Dissertation Title:

Taking a Seat in the Awakened Heart: The Archetypal Nature of Refug


Helen Slater

Date, Time & Place:

October 9, 2023 at 10:00 am
Virtual Option


In this dissertation, a contemplative and depth psychological lens is used to examine motifs of refuge in myth, fairytale, and sacred text. Refuge speaks to the collective need for quiet and retreat that ultimately helps one abide in the present moment. The awakened heart implies a counter intuitive move whereby we are asked to become intimate with that which scares us. From an archetypal psychological point of view, the psyche provides images of refuge if we sensitize ourselves to her showings. In this way, there is a reciprocal nature between our interior life and what appears to us. This research follows James Hillman who saw the objective psyche as associated with an ensouled world. Images of refuge exist in and of themselves, appear wholly uncontrived, and are a means for awakening and navigating periods of difficulty. The three myths examined for their inherent motifs of refuge are “Demeter and Persephone,” “The Selkie and the Fisherman,” and “Jomo and the Dākinī Queen.” Using a depth psychological lens and providing cross cultural examples of how refuge is an archetypal experience, the depth of contemplative practice is illumined.

The dissertation includes a personal account of a contemplative refuge practice in which the 59 Tibetan lojong slogans are placed in dialogue with the four questions of lectio divina (“sacred reading”). The slogans are short phrases designed to penetrate ego clinging. Lectio divina is a practice where one sits with a sacred text and meditates on its meaning. The experiment, in concert with a daily meditation practice, illumined the ways in which refuge may not always be synonymous with peace, but with skillful means becomes an unfolding fluid mystery of the awakened heart. These small revelations were mirrored in the three myths which are viewed essentially as sacred texts designed to give access to the ineffable, unfolding, self-donating grace of the divine.

  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology, I, 2019
  • Chair: Dr. Patrick Mahaffey
  • Reader: Dr. Susan Paidhrin
  • External Reader: Dr. Trudy Goodman
  • Keywords: Refuge, Myth, Fairytales, Contemplative Practice, Archetypal Psychology, Tibetan Buddhist Lojong Slogans, Lectio Divina, Compassion, Awakened Heart