.

Such inner work is vitally important for all of us. If we are willing to dive deep into our interior world, our psychic DNA, through dream work, exploring our own mandalas, meditation, and having a spiritual companion, we can expand our personal consciousness and deepen our relationship with the Divine.

The goal is to integrate our inner life with our outer life. By doing this work of the soul, we can begin to understand who we really are and who we can become. This work also gives us the chance to change those things about our lives that we don’t like. Those unwanted behaviors we repeat over and over again. Those things we hate about ourselves, but we feel like we are stuck with and can’t change. Instead of fighting against the things we fear the most, we can actually see those things transform. In other words, we might find a way to not repeat our personal history. Instead we can strike out in a new direction, into a higher plane of consciousness, into the realm of God, and into the life that Jesus the Cosmic Christ said would be “abundant.” A world where the sun rises out of the abyss.

According to Jung, what’s critically important for us as individuals is also important for our community. He says that if we are willing to do our personal work, it will, in turn, impact our community, our nation, even the world. This is so, he says, because our soul is connected to the soul of the community, the soul of the world, and, of course, the soul work of Divine. We are interconnected with all of the cosmic creation.

Carl Jung lived through two World Wars. He struggled in his attempt to explain how a country like Germany, enlightened, wealthy, and strong could fall prey to the mass hysteria of Nazism. His found his answer is the unexplored world of the personal and collective unconscious.
Jung found that if people are unwilling to do their personal work toward a level of higher consciousness, then they are doomed to follow the loudest voice, even if it’s not a rational voice. And eventually, he says, they will repeat history because they have not done the work to unite the inner world with the outer world.

How do we bring these things out of the shadows of the inner world and into the light of consciousness so that we don’t repeat our individual or communal history?

First, we must identify what’s hiding in the shadows of our community and then we must accept some responsibility for our work on these denials and repressions. Second, we have to look into our own shadow. What do we have in our personal DNA that feeds into this corporate shadow? Third, we must ask ourselves how we are going to work on our own stuff in a way that will positively affect the collective? In other words, how do we share our inner world with the outer world in ways that are not “all about me,” but instead for the collective health.

Such is my sister’s work. She can’t tell you what she’s thinking, but she can show you. Her art is sacred because it not only reflects her inner world, but the world of the Divine. She is an artist of the holy. Not because she is simple, or naïve, or untouched by the evil of the world. Actually, the opposite is true. She has suffered the fears that disturb us all, trauma, anger at injustice, death. Yet, by doing the hard work of revealing her inner world, she has moved her outer world onto a higher plane for all to see. And this level of consciousness has brought to her a place where she can hold power accountable by exhibiting unconditional love. She can hold the opposites of power and love in the tension of her own vulnerability. Those who have the ears and heart to hear Dinah are transformed, changed in ways they may not be able to articulate any better than she can. She is doing her part to change the world without using words.