Inanna: myth of descent

In the month of December Mindfunda will publish a series of blogs about the descent. The first one is a guest blog about the Journey to the Underworld.

Inanna
Jean Raffa

Today’s Guest author is Dr. Jean Raffa, a former television producer and college professor who -with the help of Jungian psychology- began following her passions for self-discovery and writing during mid-life. Jean has written several books: “The Bridge to Wholeness”, “Dream Theatres of the Soul” that got her invited to make a keynote speech at the International Associations for the Study of Dreams. You can see her videos about this book at her own YouTube channel. Her newest Wilbur Award-winning book is called “Healing the Sacred Divide“. Next week, Elaine Mansfield will write about the darkness of the descent.

On March 11-12, 2016, Jean will appear with author Elaine Mansfield at the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota for a presentation on descent, loss and grief based on the myth of Inanna.

Myth of Inanna: 3 kinds of Descent

A psychological descent can take many forms. Sometimes it shows up in strategies to escape painful present realities by regressing into past memories. We’re consumed by a bittersweet yearning for the “good old days” when we were young and innocent. Life was easy and we were on top of the world.

 

Inanna
Picture: viewsfromtheroof.com

 

We were a handsome Apollo, a confident football star and president of the high school student body who is trying to recapture our youth by driving a sporty new car or finding a younger wife. We were a beautiful, innocent Persephone, an entitled daughter and gifted student who has been pulled into the dark realms of obsessive binge eating, shopping sprees and plastic surgery.

A second kind of descent is forced on us by circumstances beyond our control: an accident, illness, divorce, loss of a home or job, death of a parent, child, or spouse. These can plunge us into the depths of a depression where grief and sorrow are constant companions.

 

Inanna
Picture: huffingtsonpost

 

Then there’s the existential descent into meaninglessness which appears uninvited at mid-life. Suddenly the beliefs and ideals that served so well in the first half of life no longer work, yet questioning them feels dangerous. Worse, we’ve met our shadow in feelings and urges we can no longer ignore and our naively positive self-image is irretrievably damaged.

Captivated by the archetypal Hero’s widely publicized and deeply satisfying rise to success, we are rarely prepared for our conflicts and losses. To an ego that has prided itself on being in control and doing everything right, it can feel as if we are adrift in a chaotic sea. Kris Kristofferson described this painful experience in his song, “Shipwrecked in the 80’s.” For some, the metaphor of falling into an abyss and plunging into what St. John of the Cross called a “dark night of the soul” is more apt.

Inanna

 

From the age of 17 I derived all the meaning I needed from my religion. Then at 37, I experienced an existential descent. On the outside it was business as usual, but inside I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Nine years later I was rescued by Jungian psychology. After committing to a regular practice of study, reading, self-reflection and dreamwork I finally began to understand what had happened. My ego had been brutally assaulted by unconscious instinctual forces in my psyche. Brutal? So it felt to me. Nonetheless my ordeal was life-serving. Without it, I would never have willingly explored my unconscious and been rewarded with the elixir of a revitalized life-force and the gold of affirming self-knowledge.

Inanna and the Descent Myth

Myths from every culture and religion are allegories of psychological and spiritual truths. In them, we can find guidance and healing meaning for our lives. Seeing the similarities between my story and the Sumerian descent myth of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, brought me great comfort.

 

Inanna
Inanna Queen of Heaven
unkown artist on easy.com

 

The first half of Inanna’s life was, like mine, fairly predictable. We both struggled to create a comfortable home, affirm our individuality, and establish our authority. Inanna accomplishes this by having a bed and a throne made for her. Then she cleverly tricks Enki, the God of Wisdom, into giving her the gifts of civilization, which she shares with the city she rules. She tops it all off (she assumes) by courting, seduction, bearing children, and fulfilling her Queenly duties.

I, too, gained knowledge through my cleverness:  enough, at least, to get a college scholarship. I earned two degrees, met, courted and married my husband, established a home, and birthed a daughter and a son. Eventually I earned a doctoral degree and a college teaching position. I’ve done it all, I thought with a measure of self-satisfaction. That’s when I learned that cleverness, knowledge, possessions and physical comfort do not define success or insure fulfillment.

My descent from Inanna’s “Great Above” to the “Great Below” began when my shadow broke into my awareness with a moral conflict between two intolerable choices.  I was profoundly tempted to break a rule that had always been sacrosanct to me, and appalled at myself for considering it. I spent sleepless nights praying to the God I had been taught to believe in, challenging beliefs that felt outdated and meaningless while fearing retribution for my audacity. I found little joy in living. My stomach hurt much of the time. I lost 20 pounds. At times I knew there was meaning in my ordeal, but my knowing provided scant relief. Mostly I felt alone and miserable. Like Inanna and Persephone, I was introduced to the dark underbelly of the unconscious beneath my naive “good girl” self-image. The shock was devastating.

Inanna is a “good girl” too:  a loving wife to Dumuzi, a mother, and a sister to Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. At mid-life Inanna descends into the underworld to, by some accounts, attend the funeral of Ereshkigal’s husband. Or was her call, “Let him come. Come, man, come!” an invitation to her animus, her unconscious masculine side?

 

Inanna
Inanna courting Dumuzi
Image: Beyondpottery.blogspot.com

 

On the way down she is humiliated by being stripped of all her earthly possessions: symbols of her beauty, success, femininity and the power she has worked so hard to attain. Humiliation is a crucial element of descent myths because crisis and suffering are the only powers that can destroy an ego’s belief in its invincibility.

The story of Inanna in body and soul

If we look for it, we will find that every detail of a myth can have psychological and spiritual meaning. For example, the number three in myths and fairy tales heralds the arrival of Mystery. Receiving three wishes, asking for help three times, or being the third and youngest child to attempt a difficult task signals our readiness for an initiation that will force us out of childhood innocence into mature responsibility and consciousness.

 

Inanna
I Tjing hexagram 3: Difficulty at the Beginning

 

Sure enough, three shows up in Inanna’s story too. At the bottom of her descent she is met by Ereshkigal who, perhaps jealous of her sister’s charmed life in the world above, has her hung naked on a meat hook where she suffers for three long days. I hung on my metaphorical meat hook for three years, plus another six during which my suffering gradually diminished.

Like Inanna’s descent, mine was a painful physical, emotional and spiritual experience. But, unwilling to give up or make a terrible mistake, I persevered in my outer life and stirred the contents of my inner world over a low, reflective fire. Ever so slowly, this alchemical opus brought about lasting changes.

My body awakened to instinctual energies I had long repressed. My ears heeded my soul’s cries of pain. My heart felt compassion. My ego’s center of gravity shifted from a place of control and resistance to a place of surrender and acceptance of forces far more powerful than my puny will. My eyes were opened to my sovereignty over my own life and my childish dependence on others dissolved. I began to make my own choices and take responsibility for them. Death took up its abode on my left shoulder and Choice on my right, each whispering daily reminders to savor every moment.

Hero myths have healing meaning too, but “happily ever after” does not tell the whole story.  Descent myths do.

On the third day, Inanna is rescued by her loyal priestess, Ninshubur, and Enki, the God of Culture, and she returns to life in the world above. There she faces new problems, but now she has the awareness to handle them with wisdom and balance. With Inanna’s help, I’m getting better at that too.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Remember: Christmas is a very special time for dreaming, so join Mindfunda for the Holy Night Dream Incubations.

Mindfunda invites you for a Christmas celebration you will remember. For just 10 dollars you get exclusive access to a restricted private area on Mindfunda during the Holy Nights. Each night between December 24 and January 6 I will share a dream incubation. We will talk about and reflect on our dreams. Ancient belief says that during these nights the veil between the worlds is thin. Register now as Mindfunda More Member, to experience the depth of your dreams.

 

Can I quote you on this? A list of the 7 best quotes

 

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Today’s Mindfunda is about quotes. Don’t you love it when you are reading a good book and a chapter starts with the perfect quote? In this Mindfunda I will give the top list of my favorite quotes.

Quote #1

‘There is no such thing as spiritual integrity without emotional integrity. Like it or not, we need to own up to our honest feelings and figure out what to do with them’.

quote
Jean Raffa

Jean Benedict Raffa in Healing the Sacred Divide (click to read more about Jean and her work). To see her interview with Mindfunda click here.

Quote #2

‘No sailor controls the sea. Only a foolish sailor would say such a thing. Similarly, no lucid dreamer controls the dream. Like a sailor on the sea, we lucid dreamers direct our perceptual awareness within the larger state of dreaming’.

Robert Waggoner in Lucid Dreaming Plain and Simple. (click to read more about Robert and his work). To see his interview with Mindfunda click here.

Quote #3

‘When you look into a mirror, you know on some level that you are seeing the reverse reflection of yourself. However, the apparent accuracy of the reflection convinces you that you are seeing the real thing. When we look at our dreams without our sisters, we look into a reverse mirror. As dreamers we must know when we are seeing in reverse.

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Connie Kaplan

Connie Kaplan in The Woman’s Book of Dreaming (click to read more about Connie and her work). To see her interview with Mindfunda click here.

Quote #4

‘Myth is not an empirical science which has yielded considerable information about the natural world; indeed, it appears to be its polar opposite. However, the same shamans who told their communities imaginative stories about the origins of the world also used trial and error, as well as logical deduction, to determine which herbs had healing qualities, which substances would alter consciousness, which path hunters should pursue to find game, which changes the weather might take, and which direction would be the most propitious when it was time for a tribe to relocate’

Stanley Krippner in ‘Introduction: Some Perspectives on Myth’. The Humanistic Psychologist 22 (2), 122-123 Click here to read about Stanley Krippner. To see my Mindfunda interview with him click here.

Quote #5

‘Alchemy was the secret tradition which taught that the priceless treasure spoken of in so many myths and legends of the ancient world lies within our own human nature – unrecognised, despised, neglected. It transposed the images of mythology and in particular the myth of the sacred marriage and the divine birth to the human soul. The alchemist descended into the depths of his soul to experience a death and rebirth, to be transmuted from lead into gold, to redeem the treasure buried in the primal matter of his instinctual life and to be reunited with the divine ground of the Soul personified by the feminine image of Divine Wisdom’.

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Anne Baring

Anne Baring in ‘Dream of the Cosmos.’ Click here to read more about Anne and her work. To see my Mindfunda interview with her click here.

Quote #6

‘The Gods themselves require additional knowledge, gained, it seems , from the underworld, to interpret great and significant dreams which indicate the destiny of gods, kings and man’

Hilda Davidson, quoted in ‘The Well of Remembrance’ written by Ralph Metzner. Click here to read more about the Well of Remembrance. To see my Mindfunda interview with Ralph Metzner click here.

Quote #7

‘The only real death that ever occurs is when a dream we cherish dies’

P.M.H. Atwater. Click here to read more about all her work on near death experiences. To see the Mindfunda interview with her click here.

 

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I would like to encourage you to sign up for my youtube channel: Two more interviews will be uploaded soon. Justina Lasley talks with Mindfunda about her methos of working with dreams and her new book ‘Wake up to your dreams’. Make sure you have your own dream(s) ready because she will take you through her easy method of finding out more about your dreams.

Catherine Wikholm will talk with Mindfunda about the merits AND the dark side of meditation. She has used meditation and yoga as a way to improve the life of prisoners and did scientific research about the results.
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Twitter: @susannevandoorn

 

Mandorla, a way to see the other side of the coin

"The message is unmistakable
our own healing proceeds from that overlap
of what we call good and evil, light and dark. It is not that 
the light element alone does the healing, the place where 
light and dark begin to touch is where miracles arise.
This middle place is the mandorla"
Robert A. Johnson
mandorla
Jean Raffa

I had the pleasure of interviewing author Jean Benedict Raffa about her book “Healing the sacred Divide”. You can watch it on the Mindfunda YouTube-channel. Jean is a keynote speaker at the annual conference of the International Association of Dreams (IASD). Healing the sacred divide got the Wilbur Award,  recognizing excellence in the communication of religious issues.

Jean and I talked about how in this day and age we seem to be addicted to war. Inner disagreements and outer arguments where we seek and emphasize the differences between ourselves and “the other”.

In a previous interview I had with Ralph Metzner, I discussed how Europe was taken over by warrior tribes and how this inheritance changed mythology. Jean Raffa describes how our religion is based on those old warrior mythologies. Masculine, with a God image outside of us. Her book Healing the sacred divide is divided in two parts, just like a mandorla.

mandorla
Healing the sacred divide

If you purchase the book using this link, you will support the good work of Mindfunda

Mandorla consciousness #1

The first part tells about the eight mistakes in our current concept of God. This part analysis how culture has emphasized one part of the continuum: creating a masculine God, that is outside of us and that really lacks a female touch. With female I mean the qualities our culture has marked feminine like empathy, intuition, acting based on an inner knowing instead of facts. Qualities that both male and female posses and express. It is a clear statement how we need both sides: we need to combine facts with intuitive insights.

Mandorla consciousness #2

The second part tells about the nine wisdom gifts of integrating the divided God image. She builds up the second mandala of consciousness fout of nine stones of wisdom. A nine folded lapis lazuli. Holistic consciousness, transforming light, acceptance of the shadow, emotional integrity, partnership, balance, sovereignty, meaning and the mandorla consciousness.

Mandorla consciousness #3

In the interview Jean Raffa shares a dream about her shadow that she has never shared before. It is a clear example of how valuable working with dreams can be. To out value on your dream images is a sure step towards more inner peace and acceptance. Like Robert Waggoner explained to us in his interview with me about Lucid dreaming plain and simple: dreams can provide key insights towards integrating your own shadow. those parts of yourself you are used to project on somebody else.

Mandorla consciousness #4

In the interview Jean Raffa told me that the key to a happy live is the ability to unite opposites. Her book holds valuable keys to make that work much easier. I wish I read this book years earlier. It would have saved me a lot of pain and mistakes. But then again, I might have missed out on a lot of wisdom…

Other Books from Jean Benedict Raffa:

Dream Theaters of the soul (clck the image for the kindle version)
What are your dreams telling you? Dr. Raffa believes that “dreams show us who we are and what we can become.” In this fascinating book of how to analyze dreams, explore the feminine aspects, and use dreams to grow emotionally and spiritually, Raffa combines the metaphor of a theatre with the practicality of a handbook to provide a practical guide to understanding your dreams.

mandorla
Dream theaters of the soul kindle version

 

mandorla
Bridge to wholeness

Bridge to Wholeness, ” describes an inner feminine way where one makes peace with dragons instead of fighting them. This moving account of a mythic journey from humility to strength, through darkness to light, carries a powerful message of unity and balance for seekers everywhere.”

 

If you purchase the book using this link, you will support the good work of Mindfunda

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PS:

Watch the complete interview here. Please sign up for my YouTube channel to enjoy all the beautiful Mindfunda interviews with inspiring people. People like Jean Benedict Raffa, Anne Baring, Connie Kaplan, Ralph Metzner. I got an interview with Stanley Krippner coming up soon!

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