A Mother’s Love


There’s one more reason why Bear is such an important symbol for me. I’d like to tell you about it. The mother bear is one of the most tender, nurturing, and fiercely protective mothers in the animal world. In the spring when she emerges from her den, she brings with her at least one new cub who was born during the hibernation. The first and most difficult lesson she teaches her baby is to stay hidden and quiet high up in a tree while she searches the forest for food. It is essential that the cub remain in the tree, for if she climbs down and wanders around alone it is only a matter of time before she will become lunch for a ravenous adult male bear.
Having no idea of the danger that awaits, in those first few days out of hibernation the cub tries to climb down and follow her mother. When this happens the mother must swat her child firmly and chase her back up the tree. Finally the poor baby stays, afraid of being alone, but more afraid of the disapproval of her mother. Soon she learns to trust that if she stays there long enough, Mother will eventually come back. Then the joyful cub can climb down out of the tree and together they will eat, play, and snooze until it is time to return to the den for the night.
Mother and cub follow this routine for about two years. During this time the dutiful child learns her lessons well from the good mother. Then one day the mother bear trees her cub as usual. She goes out into the woods as usual. And she never comes back.
The sun’s rays lengthen. Twilight arrives. The baby waits in the tree. She is hungry. She is lonely. She is afraid. Maybe she is angry. How dare Mother stay away so long? Still she waits. Night falls. She hears terrifying noises and there is a gnawing hunger in her belly. But she has learned her lessons well so she waits for her mother like a good little bear.
Here is the terrible truth that the baby bear must learn: in order to survive and grow into a mature bear capable of becoming a nurturing mother herself, she must commit an act of disobedience against the good mother. She must climb down from the tree. The moment she leaves the tree’s safety and makes her sad and lonely way through the forest is the moment she accepts her royal birthright. No longer will she be a naive and innocent princess. She has no choice but to grow up. The Queen of her universe is dead. Long live the new Queen.
Like the baby bear, our job during the first half of life is to become civilized and safe. But the journey is not over once we have learned to respect society’s authorities — whether familial, political, or spiritual — for too often they are flawed and their agendas stifle our psychological and spiritual growth. The baby bear’s predicament represents our ego’s awakening to the personal meaning and sacred authority of our own souls. At some point we, too, need to commit an act of disobedience against the good mother of society so we can expand into the authentic, compassionate, and responsible moral beings we were created to be.
It may seem cruel, but society’s abandonment of us when we grow strong enough to go our own, individual ways is actually a gift that initiates us into discovering the guidance and wisdom of our inner mother, Sophia, the feminine side of the Beloved. How have you been initiated by Mother Bear?

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0 Responses

  1. Wow, I’m really learning a lot about bears and I think you make an excellent point about initiation. In my case, however, the initiation was not by society but by the soul. The soul dragged me out of society through depression. In many ways I think that society would be happy to have us just suckle at its consumerist breasts until we die. It wants us to be good little unconscious drones to feed and perpetuate the status quo. Perhaps it is geared to draw certain people to greater heights and consciousness. Certainly being sent off to war or living in abject poverty must be monstrous initiations for some people.
    Anyways, great post. Thanks.

    1. Hi Kody,
      Thanks so much for your very thoughtful and provocative response. I think “society” is, in general, very well-meaning. For the most part, it just wants to protect its young and keep them safe. But unfortunately it insists on transmitting the same standards and values to its offspring that helped it survive. Of course, this totally ignores personal and societal change and individual differences. So I totally agree that, with few exceptions, our forbears would rather we suckle at the same breasts they did, even if it wasn’t all that nourishing in the long run, than find a surrogate mother with a different agenda. Society is terrified of the “other,” the “outsider,” because it’s unknown and there’s no guarantee of survival.
      Sometimes the initiaton comes when the “good mother” of society abandons us for no longer needing her protection. And as you have noted, sometimes our souls demand change. In either case, the initiation occurs because we are growing, as we are meant to, beyond the limitations of our forbears. So the initiation is a natural consequence of our soul’s evolution into wholeness.
      Congratulations, Kody, for evolving.
      My very best to you,

  2. divine……….one time during thanking doctor’s conference told this real conversations happened almost 25 years between me and my elder son ……as a worship of life with god grace always have morning walk in the garden at 5 o’clock and as the sun was rising me and my son folded our hands as usual , my 6 yr son ask why you call sun as god,…is it really god ? I replied god or no god I do not know but know one thing for sure “one who benefits others is god and sun does that……..but sun is in the sky ….are there god on earth also son inquires ?
    yes many..I answered the people who have Dr, before their names…….
    thanks for this wonderful article on inner mother…Dr,jean raffa

    1. Thank you ramOsinghal,
      Your reverence toward life, appreciation for god’s grace, and way of seeing the sacred in everything is so beautiful and wise. It is very inspiring to me. My doctorate is in education, not medicine, but I hope nonetheless to be of benefit to others. I feel certain that the more I learn to see life from your perspective, the better chance I will have of doing that.
      With sincere gratitude for your kind words,

  3. divine……..jean raffa
    kindly look at my page “about” and your opinion on “own zero”
    this is a appeared document 26 yrs ago ……take your time…
    thanks ….

    1. Dear ram0singhal,
      I have read your essay “Own Zero” with great pleasure and have been pondering it for the past few days. I’m inspired by the depth and breadth of your wisdom. Your insights about science and nature are especially interesting, and so relevant to what I’ve been writing about in recent blog posts. As you will see in my response to Jenna below, I recommend that anyone interested in this topic should check out your essay in the “About” section of your site at http://ram0singhal.wordpress.com
      Thank you so much for your wise contributions to this blog.
      With deep respect,

  4. Nice metaphor! I love metaphors and the way they can be used in teaching; I think Milton Erickson got me hooked. I guess it also combines my love of spirituality and psychology with my love of the arts.
    Glad I found your blog! 🙂

    1. Hi confessionsofadizzyblonde,
      Great name! Yes, Erickson used a lot of story and metaphor in his therapy because he understood — as did Jung and as does Dream Mother — the healing potential of creative imagery. With the guidance of Jungian psychology, image and metaphor have figured prominently in my own inner work and Bear was among the earliest to make itself known.
      I’m very glad you found my blog too. It sounds like we’re on the same wave length with our passions for spirituality, psychology, and the arts! I look forward to future conversations with you.
      My best to you,

  5. Great post, Jeanie ~
    When I think of Bear energy in my own life, I think of the Cave, a place on the West of the Wheel where I go when I need replenishing, space, quiet, and renewal. But, I do resonate to the Mother archetype in Bear, too. You have shown the full picture of the mother bear’s contribution to our inner knowing here…where mother acts as a catalyst to her young one’s journey into the larger world…so important for full growth and survival on so many levels of our being.
    Speaking of metaphor, I believe it is our first language – in both an ancestral/collective and personal sense. As Hillman says somewhere in one of his books, it is nature that has informed science and not the other way around.
    Much love on this full moon/lunar eclipse day ~

    1. Hi Jenna,
      Yes! Jung said the Mother’s energy is both maternal and transformational. Like the Mother Bear, physical mothers “lick” their children into shape to prepare them for the larger world. The archetypal Great Mother instigates the initiatory experiences that transform us from innocent conformity and complacency to mature independence and individuality. The source of both kinds of energy is Mother’s boundless love for life and her compulsion to promote and preserve it, both as it exists in every unique individual soul as well as in each precious species.
      I love your observation that nature informs science. One of my readers and commenters, ram0singhal, has a lot to say about this on his web site http://ram0singhal.wordpress.com
      Thank you so much for your wise and insightful observations and helpful contributions to my blog.
      Much love,

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