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Reply To: Dream a Little Dream . . .


I am so glad you began this dream discussion, Stephen, and thank you! As dreams and myths come from the same realm as both Campbell and Jung have said each in their own way(s), this place to share dreams is such a wonderful addition to the forum for those of us who dream and record our dreams. Like you, I regularly keep a dream journal and look to my waking world to see what the dream means (intends) to say to me, how it could be reflecting what is going on in my awake-world. Those who study dreams (whether in general or their own) have most likely heard/read that Jung believed that dreams were the “royal road” to individuation. Jung described individuation “as the process of synthesis of the Self which consists mainly of the union of the unconscious and the consciousness” (retrieved from this Jungian dictionary).

The patterns in one’s dreams as you discuss often coincide with patterns in our lives. Sometimes I have been surprised by how, looking back, I can see that a dream series involving a pattern has had such keys to unlock psyche and meanings of events in my life. Why did this or that have to happen? What was my dream pressing to tell me? Why did I wake from this dream feeling like there is something more I need to know? What does my psyche hold in its deep and/or dark that I should work on to improve myself and my life? These are some of the questions my dream contents can help with. I find that my dreams can guide me as psychopompos, like the Hermit card in the Tarot holding the lantern through the tunnels of the cave, reminding me of Campbell’s quote that, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

Yet while some people might have frequent nightmares and fear their dreams, not all dreams are scary and sinking down into sleep or the dream-world is not always disturbing; some dreams are beautifully fantastic, spiritually inspiring, and some are healing dreams. Some pleasant dreams also are according first to Freud and then Jung wish fulfillment dreams–a child might dream of a chocolate sundae, for example, and wake feeling happy; an adult craving chocolate could wake up quite happy from a dream like this also! I also find in my most joyous or most profound of dreams that often they come from those “places” or themes in myths that express something that rings true to me about the wonders of the cosmos. These are often rather than just wish fulfillment what Jung called the big dreams, or dreams that are particularly vivid and rich with archetypal symbols that are more rare in occurrence than our “little dreams” or more “normal” dreams. Not that a dream of chocolate ice cream cannot be mythic to a kid who loves going out for ice cream or to an adult, as everything can be mythic in the symbolic life as “life is but a dream” as in “Roll, Roll, Roll Your Boat,” but in my own dream life, my “big dreams” have a quality of “truth” or what I like to call “concept(s) of truth” as in when we hear that myths, while not necessarily true express truths about what is at the heart of the matter and do so in symbolic representation of the mythic idea. One such “big dream” I had was one I had in my 20s when all my grandparents were still alive, which I will go on to tell here:

I was the driver of a beautiful horse-drawn carriage/coach and drove to my paternal grandparents’ home in PA. Once there, I found my grandparents waiting on the front porch for me, looking very tired, worn, and weary. I hugged them and held them and then picked them up to help them onto the coach. Once in, they thanked me and then they told me where to go, to the otherworld, the world beyond. They told me they were ready to go. But this conversation was all done in silence–they had said not a word, but their expressions said it all. We then went over a beautiful bridge of silver and gold that went over a beautiful clear blue stream; its ripples sparkled from the sun like little starbursts of silver and gold that streamed along with the stream. As we approached the otherworld, there were trees with leaves of silver and gold, like brilliantly shiny coins. Before they crossed over, I woke up–it was not their time to go quite yet. I had the sensation that they just wanted to see this place to where they might go next, and I felt fortunate to get a glimpse of it and to help them get this glimpse of their own. I also remember that in the dream I felt fortunate to see something of what the myths spoke of–the afterlife, something that had always held a tremendous mystery to me–or “mysterium tremendum et fascinans” as coined by Rudolf Otto who also wrote, “…is only one appropriate expression, mysterium tremendum. . . . The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it… (retrieved from Britannica’s entries on mysterium tremendum et fascinans and Rudolf Otto).

I can also amplify this dream using the themes of or actual myths, as Jung was prone himself to do. Not long before I had this dream, I had been reading the Norse myths, and found some fascinans/fascination in the myth of Freya driving her chariot of cats to guide the souls of the deceased to the afterlife; this image struck me as unique at the time that cats guided her chariot rather than what we more commonly find, or horses. I can also amplify the coin motif in my dreams to the Greek myth to recall that Charon, the son of Erebus and Nyx (Night) had the duty of ferrying (like a psychopompos) souls across the River Styx to the Underworld (afterlife) and that each soul that received the rites of burial would pay him a coin to be placed upon the mouth of the deceased. We can also compare this, the coin placed upon the mouth of the deceased, to the Egyptian Book of the Dead of which the purpose was

“to instruct the deceased on how to overcome the dangers of the afterlife by enabling them to assume the form of several mythical creatures and to give them the passwords necessary for admittance to certain stages of the underworld” (from the Egyptian Book of the Dead ) (Emboldened emphasis mine). To the Egyptians, much like the heaven of Christianity,

The afterlife was considered to be a continuation of life on earth and, after one had passed through various difficulties and judgment in the Hall of Truth, a paradise which was a perfect reflection of one’s life on earth. After the soul had been justified in the Hall of Truth it passed on to cross over Lily Lake to rest in the Field of Reeds where one would find all that one had lost in life and could enjoy it eternally. In order to reach that paradise, however, one needed to know where to go, how to address certain gods, what to say at certain times, and how to comport one’s self in the land of the dead; which is why one would find an afterlife manual extremely useful. (also from Egyptian The Book of the Dead)

I am reminded in reading these articles that perhaps all the coins on the trees in my dreams which also reflected upon the stream of water could reflect upon all the coins of all the souls who have crossed over, and how crossing over leads to the new life representing the richness of life on earth is “carried on” ( I carried my grandparents to the carriage) or continued in the other realms. Whether this idea is an actuality or actually “true” or only a “concept in truth” or concept of a mythic truth as I like to call it is not of the foremost importance. Religions will tell you what the (their) truth is and believe it as actual; myths tell us today what is at the heart or the core of a belief or matter.

I did by the way soon after having this dream receive the gift of two kittens who were with me for many years before they passed over the bridge to the other realms! I did have a couple of “big dreams” involving my actual cats over the years, but most of them were the “little dreams” that were the more regular dreams. Whereas Cinderella’s mice turned into horses to guide her carriage, the horses in my dreams turned into two cats in my waking world–this pun is intended!

This dream I had of me as a sort of Freya character helping loved ones to the afterworld indeed is a pattern in my life; one working for Hospice, for instance, might have their own version of the dream. While this has not been my profession, in my waking world it did turn out that I have often been placed in a time in which I have been made somehow to there for those who were dying and needed someone to be with them at that time. Another way in which this dream expresses a pattern in my life is that I have had more than one near-death experience, one of which I was not expected to survive and was “resurrected” after being in a coma for two weeks after being bit by a bad mosquito before the Nile Virus was ever discovered. There–that too takes me back to my beloved Egyptian myths!

P.S. Later addition: Jung did say that all dream characters within a dream can represent the dreamer. It is possible too that my grandparents in the dream were also symbols of myself and my own wonder about any chances of there being an afterlife, one of life’s big questions for so many people; I was realizing at that time that they were getting much older and had many physical ailments. So if I look at the dream and all the dream figures (characters), my grandparents could represent me in the dream and so could the horses as an animal helper/totem/medicine for the vehicle to explore the answer. I am not saying this is the afterlife I believe in–just saying it is a representation of what I at the time idealized any chance of an afterlife to be. However, there are also those dream figures we can think of as not ourselves or as autonomous, from the autonomous level of the psyche.