September 1, 2020 at 7:47 pm #72553
Let’s talk about dreams!
Joseph Campbell spoke of myths as the collective dreams of humanity, and dreams as expressions of our private, personal mythology. For Jung, the recognition that he had no idea by what myth he was living, as he recounts in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, proved a seminal realization on his path to self-discovery.
Learning at whose altar we worship allows each a measure of conscious participation in the mythology structuring one’s life. Dream images open one window onto the elemental forces at play in our lives.
For me, this means faithfully attending to dream, which is more than just remembering a dream here and there. Regularly writing down my dreams, recording them in a dream journal, allows me to note recurring patterns.
For example, a common motif in my dreams several years back manifested in multiple vignettes where I found myself completely unprepared to take a scheduled test. The setting was always a school – sometimes high school, sometimes college, sometimes a real world school i knew and had attended, and sometimes a school existing only in dreamland, whether an archaic two-story brick building with arched passageways, or futuristic campuses in expansive settings
. . . but always a school.
In the dream I’d find myself sitting in the back seat of the far row of a difficult class – trigonometry, advanced German, molecular physics, etc. – abruptly realizing I had somehow spaced out that I was enrolled in this class all semester – and now, here it is the day of the final, as the instructor stands in front of the class on the opposite side of the room, handing out the exam!
My response is almost always the same: anxious, nervous, I find a textbook under my desk and open it for the first time, desperately flipping through the pages in hopes I can glean enough info to fake it and get a passing grade.
Yeah – that’ll happen . . .
In waking life I also keep a personal journal; over time I observed stress-inducing circumstances arising in my life about the same time I’d have one of these dreams. Did stress trigger the dream? Likely, but I can’t say for sure; the best I can do is note an association.
Have I changed the way I face stress through force of will to banish this recurring image? Not exactly . . . but the dreams did eventually evaporate. Tending to my dreams, becoming aware of that unconscious association, served to make me aware of patterns in my life that led to stressful situations, often revolving around impending deadlines and a lack of preparation. Just being aware of those patterns altered the gestalt enough that I stopped feeding this dynamic.
Recognizing the myth by which we live our lives sparks an awareness of the patterns active in our lives, and that awareness seems to make a difference that the muscular ego is unable to achieve through sheer force of will; indeed, it’s almost effortless and imperceptible . . . except that there is effort, consisting of the discipline of remembering and working with dreams.
For those who do work with your dreams, I’m curious what recurring motifs have drawn your attention? Which isn’t to say you know what they mean (not sure they “mean” anything; seems it’s more the experience that counts). Please feel free to expand on and add to this thread with your own thoughts and experiences.
“To sleep, perchance to dream” – sounds good to me!September 5, 2020 at 3:32 pm #72568
Hi Stephen and All,
I just posted a response to your post on dreams and dream patterns and am responding another time now just to add/mention that the recurrent patterns I have in my dreams are dreams of animals. Most my lifelong dreams–as was the same for James Hillman–are animal dreams. I frequently dream of animals whether domestic or wildlife and most are of spiders, wolves, lions, panthers, tigers, elephants, hawks, and monarch butterflies. Also anything that lives under or around water in lakes and oceans or rivers and streams. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! 🙂 Some of these are my main animal totems–I work with animal totems a lot, including in dreams.September 6, 2020 at 3:52 pm #72567
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.September 9, 2020 at 1:28 pm #72566
Thank you Stephen. I echo Mary’s message. On your question regarding recurring motifs, Mary wrote, “I frequently dream of animals whether domestic or wildlife and most are of spiders, wolves, lions, panthers, tigers, elephants, hawks, and monarch butterflies. Also anything that lives under or around water in lakes and oceans or rivers and streams. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Some of these are my main animal totems–I work with animal totems a lot, including in dreams.”
Mary, your connection to animals and your animal totem is very strong, and even the marine life plays a vital role in your dreams. Sorry, my comments might not be as meaningful, because these days I am off into different realms. But I wanted to say that whenever and wherever there are animals, they point you to a certain movement in your life. Animals move so beautifully. Look at cats, how graceful they are, each paw moves as if in space, or through a precise geometric calculation. Wherever, there are cats, it’s about your graceful movement through life. I also know you love Freya, the Norse-goddess, whose chariot is graced by cats.
I am hiking a lot during these COVID-19 times, and noticing wild life, and how it moves, and the message for us humans here. Just noticed, the dance-like walk of crows, and ravens. Their bodies move as if they were on a cat-walk. Now a snake too is super graceful, even a baby snake, twists and turns, and is a beauty to watch. So, for you, perhaps there is a message around movement through life, all supported by your quadrupeds, and winged friends. Spiders that have been around you a lot bring a message of your connection to the universe.
Personally, besides my dream of that beautiful hen, laying an egg, I have not had animal dreams lately, but I have spotted snails on many of my hikes. I just love the way, they lie silently in little corners, under a tree, or below some brush. Here is a picture of one of the three I encountered in my last hike:
Thank you for sharing your dream patterns.September 9, 2020 at 1:58 pm #72565
Looking for patterns in my dream, I noticed that these days, or for the past four months, I have been dreaming of deceased friends and family members. Might also be because I have been reading Peter Fenwick’s studies and experiments with the dying and their messages from the other side of the veil.
My last dream was of a very dear friend who passed away a few years ago. In this dream, he asked me to remain strong, and not move an inch from where I am. So, finding snails on my path, with their spiral bodies seems like a potent message. In another dream, my deceased best friend from college, who introduced me to Krishna Murti’s works, walked in with a basket full of white flowers and wore a satin-green blouse. Joy was written all over her. And again, I connected her visit with my mountain hikes. It was another dream, where I was telling her to believe me. “Believe me, I know the path from this forest (in Montreal) to your house (which happens to be in Karachi, Pakistan)” said I. She was not quite convinced.
As Hillman sees dreams less as a road to the unconscious than as the unconscious itself, “the psyche speaking to itself in its own language”. I find my psyche is speaking to me quite intensely through the dreams of my deceased friends and loved ones, providing me answers to the questions I have during the day.
In a recent dream, of a deceased relative, her sons were handing her body to me, but it was not even an adult’s body, just a tiny curled up being in a child’s pram. In my dream, I wondered as to where in the world I’d bury her, because I had no burial land for her nor for myself, therefore, her sons should have held onto the body.
I could go on and on and on with this pattern of dreaming, but yes, the other world is keeping me very busy.
“For those who do work with your dreams, I’m curious what recurring motifs have drawn your attention? Which isn’t to say you know what they mean (not sure they “mean” anything; seems it’s more the experience that counts). Thanks for asking this question and all the generous information you’ve poured here. Thank you Mary Ann for your marvelous contributions as well. You both are my dream gurus.September 13, 2020 at 10:09 pm #72564
Thank you for sharing your Big Dream, Mary! I find it enchanting, and appreciate your personal and mythic associations and amplifications. Clearly this dream has deep resonance, providing guidance and support throughout your life. Though I do enjoy discussing dreams, this one needs no elucidation from me (though each image triggers layer upon layer of associations in my mind, anything I add would reflect my concerns and the engagement of my waking consciousness, in the same way the imagery from another culture’s mythology can nevertheless stir one’s soul).
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?”
So very true. I certainly will ask such questions when reviewing my dreams. At the same time, thanks in part to James Hillman’s influence, I have come accept that the dream realm is independent of, rather than in service to, waking consciousness; a dream is an animal in its own right (to paraphrase Hillman), whose intention is not to convey a specific, exclusive message for me.
Of course, when we practice dream work, the usual question is “What does the dream mean?” (though it sounds similar, I believe that is a much more simplistic approach, in search of a definitive, black-and-white answer, than the series of questions you shared in your approach to your dreams). Interpretation is thought to aim at meaning – but no dream dictionary will capture that ethereal flow. Dreams are beyond meaning, not at all linear and literal; dreams instead suggest a holographic structure with a multitude of meanings, parallel and paradox, enfolded in each image – much the same as the imagery of music, poetry, theater, and the other arts . . .
What, after all, is the meaning of those first four notes of Beethoven’s fifth, or that F-sharp buried in the middle of a Tchaikovsky suite? What is the meaning of a color dancing through a Jackson Pollack painting, or the tone Jerry Garcia wrings from his guitar?
That doesn’t mean I don’t find meaning in dreams, the same way one can find “meaning” in other natural phenomena (oracles, for example: a shaman may find affirmation, insight, or warning in an abrupt deviation of the flight of birds, or the way smoke unfurls when burning sage), but that’s a meaning I bring to it when I engage these images. Meaning arises in subjective consciousness – but even within one person different possibilities arise, in response to the manifold layers of association embedded in each image presented to consciousness. In inner work, multiple and sometimes contradictory interpretations serve to flesh out the vapors of dream, and so paint a multidimensional portrait of the polymorphic psyche.
I understand and embrace the differentiation between little (personal) dreams and Big (archetypal) dreams, as Jung (and Campbell, following Jung) explains it – yet I’m not wedded to that distinction. Certainly I’ve experienced dreams that are of an order and magnitude far beyond my little subjective ego concerns – and yet I’ve recorded so many hundred of dreams over the years and find the line between “little” and “big” is not always so clear.
[Dreamtime] is the time you get into when you go to sleep and have a dream that talks about permanent conditions within your own psyche as they relate to the temporal conditions of your life right now…
Now the level of dream of “Will I pass this exam?” or “Should I marry this girl?” – that is purely personal. But on another level, the problem of passing an exam is not simply a personal problem. Everyone has to pass a threshold of some kind. That is an archetypal thing. So there is a basic mythological theme there even though it is a personal dream. These two levels – the personal aspect and then the big general problem of which the person’s problem is a local example – are found in all cultures.
(Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, p. 47)
When I return months or years later to a dream recorded in my journal, I find the clearly personal elements that speak so clearly to my circumstances at the time of the dream now open out onto something deeper, something more; the further I go beyond the subjective layer, the more clearly I apprehend even the most mundane images opening a door into the archetypal realms of the collective psyche.
Subtle nuances speak volumes in dream. Pun imagery, verbal or visceral, humorous or obscure, runs rampant. Dream images, like all components of psyche, are fluid, quicksilver – and quicksilver, mercury, is ruled by Hermes, a trickster, god of communication (and miscommunication). Wherever one thing is also another, whether symbolic ritual or trivial pun, Hermes hides in the ambiguity, cloaked in paradox, putting the alchemical flavor into dream work.
In dream we are immersed in the stuff of poetry – images wet, electric, self-luminous, and fluid – a nighttime sensurround toon town theater in 3-D, in which we are sometimes audience, sometimes extra, sometimes star – at times, all three. Here we dance in elysian fields, bathe in the wellsprings of creativity and pure imagination. Is it any wonder patterns we find there point to energies manifesting in waking realities?
Dream helps us relate to these patterns, and can bring us into a conscious harmony with the natural rhythms of life – but that’s just one aspect, and not my default starting point. Rather, when a dream follows me up from the depths of the psyche and past the threshold of consciousness into waking life, my initial response is aesthetic arrest. I return to it time and again, not to penetrate its secret meaning, but to revel in the experience and appreciate the beauty, color, and relationship of the imagery (to one another, and to the whole) within the field of the dream.
Over time, individual images evoke associations and cry out for amplification, and something personal and powerful gets going . . . but my immediate reaction is simply
Wow!September 13, 2020 at 11:33 pm #72563
Your dreamtime encounters with the deceased mirror my own experiences last summer into fall (August through November of 2019). During that time I was visited by a host of shades: my late mother (who passed the previous year) appeared with my father in one dream I recorded, and on her own in three other dreams (in fact, this “I see dead people” dream series began with a dream where my mother breathed into my mouth – not artificial respiration, but gently blowing warm breath as a ritual act of sorts); a good male friend who passed some 14 or 15 years ago, at age 49, appeared in two dreams (in one of which I recounted for him a tale of Zeus shattering the gold and glass body of the son of Hecate with a thunderbolt – though I am unaware of Hecate having a son); a former girlfriend and one of my best friends, whom I had known since seventh grade, appeared in two dreams; another romantic interest, 13 years my junior, who beyond our brief dalliance also became one of my closest friends, only to die a few weeks shy of her 49th birthday, showed up in a significant dream; another good friend in his seventies appeared in a dream of mine just weeks before his passing in October; and then a trio of well-known figures who had recently passed – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Leonard Nimoy, and billionaire David Koch – put in cameo appearances.
Several possible explanations come to mind – one of which may be that you and I, Shaheda, are people of a certain age, who know a good many more friends, relatives, and confidantes who have passed away than we did at age 20 … or 30 … or 40 (I’ll stop there, but you get the idea); as a result, could just be there’s an expanding pool of friends who have died that our psyches can draw on to populate our dreams.
The other possibility – just as likely, if not more so – is that the images of the dead serve as a bridge, whether to the underworld (“the other side”), or to Jung’s “collective unconscious,” bringing, as you put it, “messages from the other side of the veil” – which resonates with the dream act of Mary passing in the carriage with her grandparents over the Bridge of Gold and Silver into the otherworld. (Frankly, I’m not terribly concerned about drawing a distinction between the realm of the dead and the collective psyche; subtle differences there may be, but the congruence between the two seems apparent).
I can make personal and mythic associations in such instances to the circumstances of my waking life (and I do) . . . but, in my experience, these are far more than just abstract symbols.
For example, my mother died at the end of the first week of June in 2018; exactly two weeks before she passed, I encountered in dream my best friend Lisa (who had succumbed to cancer a few months before, at the age of 48 – exactly half my mother’s age). We met in a doorway, as I was passing into a rustic lodge of some sort, and she was heading out. We fell into animated conversation – felt like we had so much to say to each other, so much catching up to do – and enjoyed a sweet exchange there on the threshold.
Lisa paused a moment to let me know she had been asked to use her place to host a party for my mother. She seemed about to say more, but then turned her head, as if becoming aware of some interruption. She peered back into the room to her right, seemed to recognize someone, called out “Hi Diane!” – and then turned back, smiled at me, and continued on her way. I looked past the door in the direction Lisa had been looking, and there, on a couch, was my sister, Diane, hair disheveled, face bloated, expression a grimace, looking as if she had had a rough night.
I stepped through the doorway, and then I woke.
As I opened my eyes in the waking world, I automatically reached for my phone. Turns out a text had landed at exactly that moment – 7 a.m. – from my sister; though I don’t recall consciously hearing it, that “ding!” must be what interrupted the dream! Diane’s text was alerting me to a change in plans later in the day; she was feeling under the weather after a shitty night’s sleep, having been awake since 2 a.m.
Frankly, I had spaced that we had plans to meet later in the day to discuss my mother’s situation. We don’t see each other that often, she wasn’t in the habit of texting me, and I don’t have different ring tones or message alerts for different individuals, so there is no reason my brain would have expected my sister was be texting me and so translated that realization into a subconscious dream image.
What I found myself wondering is, “How did Dream Lisa know?” The text from my sister alerting me she was sick interrupted the dream – just as, in the dream, my conversation with Lisa was interrupted when she turned to acknowledge my sister, who was clearly not well. (Lisa had met Diane only once, in passing, many years before – little reason for my psyche to connect the two.)
Dream Lisa telling me she was preparing a welcoming party for my mother might possibly be explained away as a function of subconscious associations: Lisa had died shortly before, my mother was dying now, so could easily be a soothing production of my unconscious psyche, reconciling me to the inevitable – there is a sort of logic to that.
But there is no way Lisa within my dream could have known that a message outside the dream from my sister was interrupting our exchange … and yet she did.
Not the only time an encounter in dream with a resident of the otherworld / underworld has bent the bonds of time and space, but this remains one of my favorites. Definitely reassuring to know preparations for my dying mother’s arrival were under way on the other side . . .September 14, 2020 at 6:54 pm #72562
” there were trees with leaves of silver and gold, like brilliantly shiny coins”
Hi Stephen and Mary et al.,
I am answering one part of Mary’s dream-post, but in clicking reply to her post, the entire thread comes through. I wonder if the responses could be post-by-post, instead of for the whole thread? Just asking. Know, that I’ll write a response to your post later, Stephen.
I am going through your ‘dream-a-little-dream’ post in pieces. Scenes that stand out for me, images that I too, might have seen in some form or another, expressions that revealed more than words … So, here is one that I wanted to elaborate upon.
Mary, you wrote,
“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”
Joe Campbell’s words seem to define this kind of a dream. “Dream talks about permanent conditions within your own psyche as they relate to the temporal conditions of your life right now. “ (Power of Myth (POM)) In your dream, the permanent conditions of psyche are rich beyond words, i.e., “sparkled from the sun like little starburst of silver and gold”. Robert Johnson says that to understand our dreams we must ritualize them. Looks like an autumn scene in parts of New England and Quebec (Canada). Nowhere in the world have I seen such brilliant autumn colors.
My dreams, in general, come from my own experiences in life, experiences that have influenced me, yet I am unfamiliar of their impact or aspects of the influences, intrigues, nuances, especially my legal escapades.
So in one recent dream, which has baffled me, yet, it links my dream images with yours, in the way the sunlight shone through a glass pane. Borrowing your words, “sparkled from the sun like little starbursts of silver”. In this particular dream, I am in a room, with a glass-ceiling, looks more like a sun-room. A man from my neighborhood in Massachusetts points to the glass-ceiling. Now, I have seen rooms with glass-ceilings on 2 or 3 occasions, but this one was extraordinary. Here the sunlight streamed through the glass-pane and made lovely diamond-like patterns on the floor below. “I never knew this room existed”, said I. The literal meaning of a glass-ceiling is, “an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities.” On waking up, I wondered about the glass-ceiling, but more importantly the room itself.
Joe said, “dream is a personal experience of that deep dark ground that is the support of our conscious lives..” (POM) …I could connect the circumstances of my life in those dark times, and the glass-ceiling. “Journey begins… in dreams and in mythology, this is often symbolized by strange new rooms in houses, a distant land, a forest, a Kingdom beneath the waves … a secret island . . . but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds and impossible delight.” (Call to Adventure- POM). That strange new room pointed me to a new adventure then, a new landscape. Impossible deeds indeed, yet looking forward to the ‘impossible delight part”, Mary Ann.
You wrote, “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. ” Again, Joe’s words would be most appropriate for the images that you encountered, “The dream is an exhaustible source of spiritual information about yourself. “ And also, as Marion Woodman said, “ the very destiny of the soul is directed through dreams.”
Dream a little dream.
ShahedaSeptember 21, 2020 at 3:07 pm #72561
Hi Stephen, Everyone,
I am sorry for my late response to you and everyone. I enjoyed your response very much, and find myself in agreement with you. My post was certainly not thought out or planned very much and was rather spontaneously written, without drafting or planning, so there is no way that one such short post of essay could contain all I think or believe about dreams in general or this one dream. Each and every dream, especially with archetypal content, could merit its own book if going into detail. What stood out for me the most in your response was your remark that sometimes there seems little difference between a “big dream” and a “little dream” followed by your quoting Campbell. It seems so true to me as well that sometimes it is hard to discern between a big or little dream because many dreams contain elements of both. One case example I can think of from my own life is that when I was much younger I used to dream that there was a glass of water at my bedside/nightstand and I would reach for it to take a drink and wake with my hand closed into a grasping fist around the glass of water that was not “really” there. I could ask myself if this was a wish fulfillment dream (if I was thirsty in my sleep!) or if the glass of water and drinking stood for (was a symbol of) something else, something larger. I could ask, What might I be thirsting for? What elixir of life might be in that glass? What do the waters of life hold for me? What do I want/need to take in? Yet, it might not have been that “heavy”–it might have been all very “little,” that I was simply thirsty in my sleep a lot of times.
After reading your response, thinking about Hillman, I wrote the following blog. It was a subject matter and blog I had been planning to write for quite a while now, but your response reminded me to write about my thoughts on Hillman’s concepts of dreams. This blog also mirrors some subject matter I wrote about in a paper a few years back when I took a dream work class, so it is not entirely new. I hope someday to merge this blog with the earlier paper I wrote to produce another draft of the paper. The paper was about a dream I had in which I was analyzing the dream animal and other dream figures as autonomous, looking at the dream from the views of Freud, then Jung, then Hillman, and with Aizenstat’s dream-tending. However, in the end, I found that all the various theories held some merit as to possible meanings of the dream. Here is the recent blog I wrote which contains furthered thoughts into my ideas about dreams and reactions too to Hillman (I added extra indentation to my blog entry):
I refer the reader of this blog to this article on Archetypal Psychologist James Hillman who is often quoted as saying that dreams have no meaning. Do you take his statement that dreams have no meaning as 100% concrete or do you regard it as true if looked within a particular context–or contexts, since Hillman is so multitudinous in each or any of his ideas–of his own meaning? Decide that, what works best for you with your own psyche, then take it from there. I also refer the reader to my post just prior to this one about my dream of being a Freya-type driver of a carriage to the afterlife and back.
If dreams have no meaning…what a difficult question this is for me to ask, as I am all about dream meanings!
If dreams, as mythologist Joseph Campbell said, come from the same place myths come from (and poetry, btw), and if dreams have no meaning (as Hillman is known to have said), then why do we love, read, and study/contemplate the myths? As Campbell is noted for asking, “What is the message [meaning] of the myth?” (brackets mine). Many people search the myths and also their dreams for meaning, whether mythologists and depth psychologists like myself or not. Most people seem to find meaning (to various extents) in some of their dreams, and find no meaning in other of their dreams. If Hillman really meant that dreams have no meaning, then I would have to say that I would not subscribe 100% to Hillman’s notions about dreams or their function. I dare add that if in a moment Hillman actually meant that dreams 100% of the time have 100% no meaning, that Hillman did not think this 100% of the time, for it seems that elsewhere in his writings he contradicts that statement, but I will get to that later after discussing Freud and Jung who came first in the realm of dream interpretation in depth psychology.
I myself (there is no other “myself” or “I” even if I contain multitudes! and Hillman would agree to that, that we all contain multitudes as surely as the poet Walk Whitman did) subscribe to all three of the best-known minds in depth psychology when it comes to the ideas of dreams: Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Hillman, and ascribe each their dream theories to various dreams of mine and to the dreams of others that I analyze and help interpret. Some dreams are wish fulfillment (Freud), some are residual (Freud and Jung), some are the “little dreams” while others are the “big dreams” that contain archetypal content that is of numinous effect upon the dreamer (Jung); still, some might seem “meaningless” and as if they are their own animal (as in how could this possibly have come from my own mind or my own psyche?–it must be its own occasion or phenomena!) (Hillman); and, sometimes I see merit in each of these theories all in the one same dream.
For instance, in my “Freya Dream,” I could say it was a wish fulfillment dream since at that time in my early life I was curious about what it would be like to be old and what might the afterlife be or look like if indeed there was any; my wish was to see it, so perhaps my psyche/dream granted this wish for me. But according to my belief system, I might ask did my psyche alone provide this wish or was this providence a divine providence? To answer that, if it was of a divine providence, then what of the “coincidence” that I was reading about the Norse myths at the time and had encountered the myth of Freya, the Norse goddess whose chariot was pulled by cats as she would take the souls of the deceased to the heavens? It thus seems likely it was then a residual dream. However, this residual information must have had some type of numinous affect upon my psyche (or did it really?) to register itself in a dream. Since I read about the image of Freya in a mythology text, it is then not too surprising or huge that I had a dream in which there was large archetypal material, since the myths are all about archetypes. However, how it presented personally to me with the people in my life (familiar and thus residual as residing in my life), made it all the more numinous to me even if the image of Freya was residual, from the residue in my psyche from reading the myth. Whether the image I received of the afterlife is “real” or “authentic” or “true” or not is not the big matter here; the matter at hand that really counts on my fingers is that I had this opportunity to view such archetypal content in the dream that I could even associate and amplify to other myths (that granted, I had already known about and read). It is the beauty and the sacredness of the dream event, of what was important to me in my life (my beloved grandparents all getting older and closer to death and dying and the realization that I would “lose” them in the near future) that mattered, that spoke to my heart. And that it spoke to my heart was its meaning and that it spoke to my psyche in a big archetypal way was its meaning too.
If I were to strip it of its meaningfulness to my psyche and soul, then I could say it was meaningless; but, I cannot do that. Can I still say it was its own animal? That is possible. I could say that Freya and these other images in my dream exist historically and culturally in myths and live there in those texts of culture and book and myth as their own “facts” whether true or untrue, actual gods and places or not. For, to be its own animal, the image of Freya would have to be live somehow somewhere in some content or context as the “living image.” It does not matter how it lives or where it lives as long as the image is living. And it lived in my psyche and dream that night. Hillman calling the dream figure like a dog or circle or person its own animal is quite akin to Jung’s concept of the autonomous ‘level’ of the psyche or of autonomous dream figures and dream images. The “animal” in my dream (or animals) was (were) the horse. Horses replaced the cats that pull Freya’s chariot that replaced the horses in the first place–so my psyche associated the cats to horses, seeming to prefer the horses. And then the humans in my dream–my grandparents and myself) were the human animals in the dream.
It is my perspective that there is usually no one right or one wrong way of looking at or regarding a dream, that dreams can contain multitudes of meanings or meaninglessnesses, that several theories and perspectives can each have validity at once in any one dream and to whatever extent that is to be found, that there can be more than one “truth” to a dream or most any other situation. I as one person, if I too contain multitudes, can maintain any amount of “truths” or interpretations or amounts of meaningfulness or meaninglessness. I could ask myself if it was meaningful to me even if another person could not find anything of meaning in it.
I like to think that when a dream is its own animal, and if we regard it then as the living image, that we have respect for it in its own right or rite of dream passage and perhaps simply wonder at the gift it brought with it in its appearance. I may have to then wonder, however, what was the meaning of the gift, as well as of the myth.
I leave the reader with one last consideration. If Hillman really intended to say 100% that dreams have no meaning, then why in one of his books on dreams did he go on to describe various and numerous meanings or various and numerous dreams right after saying to ascribe dreams no meaning? It would seem he contradicted himself, and it does seem he was aware that he contradicted himself, for he does offer a (sort of) apology, saying that, Well, if you MUST give them a meaning, here are some to consider type of thing. I can add one last thought: that some of his dream meanings have nothing to do at all with mine and I do not always subscribe 100% to all his dream meaning interpretations either. Sometimes what we think and say about a dream says more about us than it does the dreamer, because it can be true, as Jung says, that “We do not see things the way they are, we see things the way we are” (emboldened emphasis mine). That is why dream dictionaries are often no help at all.
One of your dreams I meant to respond to by now that really gripped my attention and is fascinating is the unknown animal breathing on the other side of your door. That in and of itself perhaps has at least one of its possible meanings as the concept of a dream being its own animal. I thought of that dream of yours as I read your response. Of course, it could have many other possible meanings as you have already mentioned. I liked readings about your mysterious dream image because the animal could have been anything, and I found myself imagining all the different types of animals or creatures it could be as the living image!September 21, 2020 at 3:46 pm #72560
Hi Shaheda, thanks so much for your response, and your ideas and your dream you include are expressed in a way that is so lovely. It always delights me when two people (or more, of course) have the same types of archetypal images come up in dreams which demonstrates the universality of the archetypal symbols even when they present/express to different people in different ways/variations. There is a theory that archetypes too shift (Mercury) and evolve just as we do, that the archetypes go through their own type of growth and individuation so to speak. When a symbol is known to conscious psyche, it does make the “dream dictionary” definitions of things in a dream such as the glass ceiling more apparently meaningful to an individual–and as you say the meaning of the glass ceiling which you provided here is a literal definition. So even though I usually do not look to dream dictionary type definitions for dreams, I like how you add and consider the definition for the glass ceiling that you came across and may have been consciously aware of prior to the dream. What really stands out to me are the diamond patterns you say the sparkling glass makes on the floor. That sounds so very special and rather numinous. I could give rather quick possible meanings of the dream or things to consider which I am sure you already have, that even with the definition of the glass ceiling being literal as in meaning no advancement (what is above you) that at your feet what presents itself anyway are beautiful diamonds of sparkling richness of earth material and gems/mythologems. (I say mythologems, knowing you.) The song “Diamonds on the souls of her shoes” comes to mind too, but it does not have to be material wealth but gifts nonetheless from the “inner” earth come to surface and at your very feet (what is beneath you). It sounds like a beautiful image and perhaps the glass ceiling is not a limitation in career with no room for advancement but instead a clear vision into higher floors/realms, clear sight into the sky or ceiling of ‘beyond.’ It reminds me of the Qabalistic maxim of “As above, so below. As without, so within.” It reminds me too of the diamond soul, the diamond mind, the diamond sutra. And that all sounds very much like brilliancy, brilliant thoughts, feelings, and words, brilliant mind and soul, or psyche and soul.
I also enjoyed the Campbell quotes you applied to my dream and I thank you for those and they are so fitting. The journey to the afterlife was very much a ritual, a ritual journey, and it was also where I was at the time feeling the tiredness and weariness of my grandparents’ in their old age in my heart as compared to how they were when they were young. It is interesting to me to think of this dream now that I am now a grandmother and also am finding my body (or mind for that matter, lol, when I forget things sometimes!) is not what it used to be. It is also true that my dream was about a permanent condition in my psyche because a lot of my life has been about death (as I mentioned in my earlier post), just as Stephen said to you that at our age we have had more people we know and love die by now. And there is more I will not discuss here now. And here I think way back to Alison’s post (when the forum was just starting up again!) about trying to save the dead bird and then all the dead birds in my yard after that in a storm. Throughout my life, as in many lives, a big question was always the question of death, what it was like, what might be after life, etc. so that is a permanent thought in my psyche, and of course too it is hard not to wonder about it when one was raised in a Catholic family and Catholic school!
Thanks so much, Shaheda!September 25, 2020 at 1:22 am #72559
Never any need to apologize for a “late response.” Fortunately, this is not social media, but a discussion board, where conversations unspool at their own pace. I definitely need time after reading a post, especially those as lengthy as you and I tend to write (I am cursed with excessive verbosity) to let the ideas encountered there simmer and percolate on a back burner in my brain before I’m ready to share my thoughts. It’s wonderful if someone replies in minutes, which is more a function of being in the right place at the right time when a post lands – but if that takes days, or weeks, no worry.
And sometimes I’ll reply a couple of times to a single post, maybe focusing on just one idea, then coming back later to address another, rather than try to work everything into just one post. Not this time though . . .
As for James Hillman claim that dreams have no meaning, I don’t necessarily see that as an either/or –but it does explain why dream dictionaries are wholly inadequate. They can help us amplify some of the symbolism in a dream image, which can give our own thoughts and associations a nudge, but there is no objective, independent meaning to, say, losing a tooth in a dream. For a male struggling with erectile dysfunction (or, say, inadequacies on the job), freudian variations on a sense of impotence might be relevant; for someone facing retirement, lost of a tooth could relate to failing faculties and the sense of one’s own mortality; but to a six year old, might represent a new, exciting stage of life.
I am reminded of Joseph Campbell declaring he doesn’t believe life has a purpose (“Life is a lot of protoplasm with an urge to reproduce and continue in being.”). When Moyers challenged him, saying “Not true–not true,” Joe replied, “Wait a minute. Just sheer life cannot be said to have a purpose, because look at all the different purposes it has all over the place” – indeed, the fox and the hen are pretty much at cross-purposes.
Or, as Campbell asked (I’m paraphrasing here), “What’s the meaning of life? What’s the meaning of a flea? or a baby? or a sneeze?”
Elsewhere he observes, “What’s the meaning of life? You bring the meaning to it.”
So it is with dream. The Dream has no meaning, in and of itself; meaning is a function of the Dreamer, not the Dream.
That’s a bit of a simplistic condensation of Hillman’s thought, in contrast to others. I embrace all perspectives on dream, even those seemingly at odds (when one is working in the field of mythology, it helps to be willing to accept paradox) .
When I work with a dream, I find it often contains important information and insights relevant to my circumstances, my life (small wonder – so much is going on in any dream – but the little bits and pieces I bring back with me into consciousness I remember because of how they resonate with what is happening in my life, revealing feelings I’ve stuffed, possibilities I had not considered)
. . . but I also treat a dream as I would any work of art – incredible, mysterious, and beautiful all on its own.
And then there’s another level – the precognitive dream. Sometimes that can be quite specific (such as, back in the day when I was broke and thumbing my way around the country, waking from a dream where the right lens in my spectacles broke – and then, curious about that image as I was writing down the dream, pulling the glasses off my head to take a look and the right lens falls out in my palm – instead of, as it would have minutes later, shattering on the sidewalk; tending to that dream saved me from a disaster, as there is no way I could have afforded to replace my glasses at that point in my life. Did that dream have meaning? would it for anyone else? if I had not written it down and pondered it, still would have been the same dream, but would it have meaning then? Can’t really say, but sure felt like it held a message for me).
And sometimes the pre-cognitive aspect is an intense feeling-tone related to what’s to come. Here’s one such example from January 13 of this year:
In this dream, there is smoke, and then a huge explosion to the southwest, across a body of water (a little creek). Despite being some distance away, I can see the smoke turning dark, then dramatic explosion, followed by debris blowing up into the air, and realize there is nothing I can do to control where it comes down, no place I can hide – it’s all going to be random luck, one way or another.
This was just about the time we were starting to catch wind of a mysterious virus killing people in China. Six weeks later, when people in the United States started dying, same sense of nowhere to hide stuck when the coronavirus hit the United States – no control over whether or not we are exposed. I immediately looked up this dream: same intense anxiety, sense of trauma, near panic, powerlessness, and then resignation, in waking life as in this dream – but having had that dream helped me process what I experiencing inside about Covid.
Is that the meaning of the dream, it’s purpose? I certainly found relevance in it, and it did make a difference in my life, and hw I related to these energies, but I can’t say that was the dream’s intent.
Nevertheless, that happens for me a lot!
One final thought regarding the animal breathing the other side of the door in the dream I mentioned above. I didn’t make this connection until you asked the question, but a few nights later there was a dream where I opened a door and a huge (HUGE) cockroach or beetle came in. It’s body was about the size of a Ford Escort, but with a tiny head. I remember thinking this was strange, definitely Other, but neither threatening nor scary – no anxiety at all; rather, I was entranced.
The anxiety and fear only seem apparent in those dreams where I can’t bring myself to open the door.
Forgive this scattershot approach, tossing out some brief reactions. Don’t feel the need to respond – only reply to what intrigues you, a trail in the woods you want to explore.October 11, 2020 at 12:55 am #72558
I woke in the dark at 3:30 a.m. from a brief dream (at least the part I remembered was brief), where I am on a rock or earthen platform somewhere in a rugged area with the feel of the American southwest, and the sense that this is an archaeological site. There is a female guiding me, dark hair in a sophisticated pixie cut a’la Audrey Hepburn c. 1967 (and, come to think of it, my fifth grade teacher that same year, Diane Storli – my first real teacher crush), who speaks with authority about what we see. We are looking at zig-zag lines several feet long gouged into a dry gully at the edge of the platform, maybe at the base of a cliff.
The Lady tells me these were made in the long ago by the snake cult that was sacred here. She shows me a real red-black snake that this image is supposed to depict (not an alternating red-and-black pattern, but a reddish-black color, such as in a Rothko painting), maybe only three feet long or less – definitely not as long as the zig-zag pattern itself. She holds the snake stretched straight – no zigzag rhythm of a serpent in motion. I step to the far end of the platform to take a closer look at it on the altar, which also holds a heart-shaped wreath formed of red foliage – I am to place the Snake there.
When I wake I immediately think of rock art – petroglyphs, found in so many pre-literate cultures around the world, though most I’ve seen are in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Hawaii. Zig-zag lines are common; besides snake, I wonder about water, as I am reminded of the meanders Marija Gimbutas points to in neolithic art, and in dream I see this image on the side of a dry gully, which at one time must have carried water.
Popping online at that early hour of the morning, I found two different-yet-overlapping and intriguing articles in scholarly journals about the rock art of the Saami people, a reindeer herding people in what is Finnland today. The zigzag pattern can be found in petroglyphs, and also on the drumheads of their shamans, representing snakes (the adder – whose name in their tongue is a synonym for shaman); in trance visions triggered by rhythmic drumming, the shaman transforms into a snake to visit the Under/Otherworld.
The zigzags also signify water, lightning, and power, sometimes all at once (multiple associations and meanings are layered in to any given symbol).
According to a number of works, zigzag motifs in rock art from the desert and mountain areas of the American southwest seem to mirror the same nexus of associations (snakes, lightning, water).
A wealth of information imparted in dream that comports with findings of archaeological studies of actual sacred sites from many different cultures around the world – a numinous experience, courtesy of the collective unconscious! I’m making associations to this image in the dream, and more on waking – and then find that countless others across many cultures appear to have arrived at the same space.
I am reminded of Joseph Campbell’s aphorism:
Dreams are private myths.
Myths are public dreams.October 11, 2020 at 5:48 pm #72557
Stephen, what a rich dream world. The symbols in this dream seem to be pointing to the underworld, the snake, the red foliage (autumn leaves), perhaps time to harvest, as when you, ” step to the far end of the platform to take a closer look at it on the altar, which also holds a heart-shaped wreath formed of red foliage – I am to place the Snake there.”
Thanks for posting your research methodology as well, this is very helpful. I had a similar dream at one time, where the road with diamond patterns was the road I followed, however, my research methods stopped at looking at ski-trails where trails are marked with various geometric symbols, and the diamond shapes are: “ There are fewer people on these runs, mainly because of our basic survival instinct. These are the runs that make even atheists pray to God. If you’re not a true expert you have just made a huge mistake. ” So, I wondered at my mistakes in life, and what ought I to do, and stopped there, because the mistakes got me thoroughly depressed.
It was more like the image “A” – A rhombus whose opposite sides are equal. But it can also be viewed as a cross, and if, I take Joe Campbell’s interpretation of the cross, it would be ” the cross has dual sense: one, of our going to the divine; the other, of the divinity coming ….”
I also noticed that now, if you search a Joe Campbell quote, or other Joe Campbell references, you find your way back to JCF’s Joseph Campbell quotes database, which is a treasure house for the best Joe references. In the past, I’d go to websites such as the Brainy Quotes, or invariably to Bill Moyer’s Power of Myth videos etc. This new link (perhaps not so new?) new to me, that is, is indeed most helpful.
ShahedaOctober 12, 2020 at 7:15 pm #72556
Where to begin, Shaheda? I think I’ll make this just a brief, off-topic reply to the following tangential (but much appreciated) observation:
You conclude your comment above with the following:
I also noticed that now, if you search a Joe Campbell quote, or other Joe Campbell references, you find your way back to JCF’s Joseph Campbell quotes database, which is a treasure house for the best Joe references. In the past, I’d go to websites such as the Brainy Quotes, or invariably to Bill Moyer’s Power of Myth videos etc. This new link (perhaps not so new?) new to me, that is, is indeed most helpful.
At JCF we started compiling this database a few years ago in response to the proliferation of Joseph Campbell quotes on the Internet. Many are improperly sourced, or not sourced at all, while others are either misquotes or even things Campbell never said. Of course, any author who wants to quote Joseph Campbell in a published work needs permission from JCF, which is Campbell’s literary heir – but we can’t grant permission if we don’t know where in Campbell’s vast corpus (which includes audio and video lectures as well as interviews) the passage in question appears (and part of the requirement for granting permission is that the individual using the quote provide a reference when they cite it; readers can then look up the quote in context, and see for themselves if Campbell’s observation actually supports whatever point an author is making).
It is surprising, though, how many people when filling out the form for Michael Lambert (who handles Rights and Permissions for the Foundation), instead of providing a source, simply supply a link to wherever on the Internet they stumbled across those words (such as Goodreads, Brainy Quotes, etc.); alas, that’s not a source – the title of the work and where within that book or audio or video Joe uses these words – but simply someplace in cyberspace that repeats the unsourced passage.
Though either Michael, David Kudler (managing editor of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell), or myself often have a pretty good idea of what work an unsourced quote might be from, it can take any or all of us hours, days, and even weeks or longer to track down a quote or determine it is a misquote. Over the course of a year that adds up to a lot of man-hours doing other people’s research for them (for free).
So we start compiling a searchable database of known quotes to make that task easier – and we keep adding to it. I essentially serve as the “quote maven” for JCF, maintaining the database (I’ve added over 300 of the currently nearly 500 sourced quotes, and continue to researching the many that are unsourced: we have a “pending” file with nearly a hundred more likely Campbell quotes – most of these we’re pretty sure Joe said, but these are harder to find – I spend about six hours a month whittling away at this list, which keeps expanding).
Now the public is able to search the database of sourced quotes (which you link to in your post above). We really appreciate that Googling a Campbell quote brings one back to JCF, which is the most comprehensive (and accurate) list available. Thanks for bringing that up.
Of course, if anyone does have trouble finding a Joe quote, something they are sure he said that doesn’t seem to appear in the database, they can feel free to pose question in the Joseph Campbell Quotes forum here in Conversations of a Higher Order, and harness the power of the group mind . . .October 28, 2020 at 6:10 pm #72555
Here’s a follow-up returning the focus to dreams.
The articles I found online researching zigzag petroglyphs were The snake and zig-zag motifs in Finnish rock paintings and Saami drums, by Eero Autio in the January 1991 Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 14:52-79, and
A Touch of Red : Archaeological and Ethnographic Approaches to Interpreting Finnish Rock Paintings, by Antti Lahelma, published by the Finnish Antiquarian Society in Helsinki in 2008
The following morning I looked through several books I have on rock art and petroglyphs in the American southwest. Though hundreds of images are documented in all these works, the most substantial volume, in terms of scholarship, is Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park, text by Todd W. Bostwick (M.A. in Anthropology, Ph.D. in History), published by the University of Arizona Press in 2002 – a study of hundreds of images etched into rocks and cliffsides in and around Phoenix, Arizona.
Whether found in Finland or the southwestern U.S., zigzags appear to relate to water, lightning, snakes and shamans (occasionally all at once) and carry tremendous power.
What’s more, both Lahelma’s A Touch of Red and Bostwick’s Landscape of the Spirits reference the same study by J.D. Lewis-Williams and Thomas A. Dowson from 1988: The Signs of All Times: Entoptic Phenomena in Upper Paleolithic Art, which appeared in Current Anthropology Volume 29(2), p. 201-45. This work finds three stages of trance experienced by individuals under altered state of consciousness (whether induced by hallucinogenic plants, drumming and dancing, etc.), apparently grounded in the neuropsychology of humans.
In the early stages of such a trance experience one encounters pure geometric shapes (referred to as “form constants” or “phosphenes”: this can include grid lines, parallel lines, dots and circles, zigzags, nested curves, filigrees, meanders, and vortices (spirals, concentric circles, circles with dots. In later stages these shapes become stylized and combine with human and animal forms.
This certainly resonates with my own experience of altered states via psychedelics: mushrooms, peyote, mescaline, morning glory seeds, datura, DMT (dimethyltryptamine), and LSD. Also, without the use of psychedelics, usually once or twice a month I will see glowing, translucent, crystalline zigzag lines of light rimming the edge of my field of vision, accompanied by an intense, pleasant, streaming sensation aka ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), that might last ten minutes to half an hour.
Though this is no means a Jungian work, the observations and conclusions suggest to me a biological/neurophysiological origin of archetypal imagery.
Since the scholars I looked up see an association between zigzags, snakes, and shamanic journeys into the netherworld, I’d agree with your assessment that “The symbols in this dream seem to be pointing to the underworld . . . ”
And no surprise. The creative project that I’m immersed in right now revolves around my one and only encounter with a real live ghost (pun intended), in the spring of 2005, in room 329 of the 134-year-old Delaware Hotel in Leadville, Colorado (Leadville, an old silver mining town, is at 10,152 feet elevation literally the highest incorporated community in the United States, very much part of the wild west – Doc Holliday shot his last man here).
I was not looking for, or expecting to see, a ghost, but I did. During our brief encounter she addressed me (“And you’ll be completing Pandora’s Box?”), which after years of reflection I have taken as an assignment. After much research I have learned not only who she is, who killed her, and what led up to that, but also her maiden name, where she was born, where she was raised (all the way across the country from where she was born), and a wealth of other material.
Now I’m wrestling all that together, using the myth of Pandora as a framing tale (Pandora was originally a name of the Earth Goddess, who bestows her gifts equally upon all (pan = all; dora = gift), but in the wake of the invasions of patriarchal Indo-European peoples that overwhelmed the goddess-oriented cultures of the peninsula and isles of Greece, Italy, and Asia Minor, Pandora morphs into a beautiful evil Zeus gives to mankind as punishment (long, elaborate, multi-layered story there with its original in the war between the Titans and the Olympian pantheon, but that’s the gist).
So lots to play with – and this very much involves a visit to the underworld of myth.
As for your dream, I loved the image of following the diamond road. Yes, there is danger to those ski trails, but I wonder about the mistakes you have made, as that’s in the past – the road you have already traveled. Seems the diamonds relate to what lies ahead. Perhaps more significant is that you don’t recognize that you – yes, you! –are one of the “true experts.”
A diamond – hard, translucent, bright – can be considered a “mature” crystal, a symbol of perfection (so I can see the linkage with expertise). They are also apotropaic – a talisman against poisons, diseases, evils, nightmares, wild animals, ghosts, sorcerers, and other terrors of the night. It also relates to innocence, wisdom, and spiritual truth.
I do like your associations of the diamond with the cross, which can be both shattering and an expression of wholeness at once (whether working with dreams or myths, it’s essential to be willing to embrace paradox).
I am intrigued that both our dreams contain geometric shapes – finding the bedrock beneath all the drama?
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