The Presence of Absence

 

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An example of the use of negative space e.g. the nonexistence of something to create the presence of something.

Not too long ago I ran across a phrase that so accurately represented my experience of the dream world that I had the feeling of having been lost yet finally coming home to myself. This was especially true as it related to all those times when I’ve awakened to find only a whisper, or trace, of having had a dream but otherwise lost in a strange emptiness that try as I would couldn’t be filled.

The phrase is the “presence of absence”.

As soon as I read it images of blank sheets of paper, the negative spaces of an artist’s canvas, and that wisp of a rapidly fading memory of a world lost upon awakening and how each defined and gave form to the reality present and the reality to be. To me the dream and the blank spaces that give presence by their absence are where the ineffable soul meets us in the bounded world of the material and where what can’t be described describes what is, was, and is yet to be.

I am always excited by the blank sheet of paper, or blank document of the word processor for in these is present the beauty of the infinite potential of the soul’s creativity. I’m never sure what’s going to happen when I begin to write– each filled blankness being a journey never taken before.

The artist’s use of what is not there to hint at what is has always fascinated me and helped me to realize that often reality is defined more by the abstract and the potential than the concrete and fixed.

I also feel the experience of something that becomes more present by its absence every time I am stirred by some event or object to recall a close friend or loved one. In some ways they have become closer through their not being than they were when they were here e.g. I am more frequently reminded of them as I travel about in the haunts of our shared past.

As I looked at the phrase again a memory of a moment in time when I was wandering with friends along a forest trail, my mind becalmed, my body luxuriating in the undefined sounds and smells of the world about me where something quite remarkable occurred. At one moment I was a Being walking amongst the other Beings of the forest and in the very next second a new presence consumed me and separation disappeared, everything dissolved, and folded into one. I was gripped by an ineffable joy that filled me with the never before experience of being the whole of creation where I was both everything and nothing. At that moment I knew that somehow I had touched the face of God. No object was he or I for that matter, but its presence was still very real.

From nothing, something a creation experience of the mystic, the place from whence my dreams are formed and the shape of my soul.

The presence of absence has often been a defining experience for me and has opened doors into all manner of new realities.

 Death in Dreams

 

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 “Without death, life would be meaningless…limitation enables you to fulfill your being.”

–C. Jung

Basically he’s saying that death is a condition for the meaning of life.

Death in Dreams (The symbolic meaning)

 Death often relates to the ending of something. But it can also suggest our relationship, or attitude towards death e.g. how do we feel about it?

As an archetype it can show up as a sunset, crossing a river, twilight, a skeleton, gravestones, a cemetery, blackness, the grim reaper, an old man, or woman, a fallen mirror, a stopped clock, or an empty abyss. Dead animals can also be metaphors for our own demise.

 

“These are the woods you love where the secret name of every death is life again”

    Mary Oliver (Skunk Cabbage)

      

Associated with death is also rebirth and resurrection. Such things as a cave, or an egg, Spring, dawn, the cross, a snake, a seed, a bird taking flight (though if it were to fly off into the sunset it might suggest death), a Phoenix, flame, a pearl, or the womb.

The body itself is in a constant birth, death and renewal cycle in that individual cells need to die in order to be replaced and renewed without constant injury to the body’s cells, fresh cells could not revitalize. This is the idea of creating by destroying. The Hindu god Shiva is the destroyer of the world (actually the ego—the false identification with form, and the letting go of habits and attachments). Brahma then recreates what has been destroyed. In short, all that has a beginning must also have an end. The only thing that dies according to this concept is the illusion of individuality and separateness. In this way Shiva is the great purifier.

 

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Shiva

 

The ancient Greeks believed that a person’s well-being depended on the opposing forces of dissolution and creation. The Caduceus with its entwined snakes and being the symbol of the healer can be symbolically linked with Psyche interacting with matter and transforming both. This idea of the snake representing both death and renewal sheds its old skin to reveal something new and revitalized, thus dying so as to be reborn.

 

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Caduceus

 

Dead people in Dreams:

In most cases this is about the dreamer trying to deal with the passing of someone close. It’s all a process of letting go and of resurrecting the one you interacted with on a physical level into the memory of that same person. For some the deceased becomes eternally living within the memory of those left behind.

To see a dead person in a dream:

This can represent some area in one’s life that has “died” such as a feeling, a relationship, or situation. Sometimes anger repressed in your waking life can kill ones vitality and satisfaction. It can also represent a part of yourself that you would like to leave behind (to see that part, look at what aspect the dead person may represent).

 

To see your own death in a dream:

This can suggest a transformation in the way you have been, in thought, in feeling, or in attitude. It can also suggest the transition of one phase of your life into a new one.

Fundamentally death in dreams is about change, impending, ongoing, future or past.

 

“Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

–Mary Oliver (the Summer Day)

 

_____________________

For more on death and resurrection in dreams go to the Dreaming Wizard website.

http://thedreamingwizard.com/death-and-resurrection-in-dreams_295.html

Don’t cast out the demon: A case for following your dreams

 

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There is an uncontrolled and uncontrollable background world from which we are all born and out of which we motivate our lives. It is only through self-reflection, the art of transcending our conscious selves that we can discover a psychological resilience the likes of which the vast majority of people have never known or even knew was possible.

This is the art of reflecting on our experiences instead of being caught up in them. To do this one needs to gain some distance from them. For example, one can experience being depressed and become so wrapped up in the experience that it’s like being caught in a never-ending maze where you seem to wander aimlessly forever.

But transforming the experience from one of “being” depressed to the depression as being a signal that your approach to life has been outgrown and that a new approach needs to be developed can take you outside the experience and allow for a new perspective and change.

In short, by being your symptoms you can become lost, but by using the symptoms as signals of the psyche’s attempt to heal itself you can transcend, step out of, the maze. As with everything else the symptoms aren’t what’s causing the imbalance e.g. depression, they are only indicators that an imbalance exists. Too often we get caught up in our ego needs and forget that we are actually creatures of a much greater background world.

When we act as though we are our symptoms (fear, anxiety, depression, anger, powerlessness, etc.) we automatically try to avoid or cast out the demon. In other words, we try to reject rather than go into relationship with the symptom.

When we reject our feelings, our thoughts, or our unwanted memories we send the pains they cause into the dark cellars of our unconscious mind where they can fester and source all kinds of mischief. The art of reflection is the first step into dealing with our imbalances directly and one of the best ways of reflecting on our inner self is through the analysis of dreams. It is through our dreams that we can connect with that background world from which we all come.

In the dream it is the soul that reflects on itself while the ego sleeps rather than the daytime reflections of the ego upon itself that rarely produce any useful insight. Learning to see reality through your dreams can be a transforming experience.

And the world seems right

 

 

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Arthur Rackham ~ The Fairies of the Serpentine ~ 1906

 

 

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”

–William Butler Yeats

 

On my meditation walks I am often moved by the life going on about me– boys and girls with hockey sticks and skates battling street pucks at dusk, flocks of screeching Crows nesting in trees, the smile of the crescent moon with the wink of Venus below her, on a warm night crickets and barking dogs, on a cold and crisp one nothing but silence and the sound of my own footsteps. Sometimes a breeze whips through the branches and rustles the leaves and I hear the raucous laughter of a party just seen through the picture window of the house across the street.

And the world seems right.

But on other nights my mind is disturbed with its thoughts and whirls like a demented vortex and I hear nothing but my own voice. It’s a boring voice droning on and on about inane this’s and that’s and burying the peace of the night in rubble.

And nothing in the world seems right.

I long for the magic I’ve so often felt on so many earlier sojourns through the dark, but tonight it’s not to be. This is when I cry out to the dark denizens of the netherworld, “Come oh magic creatures of the imaginal and entertain me. Bring to me your mystery, your awe, your wonder, and your hidden treasure– make it better than it is.”

That night’s dreams brought me headstones and skulls, darkness and gray empty fields– a reflection of the mood carried back from the earlier journey. And then I ran across the poem by Yeats and I thought, ‘It’s not the fairies of the land he is calling to, but those of the inner soul who are entreated to crawl out from the rubbish and dance with me once more’.

And the world seems right again.

The Darkling Wood

 

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Into the wood where the Darkling play

Follow the path, I’ll show you the way.

Look carefully now for all crawly and slither

They’ll make you all creepy, scaredy and shiver.

The night falls here with a cackle and thump

A crack of a twig, a murmur, and bump.

For it’s these dark woods where the nightmares play

The nightwoods where darkmares have say.

Beware, beware the darkling soul

He cannot be bested by fairy nor troll.

For he rules the forests of your mind

Your lighter and darker forever entwined.

Look close dear one for there is a charm

That can tame before there’s too much harm.

Face the demon to make you wise

Embrace his fire and don’t despise.

Give only what he is due 

Accepting that he is part of you.

He will bow his head and give you true

For his master is really you.

So harness him up and together take flight

Across the deep lake and into the night.

–R.J. Cole

Imbalance, dissociation, polarization, discontinuity and fear: What I learned in the archipelago of my dreams.

 

At one level this article may look like a political statement, but it is not in that vein that I present it. All social animals e.g. Wolves, Apes, bees, ants, porpoise, human beings, etc. have some kind of cohesive principle, some kind of leadership, or coordinating system. In large social systems anarchy just doesn’t work. Scientists have even found this principle at the molecular level–most of us would not be able to survive for very long if our internal systems didn’t have a coordinating system and/or if the system were to become polarized and its parts weren’t willing to cooperate with each other.

From the very beginning of recorded western thought philosophers like Heraclitus and Hippocrates believed that there was “one common flow, a common breathing. Everything is in sympathy. The whole organism and each one of its parts are working together for the same purpose.” The Roman scholar, Agrippa spoke of an essence beyond the four known in his day as water, earth, air and fire and that it held existence together. He called it the World Soul. A more modern thinker, Carl Jung, called it the Anima Mundi. It was the glue that kept existence together, the balancing effect that kept everything on an even keel and in balance.

In The Archipelago of Dreams Robert discovers that the balance that keeps the world functioning has been dangerously tipped and that he has been conscripted to help in bringing the world back to equilibrium. But his own fears and the fears of others muster powerful physical and psychological forces to prevent him in achieving his mission. These same forces are acting on all of us on a daily basis both in our waking lives and sleeping lives because fear images also show up in our dreams especially when we are suppressing or ignoring these fears and they show up at an intensity that endangers the fabric of all human life.

I’ve said this before; fear affects decision-making, what I haven’t said is that it kills as well. It not only kills innovation, but the body also. When there is a threat to the body the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA) kicks in and all systems are diverted from growth and development to reaction defense mode–fight or flight. Adrenalin pours into the system and mobilizes the body for action. The immune system is repressed because right now the external world poses a greater threat than the inner and the forebrain, the center for reasoning and logic, is slowed–no time for thinking, gotta act. Vascular flow is limited to the limbs, for running or fighting and conscious volitional action is curtailed, better to let the instincts take over.

Now under normal circumstances this state of affairs only lasts for a few minutes at best, just enough to survive an attack. And thank goodness, because the body begins to deteriorate after awhile when on high alert. The HPA is an excellent system for responding to immediate threat, but it was not designed to be activated continuously. Hyper vigilance eventually dissociates the body from the mind and the community from its leadership.

This kind of hyper-vigilance eventually wreaks havoc on the health of the body. When the immune system is suppressed all kinds of viral and bacterial bad guys can attack and take over–while focusing too much on external safety a fifth column of micro-nasties compromise your health. When the body is reflecting on the external too much it neglects the internal and is thrown precariously off-balance.

In our society fear, or its smaller cousin, anxiety, has at some level become de rigor, the emotion trend du jour and we find ourselves constantly on alert. Since 9/11 we have entered a continuous state of protection and our quality of life has become impaired. A constant background state of fear (exploited politically) keeps the HPA system activated and our lives become more reactionary than thoughtful–you can’t think straight when emotionally involved. After a while the body habituates and it sees fear, or something to fear, everywhere. One of the first things to happen under these conditions is that we lose tolerance for anything that is different, because “different” often translates to something threatening.

Lack of tolerance leads to an impaired ability to cooperate for it might be ‘every man for himself.’ We see this intolerance and lack of cooperation in many social contexts, but most notably within our political systems that really only reflect ourselves. In an environment of fear reactionary opinion trumps reality and the rational takes a back seat to self-protective beliefs­­–clear thinking becomes a victim and the society begins to dissociate which is a fancy psychologists word for separating from one another–to disunite. Nothing can be more debilitating for a community whether it be a community of biological cells, animals, insects, a business corporation, or people in general.
Continuous fear consumes our energy toward getting our needs met as well. We seem to live in a constant state of being out of control of our destiny and as we throw up more walls and fences to keep out what threatens us we begin to lose independence, autonomy and ultimately our ability to enact free will. On an individual level we become sick and vulnerable to diseases or just a lack of focused attention that can affect us creatively. On a national level we see our ability to innovatively compete globally impaired as well as our ability to cooperate with each other, and on a global level the reaction to our inability to get our needs met can be seen in the Arab Spring, and the protests in Greece, Russia and the United States. The “Decade of the Protest” may very well be a correction toward the extremes perpetrated by those in power. Would that these powers could see that it is in their best interest as well to let this correction take its course. In the short run things may look scary, but healing isn’t always pretty–sometimes you have to scrape the scab to let what is underneath it “breathe.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt said after the last great attack against our country that, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself!” Truer words have never been spoken, fear can kill us–it can destroy the genius of the country and sicken its society. The very essence of the World Soul is in jeopardy because it has become every man for himself as we belittle the efforts of our leaders and refuse to listen to each other. The scale that keeps the world in equilibrium is way off center. It is imperative that we rediscover our balance–a center of being from which we can manifest our broader, deeper, truer nature!

In the Archipelago of Dreams Robert learns what needs to be healed in order to bring humanity into equilibrium and in the process learns how to heal himself as well.

Mystery: Being in the I-know-not-where

 

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Forever striving to know everything

Forever frustrated and afraid.

Ah, to embrace ignorance if only

As an entry to the holy.

I love it when I admit that

I don’t know what I’m doing.

For me the holy mystery seems to reside

in those spaces between knowing and not knowing.

Always trying to know leaves me empty

No matter how much I think I know.

Mystery on the other hand seems to fill

Every nook and cranny of my soul.

My desperate need for knowing leaves me angry,

Frustrated, anxious, defensive, and frightened.

Not knowing seems to cool the mind like

A splash of cold water on a sweaty summers day.

This effort to know everything sometimes heats up the mind and soul

And agitates the very essence of my being.

I’m left exhausted depressed and lost and I ache for the release

Of the mysterious, its softness, awe, and wonder.

It’s there somewhere behind and beneath that pile of knowing

And I think it’s time to invite it out to play.

The constant striving and worrying about knowing what,

where, and why is so tiring, so meaningless.

Being in the I-know-not-where can be so peaceful,

so joyful.

 

Possession in dreams

 

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The following is a draft section of a new book to be published later this year, Morpheus speaks: The Book of Dreams” (RJ Cole, 2018).

 

Insight: Being possessed is an archetype itself (symbolic meaning that is found across all cultures). Many years ago people would employ priests or even lay mediums to exorcise an individual’s devil that has “possessed” them. But even now the old version of the primitive possessor demon lives within an unexplored psychic phenomena and acts out behaviors that are contrary to a person’s best interest. One only needs to look at how many so-called fearful “conservatives” will vote for the very issues and people who only mean them harm, directly or indirectly, to see the truth of that statement. All too often when we deny our complexes, our demons so to speak, we become possessed by them, we allow another force and energy to take over our lives.

Read more

Embracing the Individual Shadow

 

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“Yesterday, upon the stair,

I met a man who wasn’t there.

He wasn’t there again today,

I wish, I wish he’d go away…”

 

We all have a person who isn’t there. It’s a shadow that follows us everywhere we go even on the darkest night with no moon or streetlights’ glare. It hides behind a mask amongst the deepest caverns of our mind, lurking, stalking and waiting to strike. He or she are all the emotions and distasteful parts of ourselves that we just as soon not see during the daylight but often show up in our dreams at night.

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We shun them for they are not who we want to be. We lock them up in our cages so deep hoping that they will never escape. We hide them in the dark, dank and stinking tunnels of our unconscious trying to forget the smell of them and hoping that eventually they’ll die. But they never die for you see they feed on our fear and the energy we use to keep them hidden. Occasionally they’ll escape to the upper realm and play havoc with our relationships, our emotions, our goals and plans. Like little gremlins they toy with us.

 

“When I came home last night at three,

The man was waiting there for me

But when I looked around the hall,

I couldn’t see him there at all!

Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!

Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…”

 

The shadow is a universal archetype whose presence is felt by us all from time to time. We deny its existence but that won’t do any good. Why won’t he go away? Because he can’t, he’s part of us and if you could cut him away we wouldn’t be us any more.

His power and persistence in our lives lies in our resistance to him. When pretending he’s not there he can wheedle his way into everything we do and try to be often with disastrous results.

 

“Last night I saw upon the stair,

A little man who wasn’t there,

He wasn’t there again today

Oh, how I wish he’d go away.”

         –Antagonish by William Hughes Mearns

 

 There’s a paradox here in that he won’t go away until you ask him to stay.

Accepting all parts of the self both light and shadow is to honor your wholeness. Treating all aspects of yourself as equal will allow you to use all your energies in a direction of your choosing rather than moving to the hidden ghost’s bidding or wasting your energy trying to keep half of you caged.

The title of this blog is “Embracing the Individual Shadow” that suggests that there may be a Collective Shadow that we live in as well. Where is it? I’ll go into that at another time. Until then see if you can find it. It shouldn’t be too hard. Let me know what you find.

The dark night

 

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Sadness, depression, anguish, anger, chaos, nightmare, disillusionment are all aspects of the dark night of the soul.

One can see them as aspects to avoid, supplant with loving thoughts or religious practice, or distracting regimens

OR

One can see these aspects as the dark side of the soul that brings to light its more positive aspects.

The soul represents all the spiritual aspects of our being, those that we like and those that we don’t. But regardless of our ego’s point-of-view about the soul’s values the soul will express itself, it will insist upon full participation in the world.

Our response to its activity will either enable its participation or hinder it and to hinder it is to limit our own growth and spiritual evolution.

To the believer who imagines that only love can bring spirit into being and thus pastes over or varnishes their darker aspects with thoughts of only loving gesture I say you will fail for even the power of love knows that it needs to make room for its darker cousin.

One must face the issues of life and death and the values existent within that life regardless of whether approved of in order to bring true love to their own being and the being of all else.

We are all tried in the crucible of the soul’s dark night. To seek consolation from without through religion, or rituals designed to eradicate the darkness often results in less than success. Facing the darkness and wrestling with it can be liberating from the constant struggle to eliminate it that is fruitless.

Many see the full expression of love as being divine in and a reflection of our true nature. This is true but the operative phrase here is, “full expression” not partial expression or only those expressions that we deem acceptable.

There is an inner wisdom being offered to the dreamer who dreams images of being threatened, attacked, killed, killing, or chased and hunted down by dark figures. All are shadows of the hidden self, the dark hidden soul wanting to be expressed and dealt with openly and honestly instead of suppressed and reviled.

Contrary to many so-called wisdom teachers the dark night is not necessarily something to be overcome but acknowledged and brought into the light and dealt with openly. Remember the old folk sayings that darkness comes before the light or the storm before the dawn? This is partly true in that it is often through personal struggle that ones true nature and purpose is revealed.

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But even with the best of intentions to integrate and thus grow oneself one can find themselves so immersed in the darkness that they cannot find themselves. For those who find they are thus trapped they may need the guidance, partnership, and counseling of one who knows how to work with the darkness and its integration with the light. I have found these guides in dream groups, spiritual teachers, psychologists,  and psychotherapists. All have helped in this journey to full expression of the soul.