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.
Three nightmares across nine fretful nights sleep. In one a character is shot several times as he runs down the road, the last shot bringing him down, I falling with him and reaching out to comfort. Another has me wearing a CPAP mask at a restaurant dining table, feeling shocked, vulnerable, humiliated and virtually emasculated.
The last dream has me being threatened and abused by three twenty-foot giants.
What to make of it all?
In the first dream the character being shot is an expression of myself suffering what Bill Shakespeare called “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” i.e. attacks against the psyche in this case. The fear may be that there will be one too many that I may not be able to soothe and get up from. This dream may have been triggered by watching a friend take several psychic blows that would have left me emotionally bleeding. There’s also a theme running through the “world psyche” at the moment where many people are taking the blows, with the collective-ego becoming increasingly more self-critical.
The current immoral insanity sweeping the nation and the White House is suffering profound psychic blows as well as we each watch the country we love being torn apart by fear, bigotry, ignorance, and hatred. Our shadow aspect that we’ve been hiding to both the world and ourselves is showing itself in all its repressed ugliness.
The second dream seems to echo the first and indeed came on the night following the first. This dream seemed to suggest humiliation and a feeling of emasculation. It continued a theme of feeling vulnerable and not being able to protect myself adequately. The mask itself also may have symbolized a fear of being found out, of not being able to successfully hide what I am feeling in my everyday life right now.
Seven days later the third nightmare intruded and interrupted my sleep. In this dream three imposing and quite frightening ‘giants’ attacked me and stood threateningly astride me as I fell. It felt that I wouldn’t be able to save myself from what was about to happen and then I awoke. Are my feelings overwhelming me? Is my negative inner dialog going to injure me? Who are these three antagonists I wonder? Then it hits me that they might represent my three biggest concerns as I grow older– 1) Body deterioration (not only reflecting all the aches and pains but the loss of attractiveness to the opposite sex); 2) Deteriorating usefulness; and 3) Contracting future.
There’s a lot to be learned from one’s darker dreams i.e. there’s light in our nightmares, though in this case there are few if any answers, but knowing in deeper detail what’s going on with me emotionally may give me an opening through which I can find the light.
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?
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.
I was listening to NPR recently and heard someone during an interview use a phrase that stopped me in my tracks. It went something like this: “Sometimes people use violence to revitalize their souls.”
“Is that true? I thought. Can violence revitalize the soul? I know that love, art, music and dance can bring the soul to life, but anger and hate? Up to this moment I’ve always imagined hate, anger, and fear as emotions that bury the soul. Though it’s true that they are emotions that energize, I usually think of their energy as negative and that they produce more negative. Then I remembered the phrase, “The dark night of the soul” that refers to a deep sense of meaninglessness, when nothing makes sense and there’s no purpose in life– when all the activity, dreams, and achievements just aren’t important anymore.
I can remember being there after my Dad unexpectedly died and I recall hurting so much that I became numb and wishing I could get some feeling, any feeling, back. I found myself doing risky things to just charge up my life, I became quick to anger and started to entertain dark thoughts, my dreams became full of darkness and nightmares, that I hadn’t had in ages. It was as though the soul were trying to crawl out from under a heavy damp blanket of meaninglessness that had covered my world. But instead it seemed to only bury its self ever deeper.
So, perhaps violence at least is an attempt to bring meaning back although it’s a short-lived and unsatisfying way of doing it.
As people close to me age and die and as the country that seemed so stable and united in purpose appears to be crumbling I’m finding that I’ve fallen into that dark night once again and all the meaning appears to be draining from me and my carefully engineered life seems to wobble once again. It’s as though the darkness is crying out for more light.
But for now I think I’ll treat this as a time of rebooting, so to speak, because as all the made up meaning that I’ve added to my life washes away hopefully it will allow for something different, or something new instead of the compulsive, conditioned meaning I’ve always given things over the years. Perhaps what will show up will be even deeper– and hopefully there will be some aliveness in that. Perhaps the darkness itself speaks to a need for more light and makes room for it where there had been little before.
As many of you may know I’m particularly drawn to Dragons, dream dragons that is. There’s a whole section on the Dreaming Wizard website on dragons and the significance they’ve played throughout human history. I’ve also written about them before on this blog (see Jan 30, 2018).
Below is a dream shared by one of the Dreaming Wizard website followers that stars two dragons. I thought you might appreciate the dream and the interpretation.
“Comments: I had a dream (it is usual for me to remember a lot of detail– like I actually lived it). I was a white winged dragon. I was hungry and lost in a swamp. a muddy brown dragon came and hunted a boar, trying to show me how. I got angry and tried to kill him. I didn’t want his help. Then, a boar with red eyes charged me. I used the knowledge the brown dragon had given me and killed the boar. while I was eating the boar the brown dragon came over to praise me for my success, but I still didn’t like him so I swiped my tail at him. he never left me, but did keep his distance. I have had lots of dragon dreams before, but never one with a ‘teacher’ dragon assisting me. I am curious what your thoughts are.”
My interpretation was a little sparse at the time, but after another viewing I’ve added a little detail that might have been useful.
The dragon in this case may be your angry I’ll-do-it-myself part of your personality. The Brown dragon is also a part of yourself that you correctly assume is trying to open you up to a new way of being, a better way of nourishing (as in eating the boar) yourself. The boar could also represent an aspect of your own animal nature that may threaten you and that you may need to learn to accept aka ‘eat’ in order to balance its energy within you.
Eating is also a metaphor for the uniting of aspects of your self. You may be someone who gets carried away by their passion(s) and may need to exercise more self-control and not always trying to dominate/control others so as to get your own way.
The “boar” image might also be a symbolic pun for acting like a ‘boor’ i.e. behaving in a boorish way.
The image of being hungry suggests that you may be feeling unfulfilled in some part or parts of your life i.e. you may be ‘starving’ for love.
The ‘lost in a swamp’ image can be a reference to your dark side. It could also suggest some insecurity or be a pun for feeling ‘swamped’ i.e. overburdened.
Your response to the other dragon’s help may be symbolic of how you live your life, as a loner or “I can do it myself” type of person. This may make it difficult for others to contribute and/or get close to you.
Dragon-dreams are often encouragements to see things more clearly, in fact the word for dragon in ancient Greek, Drakon, means just that, “to see clearly” or “that which sees.” They can be guardians of your core being and/or messengers for balance and wisdom. Often the Chinese Dragon is portrayed holding out a pearl with one paw suggesting the gift of the pearl of wisdom. The dream above may be doing just that offering an inner wisdom to help the dreamer conquer their inner animal nature.
“Without death, life would be meaningless…limitation enables you to fulfill your being.”
Basically he’s saying that death is a condition for the meaning of life.
Death in Dreams (The symbolic meaning)
Death often relates to the ending of something. But it can also suggest our relationship, or attitude towards death e.g. how do we feel about it?
As an archetype it can show up as a sunset, crossing a river, twilight, a skeleton, gravestones, a cemetery, blackness, the grim reaper, an old man, or woman, a fallen mirror, a stopped clock, or an empty abyss. Dead animals can also be metaphors for our own demise.
“These are the woods you love where the secret name of every death is life again”
Mary Oliver (Skunk Cabbage)
Associated with death is also rebirth and resurrection. Such things as a cave, or an egg, Spring, dawn, the cross, a snake, a seed, a bird taking flight (though if it were to fly off into the sunset it might suggest death), a Phoenix, flame, a pearl, or the womb.
The body itself is in a constant birth, death and renewal cycle in that individual cells need to die in order to be replaced and renewed without constant injury to the body’s cells, fresh cells could not revitalize. This is the idea of creating by destroying. The Hindu god Shiva is the destroyer of the world (actually the ego—the false identification with form, and the letting go of habits and attachments). Brahma then recreates what has been destroyed. In short, all that has a beginning must also have an end. The only thing that dies according to this concept is the illusion of individuality and separateness. In this way Shiva is the great purifier.
The ancient Greeks believed that a person’s well-being depended on the opposing forces of dissolution and creation. The Caduceus with its entwined snakes and being the symbol of the healer can be symbolically linked with Psyche interacting with matter and transforming both. This idea of the snake representing both death and renewal sheds its old skin to reveal something new and revitalized, thus dying so as to be reborn.
Dead people in Dreams:
In most cases this is about the dreamer trying to deal with the passing of someone close. It’s all a process of letting go and of resurrecting the one you interacted with on a physical level into the memory of that same person. For some the deceased becomes eternally living within the memory of those left behind.
To see a dead person in a dream:
This can represent some area in one’s life that has “died” such as a feeling, a relationship, or situation. Sometimes anger repressed in your waking life can kill ones vitality and satisfaction. It can also represent a part of yourself that you would like to leave behind (to see that part, look at what aspect the dead person may represent).
To see your own death in a dream:
This can suggest a transformation in the way you have been, in thought, in feeling, or in attitude. It can also suggest the transition of one phase of your life into a new one.
Fundamentally death in dreams is about change, impending, ongoing, future or past.
“Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
–Mary Oliver (the Summer Day)
For more on death and resurrection in dreams go to the Dreaming Wizard website.
There is an uncontrolled and uncontrollable background world from which we are all born and out of which we motivate our lives. It is only through self-reflection, the art of transcending our conscious selves that we can discover a psychological resilience the likes of which the vast majority of people have never known or even knew was possible.
This is the art of reflecting on our experiences instead of being caught up in them. To do this one needs to gain some distance from them. For example, one can experience being depressed and become so wrapped up in the experience that it’s like being caught in a never-ending maze where you seem to wander aimlessly forever.
But transforming the experience from one of “being” depressed to the depression as being a signal that your approach to life has been outgrown and that a new approach needs to be developed can take you outside the experience and allow for a new perspective and change.
In short, by being your symptoms you can become lost, but by using the symptoms as signals of the psyche’s attempt to heal itself you can transcend, step out of, the maze. As with everything else the symptoms aren’t what’s causing the imbalance e.g. depression, they are only indicators that an imbalance exists. Too often we get caught up in our ego needs and forget that we are actually creatures of a much greater background world.
When we act as though we are our symptoms (fear, anxiety, depression, anger, powerlessness, etc.) we automatically try to avoid or cast out the demon. In other words, we try to reject rather than go into relationship with the symptom.
When we reject our feelings, our thoughts, or our unwanted memories we send the pains they cause into the dark cellars of our unconscious mind where they can fester and source all kinds of mischief. The art of reflection is the first step into dealing with our imbalances directly and one of the best ways of reflecting on our inner self is through the analysis of dreams. It is through our dreams that we can connect with that background world from which we all come.
In the dream it is the soul that reflects on itself while the ego sleeps rather than the daytime reflections of the ego upon itself that rarely produce any useful insight. Learning to see reality through your dreams can be a transforming experience.
The following is a draft section of a new book to be published later this year, “Morpheus speaks: The Book of Dreams” (RJ Cole, 2018).
Insight: Being possessed is an archetype itself (symbolic meaning that is found across all cultures). Many years ago people would employ priests or even lay mediums to exorcise an individual’s devil that has “possessed” them. But even now the old version of the primitive possessor demon lives within an unexplored psychic phenomena and acts out behaviors that are contrary to a person’s best interest. One only needs to look at how many so-called fearful “conservatives” will vote for the very issues and people who only mean them harm, directly or indirectly, to see the truth of that statement. All too often when we deny our complexes, our demons so to speak, we become possessed by them, we allow another force and energy to take over our lives.
Sadness, depression, anguish, anger, chaos, nightmare, disillusionment are all aspects of the dark night of the soul.
One can see them as aspects to avoid, supplant with loving thoughts or religious practice, or distracting regimens
One can see these aspects as the dark side of the soul that brings to light its more positive aspects.
The soul represents all the spiritual aspects of our being, those that we like and those that we don’t. But regardless of our ego’s point-of-view about the soul’s values the soul will express itself, it will insist upon full participation in the world.
Our response to its activity will either enable its participation or hinder it and to hinder it is to limit our own growth and spiritual evolution.
To the believer who imagines that only love can bring spirit into being and thus pastes over or varnishes their darker aspects with thoughts of only loving gesture I say you will fail for even the power of love knows that it needs to make room for its darker cousin.
One must face the issues of life and death and the values existent within that life regardless of whether approved of in order to bring true love to their own being and the being of all else.
We are all tried in the crucible of the soul’s dark night. To seek consolation from without through religion, or rituals designed to eradicate the darkness often results in less than success. Facing the darkness and wrestling with it can be liberating from the constant struggle to eliminate it that is fruitless.
Many see the full expression of love as being divine in and a reflection of our true nature. This is true but the operative phrase here is, “full expression” not partial expression or only those expressions that we deem acceptable.
There is an inner wisdom being offered to the dreamer who dreams images of being threatened, attacked, killed, killing, or chased and hunted down by dark figures. All are shadows of the hidden self, the dark hidden soul wanting to be expressed and dealt with openly and honestly instead of suppressed and reviled.
Contrary to many so-called wisdom teachers the dark night is not necessarily something to be overcome but acknowledged and brought into the light and dealt with openly. Remember the old folk sayings that darkness comes before the light or the storm before the dawn? This is partly true in that it is often through personal struggle that ones true nature and purpose is revealed.
But even with the best of intentions to integrate and thus grow oneself one can find themselves so immersed in the darkness that they cannot find themselves. For those who find they are thus trapped they may need the guidance, partnership, and counseling of one who knows how to work with the darkness and its integration with the light. I have found these guides in dream groups, spiritual teachers, psychologists, and psychotherapists. All have helped in this journey to full expression of the soul.