In the brightest dark of this deepest wood.

“Go to the forest,” said the voice in the dream.

Cross the valley, ford the river, climb the mountain

walk the meadow to the far side

and enter the dark wood.

_

“Go to the forest,” said the voice yet again. 

Standing at the edge of the meadow Layers of forest lie before me. 

One step and each course pulls me deeper and deeper 

Into the darkness of myself.

_

Magical forces hidden amongst the branches,

Otherworldly forces filling the air, thick, and heavy with the smell of decay,

Mystical forces coming up from the earth,

giving way to the darkness that is the only light in this deep, deep place.

_

Enchanted, strange, sorcerous, irrational

Layer upon layer passed as deeper trespasses.

The I Am breaks free the further I push through the copse of my hidden self

yet nothing seems the same in this oddly familiar place. 

_

A crack of twig under foot. Someone waits ahead. Who is this I wonder?

The farther I travel the more I become what I am traveling into. What seemed so scary

before I started feels so much more like me than the person who first entered. 

Who is it who waits ahead?

_

I am more myself than I was before this journey

but have gained nothing more than I’ve been already.

The forest is dark, but here my eyes shine brighter the darker I tread.

Soon, I meet myself in a small clearing, we hug in the brightest dark of this deepest wood.

Death in dreams: not so ominous as you might think

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.

Self-awareness poem from an upsetting dream

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

And declare that I am ready to ride forward?

Dealing with the Dark Night of the Soul

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.

Insight from a disturbing dream

A scene from the movie, Matrix, we are all a digitally coded reality.

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.

It’s the season of change, endings, and the harvesting of what you’ve sowed. 

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?

Dreams of…

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 be a 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.

*These possible image interpretations come from Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting.

Awakening from a dream we all share

A young man begins to awaken from a dream and finds himself at the door of a strangers house. He knocks and is confronted with the strangest dream of all and up until then what had been an ordinary life became very unordinary indeed.

Originally titled The Twelve Laws of Magic follows an unwitting student through his alchemical transformation into a world most people have never thought existed. It changes him but how and how it will change the reader is for you to find out.

For more on this story check out the following link: www.psychesdream.com

Or if really anxious to get started, go to Amazon and begin one of the most magical journeys you’ve ever been on.

The attack of a nightmare often leads to awareness and an opportunity for healing

I had a nightmare earlier this month. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace these high anxiety dreams as they often reflect that all is not well with me emotionally and that I’ve been suppressing harmful materials that I need to address for too long. All nightmares I’ve found demand attention in that they speak to circumstances both within and around us that require us to provide further awareness.

This dream suggested that I’ve been dealing with certain emotional situations in a too logical and rational way that never really deals with them. I can’t rationalize a feeling in that they aren’t usually rational. But when the feeling is too painful, I tend to bury it or make excuses for it or make up a story that puts it in a better light, which doesn’t hurt the eyes, the heart, or the soul. It’s a temporary fix at best but only serves to prolong the pain and never leads to resolution.

But some hurts never go away entirely and hide at the edges of everyday living, affecting the world we see and creating a hidden longing for resolution, for it is often only found in the healing of an emotional disconnect, separation, or a loss of love. When these disconnects happen, the soul that ever strives for wholeness urges us to step back and evaluate our actions and open ourselves to possibilities, even those that don’t seem possible.

Nightmares are not always something to be feared, avoided or suppressed, sometimes they are there for your health and well-being.

Your death in dreams: Premonition?

In our darkest dreams we encounter tunnels to transformation, fall down holes into an inner world of the unconscious mind, step into a bright light, walk through open doors, observe a sunset, or a skeleton, or a gravestone, or cemetery and all are pathways to the hidden self. Most of these inner adventures when brought into the light can lead to changes in the way one perceives and lives their life. But deep down in the darkened cellars and caves of our soulful existence there are buried daemons of the rejected upper world–dragons, monsters, devils, and the Grim Reaper itself. 

They who venture into this world must be ready, not to do battle, for these creatures cannot be slain or conquered, but to learn their ways so as to harness their power.

For change to happen in one’s life they need to let go of that which needs change; one cannot hold onto the past while reaching for their future.

This is when death shows up in your dreams for it is the harbinger of change, that which heralds the end to one way of being to make room for something new.  And sometimes death in a dream is an invitation to go deeper into ones self to find the energy and power to go after a waking world dream, goal, or achievement. Sometimes, in order to engage life one must let go of it.

One can resist the need for change, but be warned that if you do, the images of death can become increasingly fearsome. Death makes itself known when there is an urgent psychological matter or problem that needs to be attended to.

In nearly every philosophy, or religion, some sort of resurrection follows death. Life, whether animal or plant appears to be in continuous birth, death, and renewal. All cultures have various rituals to acknowledge and celebrate the connection between life and death and all self-development programs require the letting go of one way of being in order to manifest another.

The dead in dreams not only refer to something having died in us, in our lives, or represent the need to let go of something, but also help us through times of transition. Sometimes something in our life is threatening our emotional survival and dreams of our death will come to shock us into awareness.

Aspects of the dead reflect aspects of ourselves that we need to pay some attention to or to let go of. Our own deaths in a dream can speak to transitional phases of our lives such as from adolescence to adulthood, singleness to marriage, or parenthood, or youth to old age. Worries about impending transitions such as from being in school to graduating, or moving from job to job can often conjure images of death, or threats to ones life.

In short, though it may seem contrary, death in dreams may actually be about healing; embracing the death can lead to this healing.

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

–Isaac Asimov (S.F. writer)

Confronting the Shadow Self: My response to recent events

Though I never claimed to be a patriot, especially in its current disgusting and violent iteration, I have always respected the individuals who did join the military* and wanted to aid in the protection of the people and way of life of this country.

I find it intolerable how many of the very same people in the military are protecting hold so little regard for that service, especially for those who are black or brown. I am white, so I cannot even imagine what the nonwhite experience is like, but I find myself moved to anger at those who, without thinking, will denigrate a nonwhite at the drop of a hat and justify it with ignorant and irrational excuses biblical quotes out of context and some twisted understanding of individual constitutional rights. Over time my anger at my white male brethren has made me cautious and suspicious of people in general, mainly white people. I find that I have slowly become demeaning of my whiteness as though I belong to a sick group of humans that seem incapable of redeeming themselves, though, at a deeper level, I know this not to be true.

Over the years, I have personally known maybe a handful of black people, men, and women all of whom exhibited a remarkable commitment to their lives and the lives of others. One, a close friend when I was in the Marines, was killed when we were in Vietnam. Others whom I worked closely with in various capacities also gave of themselves in very profound ways. I hate that their contributions were denigrated every time the whites decide that they are better than the black population in general. I’m embarrassed by general white behavior and constantly wonder what can be done to turn around this negative ground between white people and black people. 

I know the only one who I can change is myself. To that end, I have looked at my prejudices, i.e., prejudgments toward black people specifically and all people in general, and worked on changing my internal narrative. It’s a slow process because most of these prejudices are unconscious and only float to consciousness on a piecemeal basis. Not all lend themselves to a quick resolution because of long-held conditioning, but I’m dedicated to doing what I can in the name of becoming more whole and more supportive to myself and others. This doesn’t make me better than others; goodness knows I am as flawed as anybody, but I also know that these flaws will be dealt with within the open light of day instead of keeping them hidden in the caves of my unconscious. It’s an ongoing process that I’m pretty sure will not become anywhere near complete during my lifetime.

This process of becoming conscious of my unconscious motivators and shadow aspects is a prolonged process fraught with pitfalls and social-emotional landmines. It can often undermine my sense of self-esteem. I’m a trained psychologist who prides himself in his willingness to become vulnerable as a way of opening to reality and ferreting out where I need to change. I am also quite clear that this is not for everyone, especially those who have sought out like minds to justify their points of view and feel like they belong and are accepted by their peers. How do I know this? Because I do it too. Belonging and acceptance and the love of those around us are potent motivators in forming our beliefs and behaviors that are empowering and those that denigrate. 

Carrot and stick diplomacy meted out fairly and consistently seems to me to be the best way of beginning the process of collective attitude change, i.e., rewarding the desired behavior while punishing the undesired. The Chauvin case is an example of a fairly applied “stick” consequence to someone who didn’t seem to believe in the sanctity of all life, and if this were consistently used across the board might help to shift the collective point of view but will only do so if there is an equal shift in how we reward the desired behavior of treating all people as equal under the law that I believe is the real meaning behind the phrase and declaration that all men are created equal.

Of course, no effort, no matter how well-intentioned, will ever be embraced by everyone, but those who just can’t see their way to treating others with respect need to be treated consistently and held accountable for their actions regarding their treatment of others. 

Hate and mistreatment should not be a matter of opinion or a sanctioned right by any ruling, legislative, or law supporting body. Hate and mistreatment are wrong and should never be tolerated or endorsed in any form, nor should philosophies or points of view support hate, mistreatment, disenfranchisement, the demeaning of others, and sanctioned division and polarization. That’s how humankind throughout history has dealt with those who were different. But that is caveman mentality, and I would hope that along with our technology and political systems, we would have matured beyond the neanderthal mentality of domination, disenfranchisement, banishment, humiliation, and death as a means of controlling a point of view. I think we have. There’s so much of the opposite being played out across the world so that the positive changes get lost in all the sound and fury of the fearful minds that want to close off the march toward equality and justice for all because it threatens its sense of dominance and power which they have for generations construed wrongly as leading to safety and security. It doesn’t and never has over the long run.

Free speech, independence, and so-called “state’s rights” that lead to the disenfranchisement of people should never be accepted at any level. We will never become the country of our Declaration of Independence if we accept hate and disenfranchisement of any of its people.

We ultimately must learn how to confront our shadow side and deal with it honestly and openly.

___________________________________

*In the interest of full disclosure I was a Marine and served 13 months in Vietnam between Nov 1967 and Dec 1968.