If you fulfil the pattern that is peculiar to yourself, you have loved yourself, you have accumulated and have abundance; you bestow virtue then because you have luster. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 502.
Beneath it all, beneath the story of Joseph and the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus born in a manger surrounded by animals, the star, the shepherds, the angels singing, the three wise kings with their three gifts. Christmas trees, lights, decorations, presents, food. Santa Claus, Rudolph, the elves, snow. Beneath all this, what is Christmas really about? Where did this need to celebrate new life come from?
Jesus’s birth is celebrated in the middle of the coldest, darkest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Here, the Winter Solstice, which occurs on December 21 or 22, marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This was celebrated for thousands of years by our ancestors because it appeared to them as if the sun had been withdrawing since Midsummer. Since their lives depended on hunting, gathering and growing, the longest night marked the end of the sun’s disappearance and the rebirth of light, hope, trust, and a new growing season.
But does this mean Christmas is just a pagan festival celebrating a change in the weather? Of course not. Light, star, rebirth, new life and abundance have symbolic meaning too. And symbols, rituals and celebrations address inner realities as well as outer ones.
Awakening from a long sleep during which our egos have been unconscious of our inner truths, and moving into a more mature way of living and loving is what Christmas is really about. Thus, one message of the Christmas story is that just as a brilliant star stands out from the others in the midnight sky, each of us has the potential to become an individuated, enlightened human being. And that star, that unique baby who brought kings and wise men from afar to worship in a humble manger brings another message too; one about the deep connections between all things.
Everything psychic has a lower and a higher meaning, as in the profound saying of late classical mysticism: ‘Heaven above, Heaven below, stars above, stars below, all that is above also is below, know this and rejoice.’ Here we lay our finger on the secret symbolical significance of everything psychic. ~Carl Jung; CW 5; para 77.
We and our world are bi-polar, which is to say, governed by the principle of opposites. Earth has a Northern and a Southern Hemisphere. For every night there is a day. For every season of darkness is a season of light. For every outer event there is a corresponding inner one which resonates in ways that bring joy and meaning to our lives. Thus, all opposites, outer and inner, are bound to each other by an invisible cord which is as real and essential to us as our heartbeat.
The invisible cord is a middle realm where, as Picasso explained, “Everything you can imagine is real.” This place where all opposites merge and overlap has been called by many names depending on our perspective. A physicist might call it the Quantum Field. A symbologist, a Mandorla. An artist, Imagination or Muse. A Jungian, the Ego-Self axis. A religious, Holy Spirit or God.
Whatever you call it, this third place of Trinity, this realm where outer events are connected to—and symbols of—meaningful inner realities, is real. Moreover, the ongoing interactions in this realm create oneness.
And so, although each of us is a unique individual, a glowing star like no other, by means of the invisible cord we are also all bound together in unity. No part can exist without the other. We and our world, our very universe, are one gigantic bundle of connected and interacting impulses and elements, vibrations and particles. It’s called Life. And it’s all holy.
And our conscious, loving interaction with the world along that middle space is where the magic occurs. Where an idea manifests into an object. Where a symbol brings personal meaning. Where a feeling breeds a relationship of twoness which becomes a marriage of individuated oneness.
There is an absolute, eternal union between God and the soul of everything. The problem is that Western religion has not taught us this. Our ego over-emphasizes our individuality and separateness from God and others. ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.
And so we celebrate the birth of a child who became the foundation for a new religion long ago, instead of our own holy inner light and our process of awakening to it and to life: the new life we experienced last year and the new life we hope for in the coming year. And we struggle to prove our worth with outer achievements while struggling against the realities of our life, the very things which make us who we are and which, once accepted, can turn us into the enlightened being we can become.
Mystics like Francis and Clare lived from a place of conscious, chosen, and loving union with God. Such union was realized by surrendering to it, not by achieving it! ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.
Finding our light in times of darkness and actualizing our potential for goodness is the common cord, Jean, between Chanukah and Christmas that you have made visible for me in this essay! Thank you!
You’re welcome, Rabbi. I find the common cord between our religions every time I read your blog. Thank you for writing. I’m including a link to your most recent post so that others unfamiliar with your blog my find that commonality for themselves. https://findingourselvesinbiblicalnarratives.com And may we all focus our energies on sharing our own lights instead of trying to extinguish the lights of others this holiday season and beyond.
Note to self: in re “Bucket List.”
Meet Jean Rafa in person to thank her for her kindness and wisdom!
Note to self: Proofread. Raffa not Rafa.
Smiling. I’ve heard that rafa (sp?) is a Hebrew word having something to do with healing. Is that true? If so, I take your omission of one “f” in my last name as a compliment. 🙂
Jean, indeed Rafa with one f is the Hebrew word for “heal.” The root of the word appears 67 times in various forms in the Hebrew Bible. Most notably, to me, it is the verb found in Moses’ impassioned plea (Numbers 12:13) on behalf of his sister Miriam who was afflicted with leprosy, “O God, please heal her now!”
I love that. Thank you. I appreciate the information and am honored to have received that name from my husband, whose grandfather came to America from Sicily. Though he was a Catholic, as one would expect in Italy, perhaps some of his ancestors were Hebrew……
Reblogged this on lampmagician.
Thank you, Alaedin.
Thanks again for your Wonderful words ❤❤
Thank you Jeanie, a profound post. The connectedness of everything is such an awe-some concept or experience or call it what you will. A blessed Christmas to you and family.
Thank you, Susan. And a blessed Christmas to you and yours.
Nicely put, Jeanie! I love your progression of thought on this subject. Here is the ending to a Winter Solstice poem I wrote that expresses some of what you wrote about the symbolic meaning of the return of hope as a Christmas theme (whole poem on my FB page):
Soul on ice, can this be Light,
Elusive Conqueror of Dark?
Sing ye “Hark!” as Sol does rise
Reclaimer of the Northern skies.
Sing, also, “Joy on Earth! “ in praise of Sun’s rebirth
Merry Christmas and Solstice to you and yours,
Thank you, Jenna. I’m still working on it, as you’ll note if you reread it. There’s so much I want to say and I’m struggling to find the words… Of course, you as a writer would know all about that. 🙂 Speaking of….. you found some good ones for your poem! “Soul on ice”…very cool. Reminds me of the albedo stage of alchemy! And then, here comes the sun: the rubedo stage! Lovely. The magnum opus coming to completion. I look forward to reading the whole thing on your Facebook page. All Christmas and Solstice blessings to you and yours. Jeanie
How beautiful, Jeanie. I’d read it before and shared it, but now I read again with a little time to respond as I wait for family to arrive in a few hours. I’m trying to recall when I first realized I loved Winter Solstice more than any of the religious festivities associated with this time of year. I’ve had a pagan imagination for a long time.
In an uncertain world, I count on the Earth reversing Her tilt in relation to the Sun. When I look up in the night sky, Venus is a brilliant guiding light in the southwest. I love your explanation of the world of opposites in which we live. I also resonate with your description of the middle realm, the connecting world of the imagination. It can be hard for me to trust in that Neptunian world of big imagination and open mystical connection and realm of Soul. You’ve inspired me to trust my connection to the invisible cord. Blessed Solstice and thank you again for sharing your light.
I love your pagan imagination. It’s something that only came to me after midlife and I’ll be forever grateful for it. There is so very much more to life than the narrow little boxes of belief in which so many of us were raised. Blessed Solstice to you and your loved ones, and thank you too, for sharing your light.
Jeanie, Oh My Heavens! Of course, I’ve long known that you were a very special person, with numinous insight, but this truly gives me goose bumps and brings tears to my eyes. To be a little facetious, I surely knew you were a Wholly person, but now I know I’ve been misspelling it. You are a Holy person! Merry Christmas!
Thank you, my friend. You honor me. Merry Christmas!
I realized too late that I should spell “Wholly” as “Wholely”, and now I know why it happened. It seems WordPresses spell checker corrected it and made it the first way on me. I must have spelled it the right way the first time, right?! 😉
And “WordPresses” should be “WordPress’s”! Good grief!
Merry Christmas dear Jeanie!
Oh I love the idea of Christmas strengthening our star! What a deep joy it is to read your beautiful, blessed words today. Thank you so much for reminding me of that invisible cord which connects us all. I truly resonate with your post as I slowly awaken from a long, dark sleep and slowly move once more towards the light. Much love and light to you at this wonderful time of the year, blessings always, Deborah.
Merry Christmas, Deborah. It’s lovely to hear from you. I’ve been thinking of you over the last few months, wishing you health and happiness. And now I also wish you increasing love and light. Blessings always, Jeanie
To move into the next stage in our collective evolution, we need those who can articulate what remains hidden. Your beautifully written piece, Jean, does that: recognizing the unity of opposites in that middle space where they co-create. I say this with genuine respect for the time we have been living through—the dynamics of duality and separation (discrimination)—otherwise, we might have remained forever inside the chaos of the Great Mother. But we’ve been lingering here too long, besotted by the materialist desires the physical world brings. Thank you, Jean, for another year of helping us see who we are and who we might become. Happy New Year!
Dear Diane, Well said! I appreciate your understanding and respect for the time we have been living through. I feel it too. We know this rough awakening it is a necessary stage before we can move closer to ourselves, each other, and peace. I thank you as well for birthing your new book last year, which is dedicated to this purpose. May the new year be empowering and enlightening.