Philosophy and religion on the surface look like opposites where on one side one operates on faith and belief while the other critiques and challenges belief. One espouses the rational while the other embraces the irrational.
However, both are of one mind regarding death in that both welcome the mysteries of death because it speaks to the mysteries of life.
When life and death are seen as opposites separated at birth death becomes real. But when death is seen as the continued transition of the soul’s migration through reality the separation and opposition disappear into a mystical unity.
In Jungian philosophy a goal of life is the reunion of opposites called the coniunctio.
In this vision of life’s purpose death takes on a new meaning shifting from an ending to an element in the soul’s journey toward unity and becomes about change and transition from one way of being to another. This point of view is also reflected in one’s dreams where death can be a symbol for change, an end from one way of being to another. Thus, the image of death becomes an archetype for transition. To embrace it is to partially fulfill the purpose of life i.e., to bring all of life’s opposites (life/death, male/female, the conscious/unconscious) into unity.
After doing a little research on the meaning of death psychologically I put down my laptop and ambled down the hall to bed. During the night I had a dream where I sat before a desk with others standing around me and I placed a small beaker upon the desk and concentrated my focus upon it. When I did it correctly a transition from one place of being would become a new one i.e., we would all sort of “portal jump” from one place to another. I was elated with each successful transition.
Upon awakening the dream seemed significant though a mystery as to how. As I continued my research later that morning the dream’s meaning began to clear. The portal jump from one reality to another was an archetype of death. It’s a focus that I find I often think about these days as life gets closer and closer to this transition period. A shift in focus from an ‘ending’ of life, or place of being, to one of a ‘change’ of place of being seems important to me and gives me a new sense of purpose. As with my earlier life my purpose was to prepare myself through all of life’s transitions to live my life as fully as possible, I now can create another purpose that of preparing myself for this next transition. As a soul it’s all my life.
Part of last night’s dream had me talking with a bedridden old woman who had an upright bicycle parked at the foot of her bed. Suddenly she rolled toward me, forcefully trying to fall out of bed but I resisted.
This may have been a dream where my soul (the anima or female in a man’s dream) was declaring the need to get up and out of her psychic slumber and walk forward. The bike was both a symbol of a motivating force, an image of going forward, and a mandala for finding your bigger self-i.e., the wheels.
The following poem came to me as I reflected on the meanings of this dream.
Stuck in victim mode
I see only my lowest self
A loathsome self
Paralyzed and blame ridden
Lashing outside myself
Not knowing who to blame
Who to call for help
Putting others or the gods down for my
Pain my loss my failure
Stuck as victim to myself
Where is it that I say enough
And roll out of my lethargic self-loathing slumber
We find the fact that there is cannibalism in the world ugly even though rare and recoil when ever it raises its ugly head. Cannibalism is the same species eating of the body for its own sustenance but what about the eating of the soul when we beat someone down, kick the dog, torture an animal, oppress a people, commit war upon them, or suck the energy from a room or a relationship is that not a form of cannibalism?
Some people thrive on the eating of another’s energy for they have little to none of their own having had it eaten earlier in life or the continuous presence of the loss of energy due to how they are treating themselves or are being treated by others.
Some people eat another’s energy such as what many politicians and their followers are currently doing to others. That same energy is also consumed through psychological or physical means and then this type of metaphorical vampire uses it to further its own goals.
How does one spot an energy vampire or cannibal? One way is to note who has just walked into the room when the energy level changes or decreases. In a discussion with someone do you feel lifted or deflated, valued, or devalued. Another way is to notice after someone has talked or made a speech how you are feeling e.g., inflated, empowered, encouraged, or deflated, disempowered, and discouraged. Energy cannibals bring hate, anger, and fear into a room. They thrive on the negativity because they’re trying to shed it from themselves by placing it on or sucking it from others. They are destroyers of cooperation and unity. They also will never take accountability for their actions either by placing it on others or by just lying about it, and will always one-up others who challenge or disagree with them. You can always tell what an emotional vampire is up to by what he or she accuses others of. They will also use your good nature against you and create all kinds of drama around themselves.
Energy vampires/cannibals will always seek to place blame for their failures on something or someone else. After being around them do you feel better or worse about yourself, better or worse about life?
Watch your dreams are they depicting bleeding or vampires or dark figures menacing? If so, perhaps you are experiencing an emotional energy drainer in your life. But remember the quote from the comic character Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us” for we may be playing the role of our own vampire/cannibal by how we judge and treat ourselves or in how we are judging and treating others. Dreams of shooting or being shot, threatened, and chased might also be indicators of some kind of conflict both inner and outer in your life. Feelings of being trapped, restrained, or trying to escape in your dreams might also be indicators of a vampire/cannibal in your life.
I did not grow up in the Christian church or any church for that matter. The first time I ever heard of the Psalms was while attending a field service in Vietnam for a friend who had died two days earlier. He was a friend who had taken my place on the night crew, for I was going out on a mission the following day. If he hadn’t, things might have been different in both our lives. I was feeling very disconnected, confused, and holding a little guilt.
The Psalm read that day during the service was called the 23rd Psalm.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
As I listened to the words, I found myself crying and Marines NEVER cry. Suddenly I found myself lifted and all my fear, anger, and sadness, the turbulent waters of my mind and heart “stilled.” For a moment, I knew that as I walked through this “valley” with death all around me, I was not alone. This gave me the strength to carry on.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the grace given to me on that day, even though I was experiencing the dark night of the soul (aka depression) and felt I wasn’t worthy of anything good. That day was the beginning of my journey toward spiritual maturity, and that day was the day I awakened to something that I later called soul. Spiritual awakenings can happen at any moment in life. They can be spontaneous, triggered by major life changes, illnesses, tragedies, and traumas such as life-threatening illnesses, accidents, divorces, midlife crises, war, and so much more. They can happen during meditation or while taking a walk around the neighborhood.
There are also those times when all seems hopeless and emotionally overwhelming, what some call The Dark Night of the Soul. If you’re highly sensitive to the suffering of others and are a deep thinker by nature, it is possible that you have gone through, or are currently going through, this dark night.
The Dark Night of the Soul is a period in life when you feel completely cut off from the Divine. The more _aware_ you become of your disconnection from the Divine, the more chances you have of experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul.
In my experience, going through this encounter with the dark night is profoundly entwined with the process of spiritual awakening, i.e., before spiritually awakening, we often “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4); that prepares our minds and hearts for it.
From the perspective of an Alchemist and Jungian analyst the Dark Night could represent the nigredo which means ‘blackness’ or putrefaction or decomposition. Many alchemists believed the nigredo was a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone or wholeness.
A sea urchin with no spines is attacked by an ugly toad intent on the urchin’s destruction. But the seemingly defenseless urchin sends out tentacles from beneath and wraps them around the toad’s neck. I am appalled and grossed out as I watch this aggressive dream.
“What is going on?” I wonder as I awake from this nightmarish scene.
As I review this dream trying to gain some insight to its meaning aggression and conflict seem to be the main theme. I am both the urchin and toad, the attacker and the attacked, the aggressor and the victim. The usual suspect comes to the fore i.e., my penchant for self-punishment. But it’s more than this same old, same old story.
As I watch helplessly the political realities of certain egos plotting to dominate the government with little or no regard for people’s lives, countries making invasion plans for no other reason than to dominate and make themselves important, random mass shootings for the same reason, and in my own tiny corner of the world a violent incident that has pitted well-meaning people against each other I am feeling overwhelmed with things that I can do nothing about but watch.
Add to all that my own self-criticism for not living up to my own standard for being and I create the inner turmoil that this dream represents. The dream brings to the fore what I try to ignore, the feeling of helplessness and depression that keeps me angry at the world and at myself.
For some reason facing this anger helps me to settle, for the truth is I have a right to be fearful and angry but need and want to also face the fact that am not totally helpless in that I can change what I do with that fear and anger. I can resist the tendency for my emotions to take me over and still do what is right to do with what is in front of me. In short, I need to be gentle with myself in all things and not give evil for evil.
As I finish up this blog, I am reminded of the poem by Max Ehrmann, the Desiderata.
GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
“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.
Death often shows up in our dreams during times of transition 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” Associated with death is also rebirth and resurrection. -Mary Oliver (Skunk cabbage)
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 become eternally living within the memory of those left behind.
To see a dead person in a dream:This can represent some area in ones 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.
“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 downinto 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)
•Racing around town on a self-propelled scooter at breakneck speed and weaving and dodging.
•Men jumping without looking into deep holes, crevasses into the underground.
•I’m walking into a room. It’s greyish and dark, dank, cold, and empty. It feels lonely and abandoned. I see no windows with the room feeling small but unending.
•Someone is attempting to stab me in the stomach and then shoots me with a rifle.
Lots of internal conflict and warnings about being too reckless. An overall malaise seems to have enveloped both my waking and sleeping dreams. A sense of being attacked by others and by myself permeates these dreams.
I have not spent enough time exploring what’s going on with me, so my dreams take over to focus my attention. I’ve been too harsh on myself lately as well. This has created an unsafe place and empty void within me. I need to let up on the self-attack and focus on what I’m doing.
“Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses”.
The night before’s dream centered around a vision of a “heart,” more an experience than a physical image. It is a life-altering experience that appears to have a physical form but is not material in essence. The heart experience seems real, but it is not; it appears present, but it is not. I can get it for someone but can’t guarantee that it will work for them. There’s a sense that it brings profound connection and dispels the feeling of separation. I reach into the ether to pull one into existence.
My interpretation of this dream appears to be as cryptic as the dream but reflects something I’ve been psycho-emotionally wrestling with for quite some time. As time has moved on, I’ve developed more and more clarity regarding the thoughts and feelings that have plagued me.
Are we but avatars of One being? Not actual, not separate, with the experience of separateness being illusory born of a system designed to create the illusion built over time.
I wonder if stories of Jesus being sent to earth so that God can experience the human condition are but a human projection or metaphor that reveals a much deeper reality of life?
The creation stories of many cultures also seem to suggest that the “we” we see ourselves as is, but an illusion created by the One.
The reality of death may be part of that illusion because if we are only avatars or expressions, then we were never really born. We are not separate because we were never apart. We are only the illusion of individual beings. As avatars, we may be “experiencers,” aka the “heart of God” or the One. We are both black and white, illumined and dark, gold and lead, wise and foolish, believers or non-believers, loving and hateful, holograms of the One’s expression into the world.
With this view that everything, including what we call “we,” are but God expressions, I seem to have moved from a monotheistic view of God to a pantheistic one. In this view, God, whatever it is, acts as a prism diffracting itself into a myriad of colors (The “we” I’m referring to) but, in essence, is only the One all-encompassing color. The “heart” of my dream is the One we call God.
Shades of the movie Matrix!
Once seen, it changes my relationship with everything I’ve been calling and believing to be “other.”
The strange thing for me is that if this were a true reflection of reality, what would I do with it? In other words, so what? I don’t have an answer for that, yet I somehow feel more at ease with these thoughts than with the belief in separateness. Separateness brings with it fear, helplessness, and vulnerability.
This point of view also seems to answer in part my age-old question of what is my purpose? My purpose in this scenario is just to be, do what I do, experience what I experience, strive for what I strive, feel what I feel, change when I think I need to, and think what I think whenever I think it. That may seem too easy to some, but for me, it’s always been a struggle and probably, to some extent, will remain the same. So, to my list, I’ll add “struggle” with what I struggle with.
During this time of year our dreams can be the portal to other realms of knowledge and awareness. Wakeup!
These images from our deeper psyches are often found in the the mythologies of many cultures and represent pretty much what they do to all societies. After all, where do our myths come from if not from the dark caves of our hidden selves?
Jack-o-lanterns: childhood dreams and memories. A reminder of a changing of something or the end of something.
Witches: The negative feminine or one’s fear of being manipulated (bewitched). Old feelings associated with one’s mother. If a witch of the west she could symbolize endings and dark events or feelings. They can represent unlikeable parts of ourselves or others. Has someone cast a ‘spell’ on you? She may also symbolize something magic in your life, something positive and yet unexplainable. Note that witches in a dream can be either nurturing or overpowering or both if reflecting a conflicted state or relationship.
Magic: Don’t believe everything that you see or hear. Are you trying to solve a problem through wishes and hopes i.e., through magical thinking? Are you being influenced or perhaps controlled by something that you can’t see? If a magician (or wizard) shows up, he or she may represent your inner wisdom or your desire to control and dominate. They can also represent illusion. Are you or is someone trying to fool someone or yourself? Are you hoping to change something or looking for transformation? Do you need to transcend something in your life?
Ghosts: Is something from your past haunting you? Is your subconscious trying to make you aware of something? Do you have guilty feelings about someone or some event? Perhaps you are feeling insubstantial, like you don’t belong. Have you “ghosted” someone i.e., where you have cut off communication with someone without explanation or are being ignored? A violent ghost (or poltergeist) could reflect an inner conflict or some violent part of your own nature.
Is someone or you being too transparent or not transparent enough? Is there some unfinished business from the past?
Phantoms: These can represent fears and/or repressed memories e.g., things that go bump in the night. Do you need to face your fears? They can also represent illusions, delusions, and self-deception. Are you misapprehending something or someone? Are you or is someone misrepresenting something?
Graveyards: This is a place of endings, a place where memories or fears are buried and hopefully put to rest. Traditionally this is a place where the dead and the living come together especially during Samhain (Halloween) when the division between the dead and living thins and becomes more porous. Ancient Celtics and modern pagans celebrate this time of year with feasts and bonfires. The souls of dead relatives are thought to revisit and seek hospitality. They could be appeased by special food and drink, but watch out if ignored (Trick or treat).
Zombies: Where the dead rise from their graves. Where memories refuse to stay buried or refuse to die. They can also represent aspects of the self that refuse to go away. A zombie can represent yourself when you feel controlled by some basal emotion such as fear, envy, haste, or greed or jealousy. Has something died in you e.g., an emotion, ambition, hope, dream, or idea?
Death: This can symbolize and end to something or a killing off some part of you or the death of a relationship.
Werewolves (or any dark creature): This could represent repressed instincts or your animal nature rising and overwhelming you. It could be your ‘shadow self’ a part of you that you’ve tried to reject but that still influences your feelings, thoughts, or actions from time to time.
The Angel of Death or Grim Reaper: This can bea messenger from your unconscious mind where all your dreams come from. The image can symbolize an end to something (see also death above). Something or someone may be attacking you or may represent impending change. They can symbolize criticism, but the reaper may also represent self-criticism i.e., self-attack.
Skeleton or skulls: Something dead to you or skeletons in your closet where memories of events are hidden. They can also represent aspects of yourself that you are trying to kill off or thought you killed off but still haunt you. Note what your dream skeleton is doing and what you are feeling when observing or interacting with them. Skeletons can represent and end to something e.g., some idea, or relationship, hope, ability, behavior, or memory. If just a skull it can symbolize your state of mental health. They can also represent something that is not fully developed or in the beginning stages. If the skeleton represents you, are you just a a skeleton of your old self?
Mad Scientist: Don you feel like you are going crazy or somebody is acting crazy or irrationally? Are you or is someone having trouble controlling behavior? Is something or someone threatening you? Are you feeling a loss of control?
All the above dream images can come under the rubric of phantasmagoria and may reflect your unconscious biases. Are you having illusions of reality that may be affecting your ability to see what is real and right in front of you? All these images can have nightmarish qualities and be a wake up call from your unconscious trying to prod you into awareness.