The world-wide polarization in religious and political dialogue is frightening. But beneath the chaos, individuals and nations are making unprecedented progress in healing the sacred divide. Our species is evolving and we are beginning to unite the opposites. Welcome to Epoch III: the era of mandorla consciousness.” ~Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 277.
My third book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World (2012) was about thinking psychologically and living spiritually. The thoughts expressed in that book came directly from my spiritual experiences. I grew up as a Christian who fell so in love with my faith and God-image that at the age of 17 I began to read the New Testament of the Bible. By the age of 25 I had I read it three times. My sincere efforts to apply its teachings to my life—especially the words of Jesus—brought a powerful awareness of a deeper level of sacred meaning that ran below the surface of the traditional teachings of my church like a river of living water. With this new awareness came many new emotions, some profoundly exciting, some deeply disturbing.
By my late thirties I was awash in a chaos of contradictions that challenged everything I had believed about myself and God. This led to a lengthy “dark night of the soul” psychological and spiritual crisis that lasted until my late forties. Then I began an intense, ongoing study of Jungian psychology that helped me integrate these seeming contradictions into an entirely new way of experiencing the Sacred.
After a while, my spirituality was no longer a one-sided affair tied to the literal beliefs and meanings taught by organized religion with its strict dogma, outer male authorities, and male-god-image. Rather, it expanded into a more centered experience of life and spirituality that connected the outer God with the God within, heaven with Earth, masculine with feminine, humans with Nature, left-brained reason and belief with right-brained relatedness and imagination. These connections were no longer founded in my youthful belief in a God other people told me about, but in an evolving knowing of the Sacred I experienced within myself.
In Healing the Sacred Divide, I call this new spiritual way of connecting opposites mandorla consciousness, after the central, almond-shaped space formed by two overlapping circles. This image is featured as a preface to every chapter throughout the book. Although the mandorla has been a sacred symbol of Christianity called the vesica piscis (vessel of the fish) since the early days of Christianity, I nonetheless felt some trepidation about sharing my thoughts about it out of fear of criticism from the more orthodox and fundamentalist factions of the faith.
I am happy to report that much of my fear disappeared when, to my amazement and delight, Healing the Sacred Divide won the Wilbur Award from the Religious Communicators Council for excellence in the communication of religious issues, values, and themes treated with professionalism, fairness, respect, and honesty. Past winners include Mister Rogers and Oprah Winfrey. I’m deeply honored to be in their company, and thrilled to know not only that the religious communicators who presented this award believed my book worthy of it, but also that today, more people than ever before are open to its message.
The recent political divisiveness attributed to extreme fundamentalist factions is just one example of the shadow side of rigid belief systems. Theologian Marcus Borg reminds us that to insist on this way is to follow the broad way of conventional wisdom. In his words,
“…the broad way is the way most people live most of the time. It is not that most people are ‘wicked,’ but that most lives are structured by the conventions of their culture, by taken-for-granted notions of what life is about and how to live, by what ‘everybody knows.'” ~Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (2006), p.194.
Borg contrasts the broad way of convention with the narrow way of which Jesus spoke. The narrow way consists of a radical return to, and centering in, God. In this manner of living,
“…the word ‘repent’…[means] to return from exile and to think/see anew. It means to return from a condition of estrangement and exile to the presence of God. And it means to acquire a new way of seeing and thinking that goes beyond the conventions of culture.” ~Marcus Borg, p. 220.
To travel the broad way is to live an unexamined life. To not understand the value of self-reflection. To not see that the individual, experiential journey toward expanding consciousness is exactly what empowers the genuine spirit persons we so admire. For such a person,
“It isn’t enough to believe in the love of God, as a doctrine; you must experience the love of God.”~Thomas R. Kelly
Most people have had a mystical experience that was so meaningful it felt sacred. Have you? What did you learn from it?
Portions of this post are taken from Chapter 50 of Healing the Sacred Divide. For other posts about the mandorla symbol, look here, here and here.
Paper and E-book versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. The Wilbur Award-winning Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.
This is so lovely to read Jeanie thank you. It’s extraordinary how we are so bound by ‘convention’ and deeply reluctant to step out of our comfort zones.We can look to our parents and their parents to question their modus operandi and take our pulse to see when and if they are of value to us or in fact not of value and need to be examined and re-evaluated. For, if we don’t discard outmoded damaging ways of thought and feeling, the baggage gets passed down to following generations. Surely, we owe our children this –
I’m reminded of the saying ‘an unexamined dream is like an unopened letter’ (The Torah I think) and Socrates: ‘An unexamined life is not worth living’.
Your book was a great value to me, a homecoming of sorts. Yes, I’ve had a few unusual experiences in my life that have changed the way I viewed the world and myself and continue to.
It’s the Chinese New Year, the new moon was last night (I looked for it but didn’t see it), we’ve returned from our travels up north, friends I haven’t seen for years are coming this evening to stay awhile and all is good with the world. Blessings to you from way down south. Susan
Thank you for writing, Susan,
It is indeed extaordinary how bound we are by convention. As a young woman I never knew I was. I believed I was doing everything right until I began to seriously question my religious beliefs. And I never would have done that had I not experienced a painful inner crisis of faith.
I had an unusually strong need to believe in the Father God after my father died. It was probably the only thing that made me feel safe. Jung said there is no growth without suffering. And here’s a Jungian quote from a sticky note that happens to be sitting on my desk right now: “Every psychic advance of man arises from the suffering of the soul.” CW 11. par. 497. That’s been my experience. It’s super scary to step out of the box of any kind of social conditioning—religious, familial, economic, educational, gender, tribal, etc.—because then you move into unknown territory and feel totally alone, without your familiar foundation. Then what do you have left to protect you and assuage your fears?
I totally understand fundamentalism because for many people, especially those who have been traumatized by life, their religious beliefs are a safety blanket, the only thing that makes them feel safe in a world they experience as very dangerous. Many fundamentalists would rather be angry at a world that feels like the enemy than acknowledge their fear of it. It’s extraordinarily difficult to change a mind that’s fighting for its life.
Enjoy your friends! Looking forward to reading about your travels. Love, Jeanie
It is so honest and teaching as always, my dear Jeane. As I read these words about the younger days of your life, I must look back at mine and have found some similarities. My parents were Muslim believers. My mother was a moderate one who prayed regularly, and on the other hand, participated in many parties and celebrations. My
Father was a Sufi one. He might follow God in the form of Thomas R. Kelly’s quote as you brought in:
“It isn’t enough to believe in the love of God, as a doctrine; you must experience the love of God.”
I have learned from both and kept praying until I was about sixteen-seventeen of my age. When I came to the colleague, I got some new friends, and one of them was an atheist. Long story short, this friendship changed my life. It wasn’t easy for me to stop praying, but I was convinced and experienced being an atheist. Of course, some years later, I have got the nonsense of atheism and read and learned Buddha and his philosophy and after that got to know Dr Jung. Anyway, it is a long story. Have a lovely time, dear Jeane. Blessing. 🙏
Thank you for sharing a small part of your religious experience. I can totally relate to it. The story of one’s spiritual journey is a long one when we risk challenging our early conditioning. I’ve found affirming spiritual meaning in Buddhism too. In fact, in several different religions. Many paths lead to spiritual growth and no one way is the only ‘correct’ one. If the traveler is sincere, ultimately all paths lead to the same end: a place of trust in something greater than our ego selves, self-knowledge, compassion, and love. It’s nice having met a fellow traveler in you. Blessings, Jeanie
True and wise, thank you! 🙏🤗❤️
Just brilliant as always Jeanie, thanks for sharing your beautiful art and heart! A big yes here to having sacred mystical experiences, especially around synchronicity and dreams. For instance, last night I dreamt that I was teaching a group of young children about learning the moon phases. I was working alongside a famous male naturalist and his beautiful wife. And if that wasn’t enough creative juice, this morning as I opened up FB the first image I saw was an illustration of children sitting on a waxing crescent moon. I’ve posted a photo of this amazing illustration on my latest post and there was a waxing crescent moon was in my dream too! So, it seems as though Psyche is not only guiding but is positively inspiring me to write a new cycle of poems, or shall I call them my moon children now?! Love and light, Deborah.
Oh yes! Dreams and synchronicities. You and I are certainly on the same page with this. Both have provided me with many mystical experiences. It makes me so uncomfortable to think how easy it would have been to ignore them and miss out on their benefits.
Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful dream from last night and delightful synchronicity this morning. And thank you for letting us see the affirmation and motivation you’re experiencing today because of them. Will you call your new cycles of poems your moon children now? I love it!
This is a perfect example of how our souls work with our conscious egos if we pay attention, and how these are meaningful, mystical experiences. As you often remind me, “You couldn’t make that up!” This is exactly the kind of thing that awaits people who transfer their religious allegiance from outer convention to the soul and spirit within.
Thank you, Deborah for your enriching presence on this blog and in my life. Blessings, Jeanie
Wow, thank you so much for your beautiful reply! Like you, I only found Jung in my mid forties yet bless the day a thousand times, for I had no idea of the importance of dreams, synchronicity too. Your books have been such a joy and a blessings on my journeying these past 10 years. Thank you so much Jeanie for sharing your art, heart and wisdom. Blessings.
Thank you for a timely review of your mandorla ideas read in ‘Healing the Sacred Divide’ a while back. I just looked at my copy and it was published in 2012. We need these ideas more than ever now. I remember telling you, perhaps in a comment to a post at that time, that my teacher Anthony Damiani loved the symbol of what he simply called “the vesica,” He used it in astrology and in Jungian psychology. It often popped up to explain philosophical ideas I can’t recall now, but I’ll never forget the symbol and the reverence it evoked. I’m grateful I first met Jungian ideas briefly in a college psychology class, but my deeper immersion began in my early 20s in classes with Anthony. He knew his hippie students needed a psychological language that connected life with spirit, body with soul. I’m forever grateful for those teachings which continue on in my life. I love how I connected with you as a Jungian knowing you were aware of these same teachings, too. Maybe from a different angle, but the symbol holds it all. Thank you, Jeanie.
(PS. The snow accumulates here and we’ll have over a foot by morning. I go out with the dogs and find it beautiful and exhausting at the same time. By February, I long for your warm sunny world.)
Thanks Elaine, I think we need these ideas more than ever now too. Yes, that came out shortly before the 2014 presidential election after which so many of our taken-for-granted beliefs about our democracy were severely shaken. I thought the political divisiveness was bad before that and was hoping my book would bring attention to it, but it was nothing like it is now.
I hadn’t remembered that your teacher used the vesicle symbol, but I understand and also feel a deep reverence for it. I think it comes as close as any other symbol I can think of to represent the underlying law of opposites that created and sustains our universe and all life. As you say, the symbol holds its all.
As I write this our world isn’t sunny or warm at all, although it can’t compare with yours. Stay warm. Jeanie