Within each of us resides a dichotomy that of the masculine and that of the feminine. Fundamentally at our essence we are androgenous. It is our gender and response to culture that tends to pull the persona towards being of one way or the other.
The psychiatrist Carl Jung suggested that in the dreams of a woman the image of a man represented her animus, her masculine aspect while in a man’s dream the image of a female is his anima or feminine aspect.
Basically these aspects are there to bring balance to the imbalance that culture and the persona have created. It is presumed that when out of balance humans are much less of what they could be if they were to embrace both aspects of themselves.
This idea is nothing new for one doesn’t have to look too far to see that the deities Shiva and Shakti within the Hindu religion one of the world’s oldest represented the masculine and feminine aspects that when joined brought wholeness and oneness. In Ancient Greek and Roman philosophies both goddess and god needed to work in harmony or it meant trouble for humans.
Actually there are many stories where the feminine and masculine come together to create wholeness. Most fairy tales and fantasy stories include the coming together of males and females to bring about success in some endeavor. It’s the extraordinary power of relatedness and the bringing together of our personal and collective unconsciousness’s that often drive our actions e.g., the hard working narrow focus of the seven dwarves having their lives expanded by the compassionate beauty of Snow White or the wisdom shared by Dorothy of OZ with her three male companions which leads them to embracing their true selves. There’s also the necessary male and female joining in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series that made it possible to overcome the evil of Voldemort and save the magical world from his terror, that was to bring balance to their world.
On a more current level and what could be called the waking dream one might say that a new leadership of male and female relationship in the United States will bring back balance and harmony in the way the U.S. does its business. The former leadership was so psychically skewed that it created a destructive imbalance that drastically weakened the power of the whole.
The masculine and feminine non gender influenced aspects of our archetypal selves transcend our individual psyches and if we are open to them can provide us with a way of becoming whole and complete and much more effective in our lives.
These aspects are reflections of our soul and it has been said by many that the soul of a man is feminine while the soul of a woman is masculine. So when they show up in your dreams, that road to the soul, pay close attention to what they are saying or doing for they may be there to show you the way to who you really are.
Not too long ago someone asked about the relationship between dreams and hypnosis.
Did you know that dreaming and hypnosis have a lot in common? Both tap into what the subconscious is observing and has stored. Both place the conscious mind in a state that allows for access to the unconscious. Neurologically these frequency wave states are called alpha and theta (8-13 Hz and 4-7 Hz respectively. A Hz being a “Hertz,” which is the name for a cycle per second).
Sometimes hypnosis can help you to recall a forgotten dream, or it can be used to go back into a favorite dream so that you can finish it up (don’t you hate it when you’re in a great dream and you wake up in the middle of it?).
Hypnosis can also be used to generate dreams (dream incubation) or be used in the technique called “Active Imagining” when you take a dream theme and imagine it evolving beyond the reality of the actual dream. For example, one can take an image or a person from the dream and imagine it into the room during a meditation and then interact with it by asking questions of it to get greater insight as to its meaning. This is sort of like Gestalt therapy when the client imagines a theme or an outcome or places themselves in another’s shoes by acting it out.
There are several states of consciousness with the mind crossing in an out of all three–Beta, Alpha, Theta and even a fourth, Delta, though this last one would be very momentary for this is the state of deep sleep. Each state has its own breadth and depth of consciousness and unconsciousness. Thoughts (what we laughingly call consciousness) is quite broad, but has very little depth, whereas the dream state isn’t very broad in that it is more focused but is very deep and then there’s hypnosis which has a lot of focused consciousness and a much larger depth of unconsciousness.
To incubate a dream, or to set the stage for what is known as a “Lucid Dream” (one where you are aware that you are dreaming when in the dream, which allows you to orchestrate it), suggestions are placed during a hypnosis session. These sessions can use cultural ideas, values, or behavior patterns (called memes) in the form of suggestions that are “planted” into the unconscious and which can be brought to consciousness by attaching a cue to them in the form of a word, phrase, sound, or visual stimulus that when expressed will activate the meme. For example, “When you see your hand in the dream you will become lucid.” These are good for the short term, so are effective in dream incubation and recall.
The mind is a fascinating and often mysterious thing!
In good times and bad you are always there. You’re not a fair-weather friend like Mr. Good Guy Feeling Good About Himself because when I start to feel like I’m him you’re always there to remind me of why I shouldn’t but when the going gets rough Mr. Good Guy will often throw me under the bus and run and hide.
When I start to think that I may actually have a talent you’re always there to tell me that I don’t really at least not any more than most others.
I used to think that you were not very helpful that I’d just as soon you were gone, dead, and buried but you never take a hint because you’re always in the shadows and waiting to pounce.
I’ve read once that you are a part of me and that I cannot ever get rid of you or even train you to behave yourself and that in order to lessen your power over me I need to bring you out into the light because as everyone knows shadows can’t exist in the light. But you and I know that’s not true because just as light needs the darkness the darkness needs the light. To have one is to have both.
So, because you’re always going to be there, how do I accept you in all your warty glory?
How if I cannot get rid of you do I learn to hold you as a friend because I’d much rather have an agreeable relationship than one that is not.
I suppose that if it were not for you I would not know where it is that I would need to grow to be a better person, like where I need to be less arrogant, more accepting of differing points of view, less reactionary to fear and hurt, more giving, more understanding, more open, more loving, and less judgmental.
I also need you to point out that I am no different to those people I hate and judge to be less than and that my attitude about THEM also contributes to what is not working in the world.
You can also help me get my needs met by pointing out what they are through their absence like belonging, being accepted as I am, being useful to others, and being acknowledged. It’s as though I’m always trying to BE that is, to exist and to have me be acknowledged for that. Somehow acknowledgement makes me feel real and you in all your incessant critique makes me at least feel real. You are always there to tell me that I leave a lot to be desired but that I am at least here making that negative difference.
I really do need you because you seem to care that I am here and care what it is that I do and don’t do while I am here. How can you not love something that cares that much about you and something that is constantly kicking you in the pants to be better and more than you are being?
Okay, I guess you can stay because I think that after all this time I don’t really know what I would do without you because you really are an important part of me, the part of me that makes me strive to learn, to accept, to act outside of my safety zone, to challenge my inherent laziness, to identify and strengthen my weaknesses and to care for others. You do all that by never letting me rest on my laurels or by never really letting me have any to rest on. So, the Good Me reluctantly accepts your friendship but don’t get all mushy about it.
*For more on the shadow self type in the word shadow in the search box near the bottom of this page.
There’s a line from an old set of books owned by my father and his father before him that goes like this, “And then did we, the seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast, for the tones in the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and, varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable fell duskly upon our ears in the well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.” It is from Shadow.– A Parable by Edgar Allen Poe.
I was struck by the image of the shadows of many “departed friends”. As I say goodbye to some contemporary friends I’m also reminded of the many who have passed before, family and comrades– people who contributed to and enriched my life in many significant ways. There’s hardly a day that goes by without a recollection of at least one of them being pulled from the Library of Memories.
This could also be read as a memorial for the over 316, 000 who have died from the Covid 19 virus pandemic in the United States and the over 1.7 million who have died worldwide and the shadows that each cast upon those who are still living.
What makes them shadows for me is that even though I’m grateful for the remembrances of those I’ve loved and of those who I do not know I don’t want to look too closely at the feelings of loss, best to give a rueful smile at their thought and return the book to its place than to turn the pages toward the grief that still lurks deep within. Best not to look at death too closely because in its blackness I can see myself reflected.
But as with all dark shadows they do not rest peacefully and conspire to darken my present, our present that robs us of hope for the future. The prospect of Death seems to steal one’s energy like one of the ‘Dementors” in the Harry Potter series. But it also, or at least it used to, give at least me impetus to live life as fully as possible while I could. That seemed much easier when I was young and the future seemed infinitely far away. But as close friends begin to leave and the daily climb of statistical graphs make so painfully obvious what was kept at a cosmic arms length is now lurking beyond the next corner.
This feeling is not new to me for I felt it before every morning as I shuffled through the dark to pick up my weapon and a few ammo boxes and climbed aboard the helicopter I was assigned to for that day. There was a heavy air of resignation that weighed on me then that I find returning to me now. But then the point for my life had narrowed to surviving the day so that I could reclaim a future. I was younger then, 22, with a prospect for an infinite future if I could survive the present but now with a very much more restricted future I find that I’m having trouble with all those pesky hidden shadows and that any point to it all is beginning to fade.
Clearly these shadows need to be invited to the party and a new dialog needs to happen. Today I begin to dust off the old tomes stuffed into the lower shelves of the library.
“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 with hockey sticks battling in the streets at dusk, flocks of screeching Crows nesting in trees, the smile of the crescent moon with the brightly seductive Venus off her bow. And on a warm night there’s crickets and barking dogs, but on a cold and crisp one there’s 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 dinner 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 that whirl 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 on this night it’s not to be. This is when I cry out to the dark denizens of the otherworld, “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 again’. And I remember yet again that it is I, it is I who can summon the magic from within.
“There I stood at the edge of a cliff high above a dark and forbidding abyss. The earth beneath my feet began to shake and as I peered over the edge I could just make out something huge crawling out of the blackness. In terror I tried to step back fearing that I would lose my footing and fall into the blackness and the cavernous maw of the creature below. And then I awoke.”
Yep, a good old-fashioned nightmare had gripped me and shook me to the bone, rattling my soul until I awoke to save myself.
Apparently a lot of us have these dreamtime ‘cliff hangers’ that grab our attention from time to time, but what’s the message?
Lets look at the images for some clues. The cliff could be about being on the edge of an understanding, a solution, or an “ah ha” awareness. Perhaps it’s a critical point in life where you can’t afford to make any errors i.e. lose your footing. Falling itself in this case could be about failure or at least the fear of it.
We have expectations for ourselves and others have expectations for us as well. This can put the pressure on us to succeed or at least not to fail. There’s also the fear of not being who you are by trying to measure up to some standard /goal that’s not your own. This is the stuff neuroses are made of. Stuffing these fears as a way of dealing with the pressures can eventually create the kind of nightmare I shared above.
How you got to the top of the cliff could speak to your ambitions and drive the risks you took or are taking. At the edge in this case might indicate that you are at your limit. If you were to stand tall against the fears it might suggest that you need to stand up to your fears.
Looking down into any abyss can be like staring into the unknown. This in itself can create great anxiety and the dream reflects that. This dream may also reflect an obstacle to your ambitions but can also suggest that you may be afraid of “taking the plunge or the leap of faith” into the unknown that often needs to happen in order to succeed at something.
But the abyss or void can also represent the depths of your unconscious mind and your uncertainty of what lies below. This unknown can also represent change, or the need for change stalking you. Clearly something is stalking this dreamer and it may very well be a shadow creature, a part of their rejected self that they have pushed down into their subconscious, but that is crawling menacingly out of its hiding place and forcing the dreamer to confront and deal with it directly. These shadows can also represent one raw ambition that needs to be confronted and tamed.
There is of course danger afoot, perhaps decisions are to be made, risks to be taken, barriers to be overcome, but in confronting these perhaps there is wisdom down there as well.
In short, even the scariest dreams come to us with our health and well being in mind and shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.
Beginning in January of 2017 I began a series of stories and articles about real magic. This article is a continuation of that series all of which are leading up to the publication of the book “Psyche’s Dream: A Dragon’s Tale”.
Webster’s Dictionary defines magic in this way:
1a: the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces
1b: magic rites or incantations
2a: an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source
3: the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand
In all three definitions we’re talking about manipulation. Real magic on the other hand isn’t about manipulation. It’s about getting yourself out of the way to allow the magic that is there to manifest. Though that’s also a form of manipulation, but only of the self.
Because what you see is only a projection of your inner thoughts, anxieties, emotions, memories, and beliefs the real world isn’t available to you. But when you get yourself out of the way your vision of the world shifts. Every religion teaches this, every enlightened teacher has embraced it.
Magic can only happen in the real world, not in “your” creation, but in “the” creation. Spell casting is about trying to change what is. Stop casting spells on the creation and it will flow for you much better. But first you need to be open to “what is” and the first step in that is to acknowledge it isn’t what you think it is.
“If one has done ones best to steer the chariot, and one then notices that a greater other is actually steering it, then magical operation takes place.”
– CG Jung, Lieber Novus
Another step is to watch where you’re stepping e.g. step too far into what’s good also means moving too far into what’s bad–super good creates super bad. Good requires that there be a bad and vice versa. You need to learn how to keep them together rather than to separate them. You need to learn to balance.
“He who knows the darkest error knows what light is.”
In everything I’ve discussed so far the Soul plays a central role in the redefining of ones self as a magical being. We are all trapped in the cocoon of the mind, the ego-self. It is here that we wander aimlessly through the cold landscapes of the material world–separated from the divine. We are only partially ourselves when all we see is mind. Finding and nourishing our soul again can make us more whole.
Because I love playing with archetypal images I’ll end this with the Magician of the tarot, the real wielder of the magic so to speak. According to Wikipedia it is the Magician [that] “guides The Fool through the first step out of the cave of childhood into the sunlight of consciousness, just as Hermes guides Persephone out of the Underworld every year (see picture at left).”
It has been said that all created things are the expression of the interrelationship between God and humans. In my mind The Magician represents the wholeness of this relationship. He, or she, (because the Magician has both female and male aspects) represents the dissolution of the separate personality and the reintegration of its opposites. When we resolve our dualities (see #8 in last weeks Blog posting “The 12 laws of Magic”) we become whole again. Psychologically, the Magician represents this resolution and magic happens when our wholeness expresses itself, if only temporarily.
From a psychological perspective let me pose an example: when a woman comes to terms with her inner male she will be able to express her opinions more critically by penetrating more deeply into their origins. When a male comes to terms with his feminine he will be able to express his compassion more readily by accepting the nurturing aspect of his core self.
She may be able to deal more effectively with any unresolved issues with her father, or any other male figure that may have helped her to develop her attitudes about males in general and more specifically about those masculine aspects within herself. He may be able to deal more effectively with any unresolved issues with his mother or any other female figure that has helped to form his attitudes about those feminine aspects within himself.
Each sex is imprinted with culturally mediated material about gender. This material until dealt with at its origin in the individual psyche will negatively affect, or limit, or determine an individual’s relationship with the opposite sex and/or globally with all people.
So it may be imperative that we begin the work of integrating our gender opposites if only to make life easier on ourselves and with those around us.
Males and females are more than anatomically different, they are psychologically different, and it is these differences that when allowed to remain in conflict within us that keep us separated within ourselves and thus becomes the main impediment to the experience and wielding of magic.
“Magic is dangerous since what accords with unreason confuses, allures and provokes; and I am always its first victim.”
In my experience magic can happen when I am willing to allow it to happen in the way it wants to happen and not in my way. It establishes the when and the how, not I. When I allow, or to put it another way, when I get myself out of the way, the universe will work its magic. The power of wielding magic is to not wield it at all.
Now I feel compelled to try and make myself clear at this point regarding some of the things I’ve been talking about such as “ego”, the “shadow”, “gender opposition”, “Self”, “spirit”, and “magic”. First of all these are not things that have any reality in that they are words that symbolize something without form, they are only concepts. You can’t find the ego anywhere in the body for it is an affect of the body, its name and definition is but a construct to help one get a handle on the affect. And “Self”” is but a concept for something contextual. And “spirit” is a name for the ephemeral motivator of life.
All these words are just metaphors and have no real substance. All are unknown in their true nature and most likely unknowable. They are ultimately imaginary. But something imagines them, don’t you think? It is that “imagining” (as verb, noun, adverb and adjective) that I refer to with all the linguistic metaphors of the philosopher, psychologist, and scientist. It would be a mistake to reify them i.e. to give them substance for to do so would only limit them through some mental objectification–it’s why I don’t bother to describe God. And to limit something is as we have seen to limit its magic.