Interviewsand Articles


The Treasure

by Penelope Dinsmore, Feb 18, 2014



My destiny, I have come to realize over the course of many years, has been to find my understanding of the nature of God. I realize, too, that I am the one who must experience and bear witness to my destiny, for only in the process of affirming our destiny, as C.G. Jung suggests, can we endure it. This means that I am my task.
     This God I needed to find is not the Christian God as in “Our Father who art in Heaven,” but the God the great gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, sang of: “God is real because I feel him in my soul.” I brought my work, The Treasure That Came Into The World to Find Its Self, into being for that reason—I could feel a mystery within. The Treasure, a collection of 37 images and embedded text done in watercolor, ink and colored pencils, tells the story of a journey of self-discovery and transformation. Although I could only sense it at the time, its purpose in my life was to bring me to a deeper, larger understanding of that mystery of God. God needs man. Man needs God. That is why The Treasure came into the world. It has taken me forty years to live the path The Treasure laid out for me. Now I want to share what I understand for myself about this gift that came, a gift that brought about this union.
In the 1960s, I was in my early thirties, living alone with my three children in San Francisco. One morning, walking down the hallway of my apartment, I had a direct experience of an intense golden light unlike anything I had ever known. I was clothed and enveloped in this light. And, because I knew clearly, with no doubt, I spoke the words, “I am God.” I did not know what I meant by these words. I did not know what had happened to me. How could I be God? I did not understand this experience. It was too intense. I knew nothing of what it meant. I was lucky that I did not lose myself. I imagine ignorance and unconsciousness helped me.
     Fortunately I did not mention this experience to others, and with time, this numinous, intense, emotional and mystical encounter faded. It did, however, become a living part of me. It was embedded.
     Now I understand that one source of the light lay in my past. As a young child I lacked both love and security. My mother and father were not available, and a dark shadow fell into my life at an early age. I see it in my face in photographs of myself from that time. (And I feel it still, within, as I fight demon inner voices that say, “I am bad. I am worthless. I am not capable. No one loves me. I am unlovable.” They wait to pounce.) The light in the hall came to compensate for the voice of my father, who told me, “You have all you damn well deserve.”
     My father became a well-respected painter. He loved the land, the sea, the sky. He painted what he loved. I understand his life now, and my mother’s. They did what they could.
     There were other harmful realities. I was raised in the world of the WASP, white Anglo Saxon Protestant, and that world stung much of what it saw, as wasps will do. Jews and Catholics were less than they. Only those like them were acceptable. Black people were servants. As a young child I also saw the confusion about sex. It was bad. I got that, but it was there, hidden and desired.  
     There were hymns and prayers. I could recite the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” I knew the Apostles’ Creed by heart. They were just words. There was no meaning or feeling in them for me.
     There was no life in my education, no nourishment. My schools knew nothing of the source of the feminine. While there were no boys in them (they were all girl schools), the work was focused on the masculine world, the Logos. It is the realm of the sun, thinking, working, doing and achieving. The feminine, Eros, is the night, the unknown, the hidden and mysterious. I did not know that then.  
     Because I did not want to become like my mother, I followed the way of my father. My mother was trapped in a life of service, and so she drank. She had nothing for herself. I saw early on that was not a good way to be.
     I believe it was the feminine side that was lacking in me, and so I was not living the truth of my whole soul. There had to be a union. There had to be initiation. Psyche led the way. She wanted to be free. I had to connect with my feminine nature. I had to bring light into the darkness. I had to become conscious. Now I know it was the darkness that sent me on my way.
     There was darkness in my life, and so a luminous light came. It has taken a long, long, time for me to see, understand and accept the light, allowing me the sought-after relationship with this numinous, inner mystery. Even so, it does not offer comfortable certainty. I had wanted that. I still want that. I wanted to return to the Garden of Eden, to a comfortable paradise, but I had to take responsibility and heal the inner wound that had broken me in two.
     A few years later, I began work with a Jungian analyst. It seemed like chance, but now I know it was meant to be as it was. My intuition led me to this man. He told me to dream. I said I never dream. He said, “You will now.” That was fifty years ago. I still dream. My dreams lead me. They are the source of my truth. I was not then ready to understand my experience of light. I told him of it. Wisely, he did not say much. I could not have understood. There was much else to talk about. All my previous thirty-three years had given me plenty to work on. I was in chaos, and blind as well to what I was doing or where I was going.
     About this time I had also, by chance or destiny, found myself entering The San Francisco Art Institute. My father was a fairly well-known painter of Maine landscapes. I did not live with him after four years of age or indeed ever see much of him. I never thought of being a painter, but as soon as I began one summer, when I was alone after the children went to their fathers, I was taken over by the mystery of the creative world. I could not leave. My three children suffered from my now even more divided inner world. They suffered. I suffered. I know today that change led us into a more authentic world and life, unlike the one previously led unconsciously in convention and status with superficial goals and desires.
It was the early 1970s when The Treasure came into my world of Bishop Pines, cold summer fog, fine falls and springs, winter sun and rain. My three children had recently all left home. There had been much change and uncertainty in our lives. I had divorced my third husband and left a house I loved. This was difficult for my children who had been uprooted before. It was difficult for me.
     I lived now in a small house in the woods in Inverness, California, with my fourth husband David and two old English sheep dogs, a Llasa Apso, and a very fine cat. The cat’s name was P.C. for “Penelope’s cat” or “perfect cat.” This cat was very special and we loved him deeply. P.C. found me. My daughter, Melanie, persuaded me to let him stay with us. I am grateful. He brought me much.
     When The Treasure came, I did not know, only sensed, what I was doing—certainly I did not know why. Quietly I received the words and made the drawings. The Treasure did not come from my conscious self, my ego, but from an inner reality some might call soul. I believe The Treasure was destiny, beyond my power or control. I was necessary to do the work, of course. I brought it in.  It was important for me to do that. It brought transformation, a change of attitude that can then change a life. I needed that change.
     Without understanding, I followed the way of The Treasure. I was in service to it. It made me. I did not make it. My son Carey suggested a snail. I knew that was just right and from the snail came the spiral. I was not excited or inflated, as I often am when I am painting, forgetting that I am not the source of my work. There was none of that disturbing emotion which causes inner trouble. 
     The Treasure’s coming was slow, snail like. I do not remember how much time it took. I knew whatever The Treasure was, it did not belong in the art world I was familiar with. I was painting large abstract work in oil on canvas at the time. The Treasure was made on small sheets of paper in mixed media, a bit crude, childlike. I was somewhat embarrassed about it.
     By chance, I knew the secretary who worked for Dr. Joseph Henderson, a highly esteemed analyst who had worked directly with Jung. He was a founder of the C. G. Jung Institute in San Francisco. My friend had seen The Treasure and suggested that I show it to Dr. Henderson. She made an appointment for me. I went.
     Page by page, Dr. Henderson told me his understanding of each of the thirty-seven images.
     I did not know what Dr. Henderson’s words meant. It is hard to say how I felt. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It was a homecoming to an inner place of light and warmth I had not known existed.
     When I was told a week later that Dr. Henderson would take me as an analysand, I felt great inner joy. I worked with him for many years. I felt him as the father I never knew. I was held by his knowledge of the psyche and the world. He was a true human being, a complete man. I knew then I could continue to paint. I had never been certain.
     The Treasure had given me a gift of great value; it brought me to this man. The work with him was not easy. The work was real. My life deepened. I dreamed. I struggled. I got through. The way led on. The Treasure gave me those years of gold.
     Then, age 104, Dr. Henderson died. All he had given was there for me, but something was not there. It was ahead. Destiny now brought me to a woman. Dr. Joan Chodorow is a scholar, a dancer, a true human being cut from the same cloth as Dr. Henderson, whole and complete. She is an Authentic Movement therapist as well as a Jungian analyst. Her father was, like mine, an artist. She is worthy of much respect. She brought me great trouble, however, because she led me to the feminine, to Eros. She brought me the body and brought me my mother. This was work I did not want. I did not want to go there. I did not really like her, either. She carried my darkest inner self. I projected that onto her. She held that darkness for me. It took a long time before I trusted her.
     Finally, after more years of dreaming and struggling to understand, I began to know the feminine way of being. It has to do with finding authentic love and compassion. It makes room for the light and the dark. It is about accepting all of life as it comes. It is not trying to be perfect or good. It is trying to be a whole human being who makes mistakes, but tries again, not giving in to the harsh demon voices of judgment, allowing them to be heard, not allowing them to hurt. I need now to be a good mother to myself.
     For me as an artist, the feminine has to do with painting without being harshly critical of what comes while allowing for change. It is not striving. It is caring, and sometimes overlooking. It is patience. It is kindness. It is giving, not wanting, not expecting. It is not being saint-like, but human-like. It is more of silence than noise and speaking. It is relationship. It is love finally known. If I love myself, then I am able to love others as they really are. This, for me, is the hardest, the most challenging. I had not known love. The feminine is a new center of consciousness I did not know. It is more the soft light of the moon’s mystery. The sun wants to know. The moon wants to be. I had to face its demonic and negative side within myself before I could find its positive value.
         The body, also, came with my new work in analysis with Dr. Chodorow. Though it was there in The Treasure (“I am Earth. You are the mountain.”), I knew it now for the first time. I had never known my body consciously. I used it without thought or feeling. It was just there when I needed it. I had been given a good body. I had used it to ski and to ride horses. I gave birth to my children. My body has been kind and responsive, and it seemed to transform as I worked with Dr. Chodorow. I had problems and pains of different sorts when I began with her. Now I am without a pain or a problem with my body, not knowing what is ahead, of course, at eighty-four.
     The body brought me to my heart. I cannot say how this happened. Dr. Chodorow’s deep wisdom, her understanding, her intelligence, and her clear heart, all of which I experienced, allowed growth to come. This was the earth for me. It was Dr. Chodorow who led me to the feminine in the mystery of God. It was she who led me to the earth of my Treasure as I felt it in my husband, who has the blood of a Blackfoot Indian, a man of earth, a man whose hands make building miracles. With her help, I was able to experience, this time consciously, my experience of light that brought the knowledge that “I am God.” This mystery was not in heaven. It was well and deeply within me. It meant a difference in manifestation of consciousness from the larger mystery. The Treasure had come into the world to find its Self.
     Jung wrote, “The soul has the dignity of an entity endowed with and conscious of, a relationship to Deity.” This Deity is not a God in heaven with the Devil in hell. This is the sacred within that manifests in opposite ways, being both the God and the Devil. My work is to understand this in my life. It brings me to heaven. It brings me to hell. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “Within all of us are two sides. One reaches for the stars, the other descends to the level of beasts.” I know now this is how it is, and I try to stand in the middle.
     In order for me to know The Treasure, it had to know me—then and only then could we be together. Forty years have passed since it came to me and I can finally see its meaning. I begin to know and understand the fire of emotion in my reactions and responses as they so often come. I know the water as it has carried my life along its way. I know it from the water of tears. Could it be my destiny coursing along a riverbed? I feel it in the air. I feel it in my ability to sense the atmosphere of the birds around me, and the feelings of those I love. I know it as my intuition through dreams. I know it in my mind as I work with thoughts. I feel it bring life through my breath. It was the light of nature—in the earth, the air, the fire, the water—that I had to find in order to become my real self. I had to experience an inner marriage, a joining of the man and the woman as equals within. The Treasure brought me to the center of my being, and I helped The Treasure to find its place within me.
     There will be more. There is always more. I believe each of us has a Treasure of our own. Each one of us must find our Treasure in our own way. Each will be different. Each one of us has her or his own road. This is just my way. We each have work to do.
     We are the mystery, our own destinies. Everyone has a purpose. The kingdom of heaven is within and without, in our bodies and our souls, in the now and the transcendent. We need to love ourselves. We all need to love the earth, to help the earth. It is as simple as that and as difficult. We need to become wizards and magicians. We need to make the difference. We are all mystics when we feel a sunset. We need to know ourselves better. The Treasure is waiting for us, has been waiting for us. It came into the world to find its Self within each of us.
     Another name for the Devil is Lucifer. God threw him (who is also her) out. It is our task to befriend the Devil. The Devil is within the kingdom. He, she, is the light bringer. It is good to bring in the black, to include the Devil in our daily lives, keep an eye on the dark in ourselves, get to know the dark, make a place at the table for the shadow that comes with the light. We must make the darkness conscious as Jung wisely cautioned: Why am I anxious? Why am I afraid? Why do I dislike another? It’s hard, this work. It matters greatly.
     I let The Treasure into my life each day, into the fine days, into the days of pain. I try to accept them both, to let in the opposites of life, to hold them. It is never easy. I do not feel it will ever end. The part of me that is The Treasure, I believe, will endure. We are, in my understanding, all part of the mystery that is The Treasure. I am. I am.
    A Treasure lives within each of us. We have only to search, to struggle, to find it. For myself, it alone gives meaning and purpose to the destiny that has been my life, and it has brought love, love for others, for life, and for myself. What might the world be if all humanity found The Treasure within—humanity becoming truly human—something to reach for, to grow towards, to become?

About the Author

Penelope Dinsmore is an artist living in Northern California


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