CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTES
start date July 20, 2011
today's date September 18, 2013
TOPIC: GUIDE - ESTES
NOTE FROM DEE: I hate to admit this but I get quite a few insights when going to the bathroom. In this case, I heard a voice in my head, "Guide - Estes". I couldn't resist to find out if there was such a guide.
There were so many people named Estes in the past who are decased including Billy Sol Estes who is a well-known huckster from Texas. That's not the kind of guide I want for my future, so I kept looking and found Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
She charges a lot of money for her seminars, which I can't afford, so I found some youtube.com videos and this particular article which is interesting. It really sounds like one of the stories one might hear on the old TV show by Rod Sterling - Twilight Zone.
Tami Simon: This program is brought to you by SoundsTrue.com. For those seeking genuine transformation, SoundsTrue.com is your trusted partner on the spiritual journey, offering diverse, in-depth, and life-changing wisdom. Many voices, one journey. SoundsTrue.com.
You are listening to “Insights at the Edge.” Today I speak with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, an internationally recognized scholar, award-winning poet, diplomate senior Jungian psychoanalyst, and la cantadora, (keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition). In addition to her international bestselling book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, Dr. Estés is deputy managing editor and columnist, writing on politics, spirituality, and culture, at The Moderate Voice newsblog http://themoderatevoice.com/ She is also a columnist on spirituality and culture at The National Catholic Reporter online. She is currently teaching a new series of online events through Sounds True on Mother Night: Learning to See in the Dark. Here is a conversation, a kind of preview about this new series, a conversation I would like to call “Diamonds in the Dark,” with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Hi, Tami.
Tami Simon: Hi, Dr. Clarissa, and welcome to Insights at the Edge.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Hi, thank you.
Tami Simon: Now, I was thinking, previous to this conversation, the first time that you and I were on the radio together.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Oh my.
Tami Simon: Was actually more than two decades ago.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: That is true.
Tami Simon: Twenty-two years ago.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: That is true. [laughs]
Tami Simon: Anyway, wonderful to once again be talking to you, interviewing you, and hearing what you have to say.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Thank you, Tami.
Tami Simon: What a long period of time, twenty-two years.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: I know. You were a young little kid back then. I remember your headphones seemed almost bigger than you were, actually. Times change. Nowadays headphones are teeny-tiny things.
Tami Simon: Now on this occasion, we are talking about your new creative work, Mother Night, which is a new online event series with Sounds True. Mother Night: Learning to See in the Dark. And to begin, I am wondering if you can tell our listeners what you mean by “Mother Night.”
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: The Mother Night series is based on an idea that you and I have talked about for almost twenty years, this concept …that many things …propose… and bring creative life, healing, ideas, innovations, inventions, and solutions, to real down-to-earth issues and challenges. And these actually come out of the dark, from out of nowhere, seemingly, they come from over your shoulder. They come from just out of the corner of your eye. They come from the unconscious; they come from the part of the psyche that stores not just quirks and oddities and forgotten shreds of memory and so forth, but also stores of great gifts… insight, intuition, knowledge, that some people would call uncanny only because it doesn’t appear to come from the forefront of the mind.
The concept of Mother Night is a metaphor for the intuitive psyche, for the phenomenal power that each person is born with… to know—without exactly knowing literally—how to proceed, where to go next, by hook or by crook, by hunches, by being guided by dreams at night, by listening to stories in which mystical components are buried… those clues that give direction to the hero or the heroine…those very elements that can be brought down to earth… in our day-to-day lives too.
Tami Simon: How does listening to a story help somebody access what is in their unconscious, what is in the darkness?
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: The concept of the collective unconscious contains the idea that we all have a similar grid within the psyche, that is, I would say, a storyline. And it has been proposed by many people, aboriginal people in particular—long before Freud and Jung and Adler and other people proposed such—that we all have a heroic myth or …a heroic storyline that we are born with… one we gradually live out as we meet people, see signposts and listen to dreams in order to be able to understand, at a deeper level, the meaning of different crooks and turns in our lives… different challenges… which appear before us without us necessarily knowing right away how to deal with them…transform them, exploit them, as in learn from them… and also how to create from them.
In the collective unconscious, is the primal pattern of story. This… is within each of us, so that when we listen to stories, mythologies, legends, folk tales— any kind of story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, including a crisis of some sort—(in which the hero or the heroine then does some grand thing, usually at great cost or often by losing first and then later being able to win back the treasured thing)—whatever it was that was lost and then helped or regained or healed… when we listen to stories… a part of our psyches, the myth-making part of our psyches, listens very closely to these matters… often as though taking notes, and for certain… taking measure, learning.
I’d say that the ego, which is more concerned with factual matters, desires and so forth—is literally bypassed when story is told. And that the soul is listening. The soul is, we might say, is the progenitor, that is… the broadcasting station and the transmission station within the psyche that can see, feel, hear, and interpret the lines of story as they are heard… can apply them to one’s own life, one’s personal life, in a down-to-earth way.
You will hear me say “down to earth” quite a bit in my work because there are many… fatuous ideas about what mythical things might mean. But/ and, my experience clinically and personally as well, is that until one can bring an ideal or idea down to earth… it remains just a pretty thing… or a scary thing. But once you bring it down to earth, it becomes something that you can turn one way or the other and find its usefulness for your life… use it to enrich your life, deepen your life, understand more about your life, penetrate the meaning of this aspect, ideal or idea in your life, and so on.
Within the storylines of heroes and heroines, there is always a conflict. People might start out all happy-go-lucky, or they might start out miserably—they are orphaned, parents have been killed, house has burned down, nothing is left except a little child on the road all by themselves.
The story may begin with being born in a castle: having the finest of everything… but eventually in the storyline something goes awry, usually something magical, something mysterious, something very much out of the ordinary. Thus, the talking fish shows up in “The Fisherman’s Wife” story, for instance…
A talking magical fish is caught by an old man who is living in poverty with his wife. The fish says the old man can wish for anything he wants and it shall be granted. And so the magic begins by something that is symbolic of an element in the unconscious; an old man and old woman who are impoverished. A magical being who infers one’s life need not remain ‘as is.’
When we listen to stories like this, at the very moment the fish shows up and talks and promises that, “If you let me go I will grant you a wish…” we realize that in our own lives there has been not just one moment but probably many moments just like that… wherein we are asked to make a bargain… we are asked to give up something in order to gain something. And maybe we will or maybe we won’t, or maybe we will do as the fisherman does. He says, “Oh no, it is alright.” He is a very kindly person. He says, “No, no, it is alright. I will let you go. You don’t have to give me anything.”
But when the old man rows home and he tells his wife he has met a talking fish who promised him a wish, the wife goes crazy. She cries, “How could you? How dare you? Look how we live. We live hand to mouth. We have nothing!” As we listen to a story like that, there is something in us that knows exactly how that wife is feeling… because some place in the unconscious, in our selves, in our own story, in our own myth of our own lives, there is something in us too that says “I should have it better. How dare you pass up any opportunity? People should give me things. I mean, look at how I have to live. This is horrible.”
In analytical psychology and in the kind of psychology I understand and follow from ethnic roots, there is an idea that all the archetypal characters and aspects of a story can often be found unfolding in an individual’s mind and heart also. Thus, if you would note the wife and the husband in “The Fisherman’s Wife” story— and the fish also— that these altogether represent a part of the psyche that is in struggle to survive, but the same psyche also has mystical, magical insights as well, a ‘grantor’ who truly can help bring things to a new and different fruition.
But the ‘treasure fish’ lives at great depth and is rarely seen. There is present also one aspect in the old man who is good hearted, who wants to be a good person and tries very hard to be in the world but is not quite made for the world of competition and argumentation and debate. That person would rather just live easier and more calmly. Yet, there is another part of the psyche that one could say is more or less crabby all the time, that feels like it is unhonored and that it is without power to make matters any different than they are. And so there you have the conflict of many, many people’s life stories.
The most valuable of all is ‘the treasure which lives just out of sight.’ Thus, there is the one who isn’t lazy but sort of passes it off, doesn’t recognize that having relationship with that treasure would be engendering something greater, would potentially create a third thing, a new turn…. would potentially make something happen that would be useful and good. And then there is always the eternally crabby one, which, well, some days I think I was just born in a bad mood because such pull in the over culture is so pervasive, but the fact of the matter is that that is the least developed in the psyche—and in the culture— and that is what sets up the conflict.
Tami Simon: So in listening to a story like that, Dr. E., I mean I totally see what you mean in terms of the ego part of the listener being lulled to sleep… and this other part of me starts listening, sees images, etc. What I am curious about is, for you, as really one of the world’s most respected story tellers, what happens for you when a story is coming through you? What is that like?
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: That is a good question, and it is one I have never been asked before. I think that in those moments I do not feel I am visible, only the story is visible.
I cannot say that I am thinking about what the next line of the story is…. because that is not how it happens. I can’t say that I planned out how the story will unfold other than its basic bones beforehand. And, during, I have the same sensation that a lot of people have or describe in meditation or in deep prayer, that I often don’t realize how much time has passed during the telling of the story. I am often surprised that it is either a short amount of time that has passed, or much, much longer amount of time has passed than I had perceived. Yet too, there is a mysterious internal time piece that senses each phase of the story, and the moment to turn toward it.
I would say that I belong to a tradition of storytellers who tell from, hopefully, the deepest sense of telling, which is not an ego presentation, such as, “Listen to this wonderful story, isn’t it charming and it isn’t it interesting?” It has more to do, from what I can see of it all, with my soul speaking to the souls of others. And in those moments I would say that it is like ‘a story to go invisible by,’ that the teller is no longer visible. You might be able to see them and hear them, of course, but they are not present as if you were going to go look up the phone number of the pizza parlor and order pizza with pineapple on it. You know?
Tami Simon: And as we talk about this new online series Mother Night: Learning to See in the Dark, I mean, in a sense what you are saying about the way you approach telling a story…it is a kind of ‘seeing in the dark.’ What I am curious about is, how can you teach other people to do this? Can you teach other people to see in the dark?
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Yes, of course. Because everyone is born with that innate sensitivity of perception. It is an uncanny kind of perception. It knows sometimes what people are going to say before they say it. It knows when someone has the intention of kissing you before they even make the move toward kissing you. They know by looking at their children what mood their children are in when they come through the door at the end of the day. They have a sense of which way to go, left or right, on a road, literally. They sense what will lead them toward instead of away from wherever they are meant to, wish to, go. This intuitional sense is born into everyone, and it has many different layers to it.
Intuition and instincts offer remedies for coalescing, healing oneself, give instruction about what to create that will have reach to it, suggests what to say to calm people, help them and heal them, teaching also how to touch people—physically touch them—in ways that will awaken them and cause them to feel sheltered and cherished instead of shattered and chilled, and so on.
However, there are many in our world who carry injured instinct. Injured intuition. There is no doubt. Because particularly, our culture is a highly competitive one which is interested in making people into competitors. There are many cultural reasons for that, having to do with making money (that is one way of wielding power) and being the best of whatever so that others ought give deference—the highest jumpers, the long distance runners, the biggest, lowest, highest, widest of anything. All good and well, in proportion, for those who pursue these with meaning attached.
Yet, soul is not particularly interested in those or any endeavors if they do not also carry deep meaning from the soul’s point of view. Soul is interested in having a relationship with all aspects of a person’s life and being present to it, under girding it, feeding it, and being consulted about it. And this cooperative relationship, this literal love relationship with the treasure, is usually what lies in the dark.
The magical fish in the story is the one who knows. It is the “La que sabe, the One who knows,” about which way to go next, about what to do next, about what to offer next, think next, consider, what to measure against what. And when that magical quality is injured in a person, as later in the story the magical fish is injured, thence comes the breaking of the relationship between one of the world, and one far wiser.
In the story, the fisherman’s wife keeps demanding her husband ask the fish to keep giving her bigger and bigger things. She makes the husband go back out onto the open sea, call up the fish again, and tell him she wants to be king. The old man resists the asking, but she forces him. She says she won’t love him anymore. So he rows back into the sea and calls to the fish. The fish says, “Go home. It is already granted.” The old man rows home and there is a palace, courtiers, jesters. There are the soldiers, and there is his wife with her great big crown, and she is king.
But the wife isn’t happy. She sends the old man back to the sea again. She says, “Go tell that fish that I want to be pope.” Old man tries to talk her out of it, but there is no use. She represents the ego that can never be satisfied. She says, “I must be important. I must be big. I must be competitive. I must be better than others, etc.” She is going down the wrong path… for no one, no soul, can exist with a dominant ego like that. The soul will run away from its own person.
The soul then will be in the ill position of, what we call and what we will talk about in the Mother Night series, a condition in curanderismo that means the soul is literally shocked out of the person… or is repulsed by the person’s actions… and thus, moves off to the side a bit, or sometimes far far away, too far away, and has to be called back again …in order for the soul to be reunited with the rest of the psyche…. so that the mind and heart can see through the eyes of the soul again… feel through the feeling states of the soul, think through the soul’s way of thinking—all these rootstock and center that enrich a person’s life instead of just making it just a shallow, egotistical state of being.
So in the story, the fisherman’s wife eventually sends her old husband out onto the open sea again, telling him this time he has to tell the fish she wants to be God. The old man is beside himself. “You can’t be God,” he tells her. “Yes I can!” says she. “That fish said it could grant any wish. I want to be God.”
And so the fisherman rows painfully out in a huge dark storm. The black waves come up over the sides of the boat, threatening to wash the old man out of the boat as he calls up this fish in the middle of the night. “Flounder, flounder in the sea, my wife would have me speak with thee.”
And the fish comes up on the tip of its fin, high atop a dark green wave. But the magical fish is bleeding. It is bleeding bright red blood all the way down the green wave into the depths of the storm water. And the fish calls over the storm, “What now?” And the old man cries out, “My wife wants to be God.” And the fish calls back, saying, “Tell her she has asked too much.”
Thus, the fish slides down the green wave all bloody. It falls down under the water. And the old man rows home on water that has becalmed. The storm is over. There on the shore is his old wife. And she is back in their hovel again. Everything is just as it was at the beginning of the tale.
The concept of ‘the magical being’ in this story is this: the soul… is torn, mis-used, hurt, bleeding when the ego demands too much, over and over again, going in the wrong direction, going toward self-importance, self-aggrandization, caring too much about what others think. All these are the symptoms of broken intuition. Intuition: that fabulous gift that is given whole at birth, into every soul, into every being on earth.
Yet, somehow, usually because culture and often schooling do not value soul first, the magic of the psyche that can see in the dark, has been cut out, broken, shunted aside, or shamed—misjudged as absurd or not substantive enough. All this goes into making the magical creature bleed atop the highest wave in the storm, calling out in essence… “You can ask no more of me. You can ask no more. I cannot allow you to kill me. It is over. You have asked too much.”
The ego which has so demanded to rise in the temporal world to kingly/ pope-ish, God-like heights, here in the story, returns to what may seem like only a previous impoverished state of thinking. Yet, also, there will be now another chance to proceed again, but without a systemic inflation infection, now in new ways not detached from what is most meaningful to the soul.
One idea of Jung’s was that a serious deflation will automatically follow a grotesque inflation of a person’s ideas. This means, as far as I can see, that the ego’s appetites are often beyond the reach of the soul in one sense, and not funded by the soul, not rooted in the soul’s causes. ‘Seeing in the dark,’ means in one way that one would always see if the roots to an idea make it worth doing, and questioning by whose sights is such worth pursuing. When one metaphorically ‘sees in the dark, the roots of most matters are exposed. One can decide far more evenly what is worth protesting, protecting, resisting, creating, making, forging. The roots, in this tale, are under the sea, under the water, centered in the image of the magical fish.
The mysterious and wise force of psyche is ever to be found underneath or at center, rather than merely atop. The minute the ego pretends to be the root of the psyche, people become incredibly unoriginal, uncreative, and in many ways turn into automatons striving only to “look like” something, rather than actually “being something” at depth.
Tami Simon: Dr. E., I can imagine someone listening saying, ‘Well, you know, I fall somewhere in the middle. I feel part of my soul intact, but part of my soul having left. And I know that from my own competitiveness and ego drivenness, etc. So I am someplace in-between.” You mentioned curanderismo — First of all explain to our listeners what curanderismo actually is… and then, “How could it help me? How would it approach my situation?”
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: One of our sessions during the Mother Night Series web event is on curanderismo. Curanderismo is one of the ancient healing arts that come from the Latino peoples. It appears that it may actually have its origins partly in Sephardic Judaism that was carried from old Spain into the so-called “new world” in Mexico and the rest of Central and South America. It also was melded with healing traditions from the African slaves that were brought to the East coast of the Yucatan in Mexico. And, in Mexico, for instance, deeply melded together with the indigenous practices of the over five hundred tribal groups prior to the conquest— of which there are now less than two hundred very small tribal groups intact after the conquest. Curanderismo is, at core, the beating heart of the God of Love, continued in many aspects from ancient Spanish versions of this numen.
Curanderismo’s healing principles revolve around the idea that each person is born with a convener, a knowledgeable being, a “La que sabe, One who knows,” at the center of the psyche… tacit in the whole of their lives on earth. And that this materia is partly divine and partly human. And it corresponds certainly also with various religious views, that there is something in each person that is spark of God or Creator, as we call it. And that there is also an aspect that is most definitely human… and that the human part is not supposed to eclipse the divine part. The contrary: the divine leads and the human follows. Like that.
Curanderismo focuses on what can be seen topside, a set of “symptoms” for instance… and diagnoses that have to do with the condition of the soul, and how the soul can be tied up, blindfolded, set aside, wander off.
For instance, one of the poor conditions of psyche is called "mal ojo." Two words, mal, bad… and ojo, eye. “A bad eye” can mean many things, including weakness of spiritual sight… such as, one looking at life with cynicism, that one has become ‘a disappointed idealist’ and has decided to take cynicism on as protective armor. And that because one does this, it literally blinds the soul.
Cynicism puts a blindfold over the eyes of the soul so that you cannot see from the soul’s point of view anymore, so that soul cannot speak to you about what it sees because the cynicism of the ego dominates with its slitty eyes about everything, that is, mal ojo.
The cynic, without just inquiry, decides people are not what they say they are, that healing cannot be achieved, that usefulness cannot be gotten, that meaning is meaningless, etc. There are many aspects of cynicism. But essentially it means to carry mal ojo, to have lost your belief in the goodness of humans and clarity of the soul and the Creator, all together in one enabling consideration and action system.
Curanderismo suggests intervenings and cures for such. Just as in Buddhism, as in Catholicism and Judaism and the Muslim faith, there are re-orienting, solidifying, and cleansing practices that a person undertakes daily in order to re-center themselves in the greater self, in la alma, in the soul, rather than letting the often blinded ego, the little monkey, run off with everything every day.
Those preventive and re-orienting practices become most important… because the ego— as you know— is attracted, in all of us, to the bright shiny things in life. Sort of like a pack rat, like a raven is attracted to whatever shines. However, the soul is attracted to many things which do not yet shine in the light of day, because they are still in the dark, waiting there as yet unseen treasure hoping to be found, nonetheless.
Thereby, practices are meant to always remind that you are born as treasure. A treasure hunt is an apt metaphor for learning healing practices, going after the basic treasure and bringing it to the surface once again… wrapping oneself around with it and using all of its attributes to create, to make friendships and alliances, to heal earth and self, friends and family, and so on.
Without the treasure, without the soul in the lead, it is essentially like going forward with your ankles hobbled together, a blindfold on and earplugs in… thus the only thing you can hear is the cacophony of the culture and all the things that it says are ‘most important.’
I read this big black volume in the library when I was a teenager. It is a not very popular volume of Carl Jung’s work called, Civilization in Transition. This tenth volume of Jung’s collected works became one of the reasons I was attracted to Jung’s work… because the book seemed to be about alienation… and I felt that I was surrounded by it as well as having it. You know, if you could say it is an illness, alienation, then I also had alienation myself. And I thought it was the most brilliant thing Jung had ever written because he said that in order to return to the great Self, capital “S” as he put it.
I understood this to mean the radiant portion of Creator we carry, that spark of divine creative life inside each of us— has to exit the collective in significant ways, in order to consider what has been lost, in order to be restored, enabled to be in full force and action above ground again. By my sights, this meant one had to, in some way, for some time, turn their back on mainstream culture / the subculture one was raised in, and examine it from the outside… to cut ties that are not…how would I put it? ties that don’t feed the root lines of the soul, that only feed the ego… making ego bigger and bigger until it explodes, just from being too big. (This is an inflation turning back into a deflation, the predictable cycle.)
Originally, when you and I talked about doing this series, Tami, I told you I was interested in teaching people to help take care of people who are ‘sensitives,’—‘the sensitive,’ that is my word for what some call ‘empathic’ people, who some call ‘highly intuitive’ people. I think the highly intuitive nature, born into everybody, is often completely misunderstood in the collective. And I think that mis-judgment begins possibly in the family. But for certain it begins in school.
Tami Simon: Can you explain how you see the nature of the intuitive being misunderstood? What is the misunderstanding?
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: The misunderstanding, I think…if I could just give the example of Kindergarten or grade school… there, you are not allowed to sleep when you are tired; you are not allowed to go toward the things you want to learn. You are not allowed to stand up and yawn or sing or whatever need or creative idea comes when you feel the spirit moves you. That is not right to corral children so. Instead, one has to think basically that little children have reason for doing what they are doing, for their singing, for their sleepiness, or their wanting to eat now. But too often in school we enter a chute as though for cattle, I think. Montessori and Waldorf being the exceptions, most certainly. But the majority of souls in our culture endure a process whereby they literally sit for twelve years while often being utterly bored… and being charged to behave themselves, meaning killing the inquiring, creative spirit on the spot every day.
During such austere years in school, there are some open windows to spirited life, and especially if there is a gifted teacher from time to time… that can make all the difference in the world during those twelve years. But essentially, little free spirits, sweet little children, are taught to behave and not to use intuition, not to see what they see, not to comfort their little playmates because they see that they are hurt because now is the time to sit down and do math. “Now it not the time for that,” is a daily saying at schools across the world. ‘Now is not the time for that. Now is the time for memorizing how a sentence is structured.’
Let us say all that is fine. Math, learning how to diagram a sentence, all that is good. But, unfortunately, what is cut out in the process is a child’s imagination, a child’s intuition, a child’s impulse, to think, see, inquire about and to give to other people in other parts of their immediate and sensed worlds. All becomes preplanned. You arrive: you do this and after you do this you do that. Ad infinitum. And meanwhile what could have been invented, innovated, created, brought to the fore, amazing thoughts and works and inquiries… bleed to death under the waters.
As an adult, it has been stunningly beautiful to me to see that as soon as people get out of school, whether it is high school or college, they never live quite that way ever again if they can help it. They try very hard not to live in some kind of monochromatic way that makes their life seem like there is a metronome playing in the background at all times. Instead, many begin to feel again not just the impulse, but the need to create, and especially to create meaning throughout all their lives.
Young adults often feel this strong surge while still in high school… and some kids drop out of high school because there is no avenue whatsoever for them to create at the level that they want to… and must in order to save their own souls. Same with college. Lots of people cannot find what they need there, because what they need is so soulful, so intuitive, so highly cherished by the psyche at its depths, that avenues for such doesn’t exist in that school system.
Today, I was at the bookstore. I saw two little children who had apparently gone to a fair. Their faces were painted colorfully. One little child was bringing a little book up to the cash register, and she was singing all the way. A little song. You know, one of those little nonsense songs that we all sang when we were little. And her mother said to her, “Stop that. Don’t run. Stop jumping. Walk.” And you know, there was no reason for that child to stop jumping. It wasn’t unsafe. There weren’t other people she was bumping into. That little child stopped, immediately stopped, stopped singing, stopped jumping. And still had her little book in her hand, which was very sweet. I hope her mother buys her lots and lots of books. And frankly, will quit killing the magical fish of her daughter’s dark sea wherein come all creative and inventive impulses and healings and ideals.
But everywhere, you see people saying ‘Stop!’ to others, to themselves… when there is no reason to stop. Those who do not see the beginnings of a dancing-singer-healer in a little child, who misconstrue the child’s creative works on the fly in bookstores, who immediately label it as ‘acting up,’ or as mere idle play, in fact, are blind themselves. They are blind most certainly to their own fertile sea, and they do not turn to asking or watching or understanding why/ how/ for what purposes, overt and hidden, the child is singing. Maybe she is going to be a poet and she is starting to make up rhymes. Maybe she is singing to comfort herself. Maybe she is singing because she is going be a mother someday and she is going sing lullabies and feel confident of her voice, because nobody ever told her not to. We don’t know what gifts she is bringing by doing the jump dance and cooing a song.
I would say many people were cut off, early on at very basic levels of perception and creative drive. And even so, some people would like to slough that time off, diminishing its destructiveness, saying, “Oh well, it is not important that imagination… I mean look, people need discipline.” Yes, they do. People need to be socialized. Yes, they do. And all gifts and talents shine all the more with certain kinds of discipline. But they are not meant to be broken. There is no point in breaking people. You can teach people without breaking them. You can leave the jump and the song in the soul, not harness them to only performance by the ego. There is no reason that can justify cutting the life force away from the soul.
In the six part series, Mother Night: Learning to See in the Dark, we’re geared toward helping people remember the elementals they were born with, the divine ones that they were born with, the odd and eccentric gifts they were born with… and ways of looking for what has been lost, and certainly also looking at how they might help other people, too… understanding other people who may have lost a great deal or who may still be intact— yet seem odd because they are still intact. This is true, that the more intact a person is intuitively, the more odd they may look to the over-culture. Sadly, our culture doesn’t hold intactness in particular esteem.
In addition to tenets of curanderismo we’ll look at many other ancient and modern stories during The Mother Night series… all geared toward retrieving and reconvening core ideas and understandings that have been lost in the stampede of the over culture. We’ll talk about these elementals of wild and wise psyche that reside in oneself, and how to also assist such development in others.
Throwing off over-acculturation will be the ground note of the first session. This is an important and thoughtful process. We’ll talk throughout about how to walk in the world as a free person. I chose the archetype of the medial woman to start out with, because the concept of the medial woman has been written about somewhat in Toni Wolff’s work. She was a Jungian analyst back in the day, and she left a wonderful, very short, essay, just a few pages long, that included the idea of the woman who, it could be said, “can see in the dark.” She didn’t put it that way, but she wrote about women who are highly intuitive who have more in common with the concept of Sophia, Wisdom.
There is no doubt that the psyche carries a whole slew of archetypal beings who carry memory, who are helper/healers, who are seers, who are blessers of others, who bless others into health, bless others into creative life, bless other people into finding their way, and who, over all, carry sight that is uncanny. And these features belongs to everyone: men, women, children, everyone. And I would add, frankly, dogs, cats, and birds, also., and onward.
I’ve noticed some people attribute instinct and intuition, to what they think of as ‘mere animals.’ But it was the ‘mere animals’ who gave the first warning when a huge tsunami hit Asia several years ago. Hundreds of thousands of people’s lives were lost. Survivors reported they observed that the birds all flew inland before the tsunami gathered far out, before it even began to roll shoreward. There is something that is knowing, even in creatures, and maybe especially in creatures. And there is no hard reason why those same aspects of knowing and sensing wouldn’t be in humans as well.
Tami Simon: Now you mention this idea of over-acculturation and how we have to break free of that to discover our full intuitive selves and our full creativity. And I am wondering if you can give me some examples of where you have seen people stuck or struggling with over-acculturation and how they got through it and what it looked like.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: You know, this is what I would tell you. Just to try to open up a line of consciousness. Most of us are not aware at all at how over-acculturated we are. Most of us just take for granted that we live in a house with square walls and wear certain kinds of clothing, such as is available in stores. We have certain holidays, national holidays for instance, that we all celebrate and we all go to church or temple or satsang or whatever it is we go to find calm and food. And that all of those are like, sort of, normal. But our acculturation is actually not normal. It is prescribed and proscribed for us by ‘the great they.’
The over-culture tells us essentially what we will eat. It may take many years before a person wakes up somewhere along the line and says, “You know, this food might not be the best thing for me.” The culture tells us what we should laugh at. Tells us what kind of music we should listen to by suppressing or exploiting certain musics. The over culture tells us how to behave socially, without consulting us. Just, this is how you behave. This is how far you stand from someone. This is how you sit with someone, how you walk with someone. This is what you say to someone that you know. This is what you never say to anyone. This is what you say to strangers. This is what you never say to strangers. This is what you create, think, feel, know. This is what you must not create, feel, think, act, know. And so forth.
Rules of society and the laws of the land, are given to us. Many are good. Some are not. We don’t usually have a great deal of influence regarding laws written before we were born. But they dominate us, nonetheless, whatever they are… and often make no sense. (A recent news article told about two very young people who had sex with consent by each… being then charged as sexual predators. They were two young people in love. But the state laws caused them to be dragged before the court. This is a coarse example of thoughtful regard for the living being replaced with draconian means carried out by a depersonalized over-culture…one that no longer understands the word humane with regard to human beings.)
There is much more to becoming over-acculturated and losing touch with one’s gifts and meaning. In our heritages, we’ve all had our ancient dramas we used to celebrate and practice. Almost none of these are present in full force any longer. Most all have been replaced by national dramas such as Independence Day, and Halloween, for instance, which is a tatter of an old holy sacrament that lived in the world long ago.
We all have been impressed with many ways we are supposed to act psychologically, including ideas we are supposed to accept in terms of what other people do or say to us. In employment, for instance. In religion, for instance, it is clear cut. Wherever holy words began simply and purely… they are now often elaborated endlessly. I think El Cristo-Rey has twenty pages or less of dialogue in the new Testament, but since circa 1AD, others have been busily writing about what is and what isn’t, who should and who shouldn’t… and all this post-Cristo-Rey ‘law’ is now literally millions of pages compared to the far more pithy Progenitor. Over-acculturation can so easily occur wherever letter of the law douses Espirito Santo.
Most all of us no longer have the artifacts that our ancestors carried that tied them to the soul. I am looking at the blouse I’m wearing, which I am pretty sure is made of cotton, and I am looking at my hose that I have on, which are probably made of nylon, polyester, something like that. And I am thinking, you know, not even your clothing any longer represents anything sacred. You have to stick something on your clothing to remember. I wear the talisman of the Sacred Heart. I wear a little red embroidered Sacred Heart on my blouse every day. I’ve pinned it on with a little angel pin that is carrying a little red heart in her hand. And I have to add these to my clothing. This doesn’t come from my outer culture. The over-culture is not the place where the soul will be fed. It just isn’t. A person has to make additions, has to bring other ideas in.
The works that you have brought into being, Tami, through Sounds True, that you’ve been interested in work that has meaning for people— what Buddhists call right livelihood— that is an addition to the outer culture. Many of the works you’ve brought into being often represent a good and gentle ‘going away from the collective.’ The center says in ever so many ways, doesn’t it, that “… in order for me to be whole, I have to follow this other premise that comes out of the soul, out of the deeper sense of self than what the culture tells me.” For it is the outer culture, isn’t it, that pushes that a person just forfeit themselves, to pay any price in order to make the most amount of whatever, you know, peanuts.. one can make.
But being the most of what culture says ought be so, doesn’t work for the soul if it doesn’t also carry meaning. Too much acculturation only makes the soul lethargic and distant. The same with language. There are a lot of people who say we can’t use certain language in our culture. We are not supposed to use the language of soul, for instance.
When I applied to and was appointed by the Governor to the State Grievance Board, I became the Chairperson of the hearings for several years. All hearings were accompanied by a stern attorney from the DA’s office. Yet, I would often talk about the soul with regard to people who were being grieved against, some of whom were found by the board to have caused harm to their patients. At first, speaking about the soul, some members of the board, who were mostly lawyers, looked at me as though I had suddenly grown flowers out of my ears.
But, eventually most became used to a person speaking at a public regulatory meeting about issues of soul. (A few still turned up their noses and looked like they had just swallowed thistles raw.) Yet happily, after a couple years, several board members began to talk about “the soul of the matter” in addition to the legal aspects of the matter. In other words, some were learning/ remembering to not speak only in terms of the collective culture, saying that the collective culture has the final say-so every time. But that there were other considerations too. I encourage that we all have to find the cojones y ovarios to speak of such matters ‘out there,’ not just amongst ourselves… otherwise how will the over-culture ever find its soul again if we don’t speak for the soul.
An additional area where the culture often over-stamps people before they have a chance is in the area of nutrition and diet. This comes up for people, especially if they have been ill and realize by doing some research, by talking to people… that literally they have been taking in too much poison. … and that the poison has been packaged in happy packaging with lots of colorful pictures on the front and all kinds of crinkly snappy crunchy things inside.. that taste really good because they are loaded with salt and sugar.
The person who pays attention to their one precious body, then realizes how poorly they feel physically when they eat food like that… and I’d go so far to say that the kinds of food a person eats may also, in the Sensitive, have something to do with the clarity of the soul. It is very hard to see and think and feel deeply when you are lethargic as a result of an overabundance of really rotten, processed food.
There is a part of our culture that pooh-poohs all this, that says, “Oh no, no, nothing is going to hurt anybody. Everybody should eat all the garbage that they want to. What does the soul have to do with anything anyway? And these are legal toxin levels that have been set for foods, and these are adhered to, and so eat, eat! And work hard and eat more, because, as an aside, we need more worker bees in this world.”
No, we don’t. The fact is we don’t. We have to leave inane and harmful collective ideas and explore other ideas that truly nourish, repair, revivify, unfurl goodness. And that is what the Mother Night series is about. It is about looking for how we shall live in a way that is meaningful to us, whether our culture approves or not, a way that brings bounty instead of bedraggledness.
My adopted father is from the old country. He is from a very tiny farm village of only forty-five families in the south of Hungary in former Yugoslavia. He was a farmer and a horseman. But, when he was a very young little boy, he was sent away to apprentice as a tailor in a village far away from his mother and sisters and brothers. He had a hard life. He’d had a father who used to come home from his work as a cabinet maker far away because there wasn’t enough work in the village— men went sometimes thousands of miles away to work, leaving the women and the children at home. But every time his dad would come home, for some reason his father would take it out on my father and beat him up. Thus, his mother sadly sent her little son at age 6, away, to try to preserve him.
Sent away at far too young an age, he knew a lot about harshness of life and what it is like to be without love, without the comfort of your own mother, for instance. And yet my father had this saying that he said took him through life pretty well —and frankly I don’t believe any of us can live it all the time, including him, but it is a wonderful touchstone to keep returning to. He said, “You might as well be who you are, because half of the world won’t like it anyway.”
Meaning that if you do everything just right, just the way the culture says, because whoever says so…half the world won’t like you. Period. They won’t. Certainly the people who are rooted in meaning are going to pass you by as superficial and shallow. On the other hand, if you be as you are in soul, to the depth that you are, half the world isn’t going to like you either. So you might as well choose to be the odd, unusual, strange people that we are. That’s the lesson from my old tribal father that I’d hand down into your heart.
A few weeks ago Tami, when I was talking to you, you said, and I quote, because I wrote it down…
Tami Simon: You are scaring me now.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: “I have the path of the freak. I am the head freak.” That is what you said to me.
Tami Simon: [laughs]
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: I thought you couldn’t say a more blessed thing about yourself. And I’m curious. I know the terminology of “freak” and “weirdo” and all of those “bad words.” They are often used to denigrate people, but actually they mean a person who stands outside the usual. They mean a person who thinks for themselves and had such a vision that is so unique to them—and to the world— that it is simply not replicated by every other person. It just isn’t. The person is not a duplicate; the person is an original. And I believe that every soul on this earth was born as an original.
Tami Simon: Now, Dr. Clarissa, implicit in what you are saying, I think, and I would just like you to make it more explicit to me, is this idea of if we throw off the overculturation, if we fly our freak flag, whatever, using my language, that this will then…
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: I like that, “flying the freak flag.” I think I’ll go sew several up immediately— for me, for the world.
Tami Simon: That this will open up certain capacities, our instincts will be intact, and this idea of learning to see in the dark or knowing what is happening around the corner, etc., that somehow we will have these capacities. That is the connection you are making?
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Right. I think the sense would be this way: Would you like to be able to more easily grasp and understand all the unconscious things that keep rising up for you? Quirks of personality. Your night dreams. The parts of your psyche that seem to know things without knowing them, even though you say to yourself, “No, I must have just imagined that.” Do you want to have the kind of richness in your life that is actually your companion and your helper for life? Or do you want to turn away from these gifts and leave this huge bounty of treasures all by itself in your own psyche and never develop it?
That, to me, is the thing. Holding close the soulful psyche as companion, magical being, genius, ally, fellow traveler, advisor, call it as it would like to be called. If I think about the writing I’ve done, I most often write according to what I am ‘told’ or hear or sense in the “ether,” you might say, from the air, but also what I hear and record in my body and my soul. I don’t believe that I could keep my sense of selfhood buried as deeply into soul life if I were to take the temptations that sometimes come by… to engage endeavors that aren’t warranted, aren’t summoned by, and aren’t certified by the soul. I try very hard to measure and to see which is which, because I think we all learn the hard way, it literally costs way too much to be involved with things that aren’t certified by the soul.
One of the reasons I’ve not drank alcohol for nearly three decades, and I have never taken ‘recreational drugs,’ as it is called, is because my soul absolutely will not agree with the condition that those leave me in… which definitely occlude vision, sensitivity, sensibility, insight, and perception.
You and I have joked about my turning away from that collective when I was a young woman. It’s true I grew up in the time when people were taking LSD, for instance, mushrooms, and so on. And various people tried very hard to convince me that I should try those, be as they were, rather steeped in them. I would always say to them some version of this: No. No, you don’t understand. I see all the time the depth of things. I see the almost unbearable beauty that can be seen in any given thing, all the time. If you told me that I should take a drug so that I can learn to keep my desk clean, I might really consider it. Because that is where my deficit is. Is in living in the very petty, mundane world of finding my house keys and keeping my shoes tied, and so on and so forth.”
Yet, I’ve learned to manage most of those mundane matters also. Except the desk part. It still most often looks post-tornado. But I know where everything is (most of the time), and remain, all angels willing, highly productive. Still, I personally feel, strongly, that alcohol, drugs, and certain foods should not be ingested by certain people because it occludes their ability to sensitively receive the messages that are being sent to them in their consciousness from what we might call the unconscious or the dark. In a drugged state, most sensitives are not as alive or aware or awake as they can be … and as they are gifted to be.
And then of course too, there are the twists of fate we all have in life that may temporarily also occlude our gifts. Every person I have ever spoken with who is also an accomplished creator… I am thinking of Sherman Alexie, the poet, or Annie Leibowitz the master photographer, or I am thinking about Jessye Norman, the coloratura soprano, Maya Angelou the author, any person I have met who has had profound depth as well as being able in some way to represent it outwardly to others in a way that touches, helps, teaches, heals, delights, raises others up in some way… also has had a history of one challenge or another. Haven’t we all? Dio mio, my God.
But also each person invested in creative life has also had a history of exploration of ‘what does not show above ground’… the roots of one’s own gifts. And in this way, turns were made, new attitudes adopted, new insights fastened on, that literally made their gifts pour out. Toward others. So that others can be lifted and can learn also. I’ve never met a person who has not made miscalculations… In fact, I would venture that gifted people make bigger, badder wrong turns [laughs] than just the average rubber plant does. Creativity in all things we undertake, right? [laughing]
And still, there is so much to be learned from those seeming odd turns and twists of fate… using them to learn about what often stands in the dark as a result of shaming and cultural judgments on whatever it is that has occurred. And whatever of worth has been set into the dark in exile, there has been also great pressure, over long periods of time in the dark. And you know what that makes. From what is put together and darkened as coal under pressure, this makes diamonds. Many, many people possess rough diamonds as the result of their sufferings in life, or because there was shame or regret of a large degree associated with this.
But we all, by rights, ought bring up the gifts, polished or not, and have a look at them, see what goodness and peril and wonder there is to see about them. And more so, what there is to share with others about it all, too.
The Mother Night Series, is a program that will help people to mine the motherlode, so to speak, to bring the diamonds in formation up out of the dark and to strengthen what has grown frail and polish what is needed for light to see by. Different views for different people. But certainly one of the jewels held in common, is creative flow, creative work, and whether that means problem solving with your family or discerning how to live until tomorrow, or inaugurating a great project of some sort, or a small project that has great meaning… these matters will be decided by each individual… with the most important aspect – freeing the soul from any of its bindings and any of its wanderings, and to reseat it properly, graciously, warmly back into its central place in the psyche. I believe that cannot be done on the surface. You have to go down underneath… into the dark.
Tami Simon: Diamonds from the darkness. Thank you, Dr. E.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Thank you, Tami. Thank you for having me again. It is really good to be with you. We’ve got to do this more often than every twenty-two years.
Tami Simon: Yes. I think we will increase the frequency.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Alright. I welcome all people who are interested to come be with me and with Mother Night for our six-session series. I have some wonderful stories to tell. Like about “Der Erl Konig,” a mysterious and menacing spirit who is actually following a father and his child and their horse through the forest at night… and what happens there. And we will be talking about many, many things via “stories from the dark… that are illuminating.”
Tami Simon: Wonderful. Thank you.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Thank you, Tami.
©2009, Sounds True, All Rights Reserved. ©2009, Dr.C.P. Estés, All Rights Reserved.
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