The Alchemy of Dreams: My mythopoetic self

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Mythopoetic Symbols of my Psyche

There is a place, a realm, a fancy, a state of mind, sense, country, and experience that exists within the imaginal spaces within my being.

It is a soulful place where reality is nurtured and the mysterious grows dense and tangled as an aggressive vine weaving its branches into every corner of my consciousness.

It’s a place where time is measured in experience not finite number. It’s the place where the dream of my conscious and unconscious selves meet and share what is real.

Curator of lost dreams

 

My wife and I have often traveled the Pacific Northwest and one time pulled into a little town lined with antique stores, old fashioned news stands and funky little restaurants catering to the meat and potato crowd–sushi, are you kidding? After nosing around the town for a few hours the following missive came to me the next morning on the veranda of our lodgings:

Driving through town I pass beneath an ancient steel archway, a portal marker for a city hanging on to its past. Traffic is sparse and all moving in a single direction, much like, I imagine, most of the denizens of this little outpost bordering America’s past and future–pretty much all aligned in belief and values.

I parked along the curb across from a local antiquarian–a dealer in “the lost dreams of the dead” as the proprietor described himself to me before I wandered toward the back of his shop piled high with the bones of these dreams. I wandered narrow aisles displaying the technological wonders of a golden age where art and function united to create objects of magical beauty whose purpose have been lost to antiquity anticipating a Magus to caste just the right spell to animate them once again.

 

th-2.jpgI wandered past objects in fine wooden cases, or Bakelite boxes, some with oddly shaped glass tubes–the instruments of a former alchemist’s dreams–ready to spring to life once more.

And there it was, center stage in a locked glass cabinet, the object of my quest, a century old device once used by student wizards to peer into a Lilliputian universe. It had a golden tube that seemed to glow with a fire of it’s own. It was to the rational mind a brass microscope, a beautifully machined tool of exploration and wonder. Excitedly I called to my wife who also marveled at the find and immediately offered to purchase it as a birthday gift.

As the proprietor dismantled the lenses from the scope and wrapped them in tissue and butcher paper for their protection, he shared some of his own past. As an engineer by training and vocation he spent a lifetime wielding the modern instruments of his trade and watched in despair as the world became more and more functional and plastic and losing it’s beauty to practicality. “Something had to be done.” He said almost pleadingly. “So today I’m here as a curator of the past, a preserver of history, if you will” he added with a look of hopefulness that I would understand and honor his purpose.

“Many who enter here don’t understand, they see pretty things that briefly hold interest, just as with anything else in this world of small attention spans and equally small ambitions. Some come here to steal so as to feed their habits, or their addiction to excitement. Others come to sell and bury their loved ones in a place they know will honor their memory.”

So, like the oarsman who ferried the dead across the river Styx, this man tends to the ghosts of human ingenuity, preserving and honoring their former meaning and the dreams they once represented. “There seems to be a soul attached to these things. The souls of their former owners I think.” He says as he ties the last string around the larger package. “Or perhaps the souls of their inventor, or maker.” I suggest while hefting the package that somehow seemed heavier. It was as though the item were emphasizing the new import of the dream I now took as my own. “Perhaps.” He said his eyes glistening as he carefully handed me the smaller package of lenses.

I thanked him, turned to go, and as I did so he rounded the counter so as to escort me through the door. “Thanks for caring.” He said and I walked out of the shop of wondrous visions and onto the streets of empty eyes–the unseeing eyes blinded to the magic all around, to the dream we are all living, and to the past that informs it’s future through the world of our present.

A nighttime menagerie

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Monoceros in Sidney Hall’s Urania Mirror depictions of the night sky constellations

On my first night walk this Spring I was greeted by all sorts of old friends frolicking in the sky above me. There was Sirius, Monoceros (unicorn), Centaurus and Leo and I even looked for good old Sagittarius but then remembered that he was being over powered by Sol and wouldn’t show in the night sky again until some time this summer. They’re all animals, you know, there’s a dog, unicorn, lion and Centaur with each having its own symbolic meaning in mythology and in dreams. Actually nearly half (42/88) of the identified constellations are animals plus two more being Chimera (part human/part animal) for a total of 44 out of 88 while more than half are animals on the western monthly Zodiac (7 out of 12). All of the 12 zodiac images on the Chinese yearly zodiac are animals.

Sirius is the Dog Star and comes with loyalty and unconditional love and the Unicorn represents purity, high ideals, insight, and gentleness though he can also represent one-sidedness. Then there’s good old Leo. Besides being my birth sign he represents bravery, power and leadership and sometimes an archetype of the King. He is also symbolic of the Christ that may be why CS Lewis used him in the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe of the Narnia series.

The Centaur is the astronomer and the guardian of magic. He represents the melding or union of both the higher and lower aspects of humankind. He also represents the dual nature of us all that needs to be balanced in both the intellectual/mental and the physical of our nature.

Oh yes, I almost forgot there was another member of my symbolic menagerie that night that of the inverted crescent of a waxing moon looking very much like the fading smile of the Cheshire Cat an animal being simultaneously here and not here and thus representing the concept of all potential and who then makes a mockery of reality with his questionable reliability.

As with our dreams these animals in the sky are all guides to and from our deeper nature and whether in myth or dreams represent the energies of the deeper psyche i.e. they are reflections of ourselves and as such are very real in that they live within us no matter where we walk or lay down our heads.

 

Magic: Just for a moment step outside your perspective.

 

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Fantasy Trip by–Manuel Rodgriguez Sanchez

Carl Jung the 20th century Swiss psychoanalyst suggested that there’s a place between the conscious mind and the soul called the dream–it is a hidden door into the cosmic mind he said. It is something that exists in the twilight, the limen if you will, between the “out there” and the “in here” of our brains. This is the threshold upon which the shaman works his magic, where the healing takes place.

To the Iroquois dreams are a representation of the desires of the soul. To some tribal cultures they are messages from the ancestors, or from the spirit world. To many Christians and Muslims they were and in some ways still are seen as messages from God.

Jung thought that dreams were part of the Individuation process where we each become more fully human–where the “I” is created. Perhaps we dream to create the self? But what is this dream?

One night I thought that I had awakened from my surreal sleeping imaginarium and attempted to manipulate the lingering images so as to get back into it when I realized that I was still dreaming. So I asked myself while in the in the dream, “What is being awake? If I am still in this dream, but think I’m awake, am I really dreaming?” It came to me then that perhaps I wasn’t awake in the rest of my life, but only dreaming. “Am I a dream, dreaming I’m awake, or am I awake dreaming I’m dreaming?”

That was my first lucid dream experience, though at the time I didn’t recognize it as such, but it did shift my perspective a little about what I had been calling consciousness. Dreams then took on a different meaning for me when I realized that they were an in-between state of realities that may actually all take place within an even greater dream–the dream of God. If as Edgar Allan Poe quipped, “Are all we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream?” do we also dream God into reality and if we are dreaming him, is he also dreaming us?

In the Australian Aboriginal cosmology the Rainbow Snake god created the Earth that then created mankind, who in turn recreated the Earth, and all was done within “The Dreaming.” To them this Dreaming continues to this day and in this perspective we are the dreamer and the dream at the same time.

Every story of every creature creates. And according to the physicist Fred Alan Wolf, just as reality is affected by the surrounding energy field, dreams are not made by the dreamer alone either, but by the surrounding field, which in this case can be seen as the people around us. We are all involved to some degree in each other’s stories. When dreaming, we may be writing our own script and in this way each of us is but one dream story of the Dreamtime.

Perhaps we are all standing on the threshold of consciousness and in a lucid dream so to speak–where being awake and being in the dream are superimposed. It may be here that we create what is. We do not devise the objects of reality, though we do beget our experience and meaning for what is there. But because we can only know what we perceive-what we project; we don’t really know what exists outside our own heads.

The Mandala is for me an excellent metaphor for the dream within a dream concept where at the center of its concentric circles lie our selves. In it we are both the center and the rings around it–it represents the whole self, the conscious and unconscious striving for unity. Upon every boundary one stands and sees him self, forward and backward, in and out, above and below, creating and being created. Reality is derived from the center and then collapses upon itself as it becomes ever more aware.

On his way to the Archipelago of Dreams (R.J. Cole, 2011) Robert crossed this limen between worlds and entered the world of the dream where reality is created. In it he was confronted by the archetypes of his race and was forced to reconcile with them. Beyond the veil he discovered the reality of creation and was forced to grow up in its embrace. Robert learned of the dream within the dream and feared awakening within his slumber. This was his ultimate shadow that had stalked him all his life and would end his life as he had known it.

There be Dragons out there: Sailing into the imaginal

 

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Children have a special relationship with the imaginal and learn early on to edit their sharing of it with adults. You see, adults draw a hard distinction between what they think is real and the imaginal world of the child. The child plays with and explores the boundaries of real, keeping it flexible, while most adults have hardened those boundaries thus keeping what is contained within trapped and limited. But reality doesn’t care what you and I think of it and doesn’t conform to the ego boundaries that we set for it.

Those who have decided what something is one way or the other have essentially killed any possible alternatives (note that the root is “cide” i.e. to kill). This of course limits ones perspective and thus their options and resources. If we place too many conditions upon reality we eventually build a box of sorts around ourselves– a box born of many deaths.

When I reflect upon my dreams over the years one particular theme keeps showing up, nightmares of being trapped, contained, boxed in, imprisoned and trying to escape. I’ve been trapped in ever constricting tunnels, struggled mightily to fly and stay air born, held down, cornered, and lost within caves or endless hallways with no way out.

Something within me desperately wants to be expressed and keeps showing up in my dreams. But what is it? I honor the imaginal, some say to the extreme, but I too have a limit on this, artificially created so as to not look too crazy, or too over the top. After all I have a reputation to keep up and want to maintain the freedom to explore (the world tends to reign you in if you get too far out there).

But nothing new can be found if you remain within the safety of the box. To use another metaphor, no new worlds can be discovered if you’re not willing to sail off the “edge” of the world you’re on, just ask Columbus, Magellan, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs.

I’ve been inside many boxes in my life and what usually keeps me there is the fear of what is outside, I mean, there are Dragons out there! I also don’t like to let go of what I have until I know what’s out there to grab hold of. Using yet another metaphor that resonates for me, it would be like letting go of the trapeze while blindfolded and hoping there’s someone to catch me at the other end of the flight. But risk taking is…well, risky.

Growth and the discovery of new worlds is often like that in that you don’t know what’s out there, you just know that you can no longer stay cooped up in the box any more. Though there may be dragons lurking on the journey, they must be willingly faced for the glory and the wonder of new discoveries.

For me it’s the imaginal world of my dreams that offers clues that there is something beyond my self and the culturally imposed boundaries and that I need to cast off into its unknowns so as to really see what’s possible.

It is a lonely journey, one because it is very personal and two because there’s little agreement from the rest of the world that the journey is worth it and there’s no guarantee that you’ll survive it. But remaining locked up in this damnable box, or tied to the safe harbored dock, is not what I want my life to be about i.e. there’s no journey if you’re tied to the dock.

 

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true
because we dreamed too little,
when we arrived safely
because we sailed too close to the shore.


 Disturb us, Lord, when
 with the abundance of things we possess
we have lost our thirst
for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision
of the new Heaven to dim.



 Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wilder seas
where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
we shall find the stars.



 We ask you to push back
the horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.”

 –Sir Francis Drake

In the land where the Faery Lantern and Jabberwocky lay

 

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Faery Lamplighter– RJ Cole (2002)

In a potted plant sitting obscurely in a corner of the patio behind our house sits a lamp that when night falls begins to glow an eerie blue. White crystals at its base fracture the light and send it helter-skelter across the garden floor eventually being absorbed into the dense forest of green across the miniature meadow. “What is that Grandpa?” Said my Granddaughter one warm spring evening while we sat in the dark before the moon took over the sky and dispelled the eerie shadows of the night. “Ah yes, that’s a Fairy Lamp” I explained. “Ohh, what is that?” she whispered.

“A Faery Lantern, the link between two worlds is like what the dream is to those who sleep and leave the world of light for the world of the night, the world of bright consciousness to the world of dark shadows.”

“The faeries are those images that reside within the dream and guide the dream body through the labyrinth of the inner psyche. Like Dickens’ ghosts of the Christmas Carol they cross through time and solid walls as though they didn’t exist. They are of the intuitive and imaginal world beholding to nothing of the material and rational and yet, and yet, hold the very secret of life, the cradle of our soul.”

“Light the lantern and sleep will overtake you and the fairies will come, dancing and flitting, soaring and roaring through the air with an invitation to follow deeper into the night realm, deeper into the shadows of the unknown.”

It’s mostly a curious world, a mad hatters craziness that can turn on the moment to either the sublime or upon a nightmarish Jabberwocky” I growled and clawed the air menacingly while my granddaughter recoiled in mock fear.

“It’s a place of wizards, wisdom keepers and great ladies, heroes, lovers, martyrs, tricksters, devils and death. It is a world where unicorns still forage and people can take wing over vast green meadows. Here the archetypal male in us all holds his hand to the female we all share and rejoices in the union that eludes us in the waking world.”

“As we travel through the world of the night the shape-shifting creatures of the dark will lure us into the Neverseen, the Land of Faery and introduce us to our true self. Once met and understood we can never ever be the same.”

“What do you think of that?? I queried and looked over at her, but the faeries had already come and taken her through the light of the lamp. I smiled and pulled my jacket against the encroaching cold.

 

 

 

A waking Dream

 

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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.

Magic: Just for a moment step through the door between your perspective and the cosmic mind.

 

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Carl Jung the 20th century Swiss psychoanalyst suggested that there’s a place between the conscious mind and the soul called the dream–it is a hidden door into the cosmic mind he said. It is something that exists in the twilight, the limen if you will, between the “out there” and the “in here” of our brains. This is the threshold upon which the shaman works his magic, where the healing takes place.

To the Iroquois dreams are a representation of the desires of the soul. To some tribal cultures they are messages from the ancestors, or from the spirit world. To many Christians and Muslims they were and in some ways still are seen as messages from God.

Jung thought that dreams were part of the Individuation process where we each become more fully human–where the “I” is created. Perhaps we dream to create the self? But what is this dream?

One night I thought that I had awakened from my sleeping imaginarium and attempted to manipulate the lingering images so as to get back into it when I realized that I was still dreaming. So I asked myself while in the in the dream, “What is being awake? If I am still in this dream, but think I’m awake, am I really dreaming?” It came to me then that perhaps I wasn’t awake in the rest of my life, but only dreaming. “Am I a dream, dreaming I’m awake, or am I awake dreaming I’m dreaming?”

That was my first lucid dream experience, though at the time I didn’t recognize it as such, but it did shift my perspective a little about what I had been calling consciousness. Dreams then took on a different meaning for me when I realized that they were an in-between state of realities that may actually all take place within an even greater dream–the dream of God. If as Edgar Allan Poe quipped, “Are all we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream?” do we also dream God into reality and if we are dreaming him, is he also dreaming us?

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In the Australian Aboriginal cosmology the Rainbow Snake god created the Earth that then created mankind, who in turn recreated the Earth, and all was done within “The Dreaming.” To them this Dreaming continues to this day and in this perspective we are the dreamer and the dream at the same time.

Every story of every creature creates. And according to the physicist Fred Alan Wolf, just as reality is affected by the surrounding energy field, dreams are not made by the dreamer alone either, but by the surrounding field, which in this case can be seen as the people around us. We are all involved to some degree in each other’s stories. When dreaming, we may be writing our own script and in this way each of us is but one dream story of the Dreamtime.

Perhaps we are all standing on the threshold of consciousness and in a lucid dream so to speak–where being awake and being in the dream are superimposed. It may be here that we create what is. We do not devise the objects of reality, though we do beget our experience and meaning for what is there. But because we can only know what we perceive-what we project; we don’t really know what exists outside our own heads.

The Mandala is for me an excellent metaphor for the dream within a dream concept where at the center of its concentric circles lie our selves. In it we are both the center and the rings around it–it represents the whole self, the conscious and unconscious striving for unity. Upon every boundary one stands and sees him self, forward and backward, in and out, above and below, creating and being created. Reality is derived from the center and then collapses upon itself as it becomes ever more aware.

On his way to the Archipelago (in the book The Archipelago of Dreams) Robert crossed this limen between worlds and entered the world of the dream where reality is created. In it he was confronted by the archetypes of his race and was forced to reconcile with them. Beyond the veil he discovered the reality of creation and was forced to grow up in its embrace. Robert learned of the dream within the dream and feared awakening within his slumber. This was his ultimate shadow that had stalked him all his life and would end his life as he had known it.

There was a Dragon in my dream

 

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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.

 

The Dream:

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.

Interpretation:

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.

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.