When visiting the UK not too long ago I found myself one late afternoon wandering the grass-covered ruins of an ancient Abbey. A strange fog had rolled in and masked many parts of the ruins making it look even more hollow and missing in walls than it otherwise would. It was on days like these that it is said things come up from the underworld and reach out for the souls that wander these halls that are no more.
This the land of the White Monks and the Black Death sings a lonely song, but during the Spring when the grass is cut it lays like a carpet across the floor of the great nave ready for the grand noble entrance of Kings and Queens once more. I could hear them walking past, the swishing of their robes, the clank of a Bishop’s Crosier striking the pace against the stone floor through the hall, and the smell of incense riding the foggy swirls descending from high in the roofless ceiling.
For one brief moment I was there, witness to what was and is no more. For one brief moment I transcended the veil of time. A coldness crawled up my back and I shook my head vigorously to dispatch the errant visions, then stood chilled and still, hearing echoes of a past I never knew, yet somehow they had followed me here and lay amongst my own memories forever more.
Some have dreams of an invisible creature sitting upon their chest, a presence in the room, dark, foreboding, and cloaked in fear. Sometimes there’s a sound but almost always a vision, there can be a feeling of floating, shadowy outlines and sometimes-demonic characters. There are times in these dreams where one feels like they are falling and jerk awake. Very real and quite vivid these are the dreams of the Hypnogogic.
“Sometimes I am in that state as I just start to go to sleep when I begin to have very strange visions, sort of pre-dream dreams. Typically my dreams are of regular situations with regular people inhabiting them, though these “regular” dreams are a bit disjointed in that they often jump around. Sometimes I find that people or objects are doing things that they can’t do in the waking world, such as fly, or hover.
But sometimes, in this pre-dream state, what dream scientists call the hypnogogic state, my mind seems to manufacture some of my strangest creatures. People morph into odd-looking creatures—visions that I don’t ever recall having seen in the waking world. To top it all off while having these visions my body can feel paralyzed. On occasion I’ve recognized that the visions are about to turn nightmarish and I’ve forced myself to wake up only to find that for a few seconds I can’t move!”
RJ Cole –Hypnagogia and sleep transition states
As a boy I used to lie out on the grass in the evening and strange creatures and flying machines would swoop down from the sky. I would watch in fascination cartoon-like characters scroll across the stars. Sometimes in my darkened room I would watch small balls of light dance in the air and flit behind the dresser or in and out of the closet. I was never afraid of them for they seemed to be friendly and often kept a lonely boy company. They went away in my teens and I didn’t remember them again until I became interested in dreams in my early thirties. I have only had one experience since then. This was a dream of the hypnogogic and it was one that led me to write the tale ofThe Archipelago of Dreams.
In this vision I left my body and traveled to a place where souls go to recuperate after a life of stress and suffering. There they become revitalized and move on to their next level of adventure or return to the land of being to live it all over again. It was there that I discovered my true being and its destiny– hallucination, lucid dream, parapsychological experience, or just a little crazy or perhaps all four?
An occasional hypnogogic hallucination is an interesting phenomenon and most of us have had them at sometime in our lives. Several dreamers who have shared their dreams with me have shared a novel hypnogogic-like experience. However, when these experiences start showing up on a regular basis they can fall into the category of sleep disorders.
If they are frequent enough that they disturb your sleep there are a few things that you can do to lessen that frequency:
Keep a regular sleep schedule and be careful to get enough sleep every night.
Control your stress. Relaxation activities such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga and the like can be very helpful in controlling stress.
Consult with your doctor as to whether your medications could be causing hallucinations.
Consider consulting a sleep specialist and having a sleep study done.
Understand that these hallucinations are common and not necessarily a sign of a more serious disorder, however that dos not mean they should be ignored if they become too frequent. Ultimately your physician and/or therapist can help to determine whether they fall into the category of disorder.
Keep a sleep journal and track your symptoms to look for patterns.
As many of you may know I’m particularly drawn to Dragons, dream dragons that is. There’s a whole section on the Dreaming Wizard website on dragons and the significance they’ve played throughout human history. I’ve also written about them before on this blog (see Jan 30, 2018).
Below is a dream shared by one of the Dreaming Wizard website followers that stars two dragons. I thought you might appreciate the dream and the interpretation.
“Comments: I had a dream (it is usual for me to remember a lot of detail– like I actually lived it). I was a white winged dragon. I was hungry and lost in a swamp. a muddy brown dragon came and hunted a boar, trying to show me how. I got angry and tried to kill him. I didn’t want his help. Then, a boar with red eyes charged me. I used the knowledge the brown dragon had given me and killed the boar. while I was eating the boar the brown dragon came over to praise me for my success, but I still didn’t like him so I swiped my tail at him. he never left me, but did keep his distance. I have had lots of dragon dreams before, but never one with a ‘teacher’ dragon assisting me. I am curious what your thoughts are.”
My interpretation was a little sparse at the time, but after another viewing I’ve added a little detail that might have been useful.
The dragon in this case may be your angry I’ll-do-it-myself part of your personality. The Brown dragon is also a part of yourself that you correctly assume is trying to open you up to a new way of being, a better way of nourishing (as in eating the boar) yourself. The boar could also represent an aspect of your own animal nature that may threaten you and that you may need to learn to accept aka ‘eat’ in order to balance its energy within you.
Eating is also a metaphor for the uniting of aspects of your self. You may be someone who gets carried away by their passion(s) and may need to exercise more self-control and not always trying to dominate/control others so as to get your own way.
The “boar” image might also be a symbolic pun for acting like a ‘boor’ i.e. behaving in a boorish way.
The image of being hungry suggests that you may be feeling unfulfilled in some part or parts of your life i.e. you may be ‘starving’ for love.
The ‘lost in a swamp’ image can be a reference to your dark side. It could also suggest some insecurity or be a pun for feeling ‘swamped’ i.e. overburdened.
Your response to the other dragon’s help may be symbolic of how you live your life, as a loner or “I can do it myself” type of person. This may make it difficult for others to contribute and/or get close to you.
Dragon-dreams are often encouragements to see things more clearly, in fact the word for dragon in ancient Greek, Drakon, means just that, “to see clearly” or “that which sees.” They can be guardians of your core being and/or messengers for balance and wisdom. Often the Chinese Dragon is portrayed holding out a pearl with one paw suggesting the gift of the pearl of wisdom. The dream above may be doing just that offering an inner wisdom to help the dreamer conquer their inner animal nature.
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.
“Without death, life would be meaningless…limitation enables you to fulfill your being.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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’.