Dream Seminar

Retrieval of the Relationship to Mystery

July 19, 1997
Leidarljos, Brekkubae, Iceland

The Unfoldment of the Play

…”every dream is a unique and spontaneous creation of the psyche, and the psyche is capable of using anything to mean anything.” (John A. Sanford)

A dream will only make sense in the context of your life.

What to look for!

  • The scene – Clues to the present inner environment of your psyche.  What attitudes stand out?
  • Note any sense of time the dream emphasizes, or a time you are reminded of. 
  • Note the emotional tone, feelings about the environment, particular buildings/structures. Are there immediate personal associations?  What comes to mind?
  • Who is on stage and what is actually happening – remember, this will be a representation of some aspect of your life or truth within or an archetype within mankind’s  story– all the players are aspects of yourself – be they male, female, child, flower or stone.
  • Does there seem to be a general focus or motif?

If one chooses to attend a play, you are interested and come to see and be affected in some way.  One has chosen to be present and to see what is.  When a similar attitude exists towards the dream, and you are able to see what is going on without any moral intentions or judgments, trusting that everything in the dream is ultimately there to bring healing to one’s soul, one can be instructed, one can befriend the loathsome and the unlovable and one can build compassion for one’s own pilgrimage on this earth.

There is a common term you may be familiar with in relation to “observing the play within” – and that is, Inner Work (by Robert Johnson).  In inner work, we witness, we attend to what has arisen spontaneously, we pay attention to our own mystery, attend to our own individual evolutionary contracts and to our own unique wisdom.

Here, God’s ground is my ground and my ground is God’s ground – a quote from the 13th century mystic, Meister Eckhart.  In the dream, the Divine and the human share space.

Eckhart is even more specific – “The need to find God is more pressing than the need for food, drink, clothing, or comfort.”

In doing inner work we are reaching for the “utterly dependable Divine Core.” (Bellhouse).  A door is opened to a tolerance of, and an evolving ordering of our life, and we are invited to live patient excitement as we receive necessary, homeopathic doses of the suffering, guilt and shame of Self-betrayal, (Hamlet to his mother – “Oh Shame, where is Thy bloom?”) along with the seeds and nourishment for the blossoming of a Life, cherished and fully lived.

Some Definitions

Archetype – remember, in the beginning we considered who was on stage – some figures particularly stand out as “numinous,” unearthly, foreign, typical, or very prominent and noticeable.

It is a typical, ancient human pattern of the soul’s journey in the world.  It is likened to a psychic organ, not unlike our physical organic structure.  It is a major vortex or complex energy presenting itself though an image, recognizable to all people – in other words, it is typical of all human experience – for example, Mother, Father, Child, Brother, Sister, Friend, Wise Old Man, Road, River, Tree – what have been your experiences ?

All archetypal energy has a positive, bright side and a negative, unfavorable aspect – Mother Nature brings Life and Creativity and Death and Dissolution —always the Paradox of the Opposites.  Acknowledged or not, (like the Sun), it will have profound effects on our thoughts, feelings and actions.  One is invited to eventually come to terms with it in some way through dialogue, ritual or ceremony.  We are called to find our own unique creative expression of the images, emotions and ideas that arise—be it dance, poetry, music, acting, whatever is given to you.

Specific Archetypes within the Dream

Shadow – this will be a figure of the same sex. in a dream. In the growing–up process, we work out our experiences towards what has become acceptable in us and to society —this will include what must be hidden –i.e. what is refused, and unacceptable —— however they stay in the computer,  so to speak, collecting in the dark corners of our personality – the shadow is a highly charged complex or vortex of energy forms which is autonomous.  The shadow is that within which contradicts the ego ideal .  Whitmont describes a man who might say I’m a bum or I’m a King.  It might become recognized as be anger. weakness, primitive, crippled, rebellious, sensual, often what we are afraid of or do not wish to face.  The experience/feeling  or dream image might include positive attributes we have not been able to acknowledge about  ourselves such as our most outstanding traits and talents.  If ignored, the Shadow can build in energy and literally create a life of its own, bursting through, demanding space in our lives, announcing itself as rage or depression, or create an accident or illness that will be noticed – a geyser!  Sanford suggests that in our intellectual, educated, sophisticated world of manners and morals, the Shadow is the neglected primitive man in us.  No one is without a Shadow.  With conscious recognition, he or she brings much positive value to us – earthiness, instinctually, zest for living and humility.  Like Jacob, we are called to wrestle with our shadow and see the “beam that is in our own eye.”

The truth or balance point lies somewhere in the center.  The psyche is designed to keep the shadow/ego balance – the polarity balance between Light and Dark.  To make light is to make shadow.  

The Dream offers Shadow upkeep – remember, it is a living energy in you and will demand to be known.  It actually cannot be ignored  (it will be expressed in some way—mostly viewable through projection).  It must never be considered harmless, for  negative consequences can ensue.  We cannot just dispose of the dangerous, destructive aspects of ourselves, nor can we ignore the courage, strength, and dignity that hides there besides it– for, you see, the Shadow is closer to Nature, to the primitive man or woman, who will absolutely force us to admit our true resentments, where we are bored, what its passions and truths are.  Its destructive energy can be the necessary clearing before creativity if the explosion is dosed correctly through ritual, ceremony, journey, meditation, or active imagination.  (write, tear, move)

To recognize, own, and relate to one’s shadow is to reach the Central Holy Place.  If we do not, we ask our partners, friends, children and the world to carry it for us.

The truth or balance point lies somewhere in the center.  The psyche is designed to keep the shadow/ego balance – the polarity balance between Light and Dark.  To make light is to make shadow.  

Dream Ego – This is You in the dream – a particular you, that is – one who is willing and/or forced to deal with the dream.  You may be an observer or you may be in active participation – take note about what you are doing and how you are relating in  the dream.  Either way, it will be leading you, possibly pressing you and certainly stretching you.  It will invite you to your necessary sacrifices.

The Persona – This word comes from the masks worn by actors of old to establish the roles they were playing on the stage. So it is with us on the stage of life – we live certain roles – the social necessities of parent, teacher, banker, builder, counselor, etc., the part and parts we play every day in our world.  The persona is designed and shaped purposefully to make a specific impression on other people and to hide our innermost self from others –—it has a purpose and it is needed.  The danger, as with any archetype, is with Identification with the persona, believing you are the person you would like to appear to be.  Such identification is rewarded in Western culture – usually in cash.  The shadow stands in direct contrast – as Sanford states – “The more we try to appear all goodness and kindness, the more brutal our shadow appears in contrast; the more we try to be all strength and courage, the more we are followed by a shadow of weakness.”

Anima and Animus – These are the dream figures of the opposite sex, harder to feel, more difficult to access and relate to.  Keep in mind that, like the shadow, they are trying to balance us towards the center through centroversion toward wholeness.

Once again, without attention or acknowledgement, these energies can behave autonomously, as if they were a law unto themselves, interfering with and disturbing life.  Anima and Animus try and do get your attention negatively with moods, gossip, erratic, inferior, unpredictable behavior and irrelevant conversation. negatively.  My sense is that these energies get real irritated and negatively active with us when we don’t pay attention to our whole being.

Anima and Animus, however, have tremendous creative potential when consciously attended to.  They are the inner guides to the soul – the sea nymph and deep-sea diver that lead us to the possibility of co-creating with the Divine, the Nous.  They know the way of and to your depths. I can guarantee you that, like the shadow, they will be active, one way or the other. 

In man, the feminine archetype is named the Anima – feminine characteristics separate from the masculine ego.  She is the woman in man and may appear as individual women one has known, or as feminine shapes, completely reflecting the universal archetype.  This Inner She in the psychology of a man is the other half of his soul, an energy that animates and fills a man with the Life Force itself.  She will inspire his strength, his delight, his meaning, his animation, his sense of worth and well-being, and his feeling of happiness.  The man who ignores her will experience her wail, irritations and dark moods – her attempt to contact him, to wake him up to her holy gifts and qualities – her deepest wish is to inspire, encourage and bring the man into a deeply meaningful life.  This may mean surprising new directions.  Without this conscious contact with the Anima, a man lives at the mercy of his moods (for anima is nature itself with all its seasonal fluctuation) – thus, if she is not an ally, she steals his strength and power.  Robert Johnson’s books, He and  She and Lying with The Heavenly Woman, address these challenges beautifully.  He states, “To hear the strange, exotic needs of one’s inner companion is pure genius in relationship.”  What this means is that, without this projection, the outer woman  in a man’s life is freed to live her own structure for she is not and cannot be a Goddess. 

If a man in his great hunger and need for the Divine Feminine does not open the windows to her, he will ask his partner in life to be this for him, setting the stage for tragedy, for he then fails to see her as the human being she is.  Generally, the best solution is for a man to marry one facet of his anima, and live the rest in creative endeavor.  This will require great discernment and differentiation. 

The woman is balanced by her inner masculine, the Animus.  He can be a harsh, ruthless, slave-driving dictator, full of idle talk, opinions, judgments, and nagging “shoulds”, both in relation to herself and others.  This energy, unconsciously lived through the ego, will completely short-circuit a woman’s own true Mind, Body Soul alignment, interfering with her relationship to herself and others, forever putting her “Off the Mark.”  This is called a state of animus possession, i.e. the animus has gotten between her and the world – the ego is taken over by the energy——it is no longer her true voice.

When acknowledged and related to consciously and with respect given, the Animus energy offers himself as an invaluable inner companion and servant – a noble prince, who gifts her with a deep source of strength and energy, with charisma, initiative, courage, objectivity and spiritual wisdom.

The man in woman’s dreams could be her father, husband, son, lover, healer, shaman, brother – any number of possibilities.  In literature, I am reminded of the classic Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights.  He became Catherine’s initiation  to that profound mediator between the conscious and unconscious inner world, an essential helpmate at the inner level who can open one to personal spiritual life but not to be confused with the outer man.  Recognition of Animus power can bring forth a personal confrontation with inadequacy in the ego until the woman begins to name (see the story of Rumplestiltskin) his various facets, discriminating out his interests and needs differentiating them from her feminine ego.  (Examples – scholar, wanderer, adventurer, etc.) Johnson’s classic book, She, tells woman’s story of this struggle in the myth of Psyche.  Like the man, if a woman will marry one facet of her animus, and leave the rest to be lived in spiritual creativity, she can then truly be the living lamp that only she can be.

The Archetype of the Self – this archetype is the furthest removed from the conscious mind.  It is the urge to become what one is, a Birth Center.  Hillman, in The Soul’s Code, describes this energy as “the energy of the centerpoint that arranges our lives – the inventor and organizer of our dream images, the writer and director of our drama.”  How far one can go with their fullest development depends on whether or not the ego is willing to listen to and witness the messages.  Here contact is offered with ultimate life  creation or destruction.  Self symbols, as with all archetypes, contain paradox – and symbols can vary from the abstract objective geometric symbols of the circle or square to animals, flowers, mountains, rivers, seeds, hidden treasure, Divine child, Gods and Goddesses, and the city.  The psyche is the world——with its call the world is speaking to you.

Any contact the ego has with the Self is an event – one feels the numinous and knows the presence of an immortal energy  operative in oneself.  The awareness this brings is numinous and full of mystery. It is joyous, momentous, releasing and burdensome.   The ego is both glad and shocked to experience these opposites.  Once the ego is willing to witness, realize and acknowledge that it is not totally in charge, true dialogue with the Divine can become possible.  There is a big leap in consciousness, forging the way to the ability to bear the cross of the union of opposites that exists in oneself for the sake of wholeness.  Here it is that we are given more than we asked for or could imagine – the transpersonal has met the personal. 

So, you have met the players!  How are we to respond?  What can we do with the dream? We began with the image of watching a play, of noting the environment, who is on stage and what is happening. Below are some suggestions to begin to work with the dream.

  • Record as much as you can remember, including your feeling.
  • Befriend the dream – monitor your attitude—is it willing to befriend the dream?
  • Begin to make associations – personal and otherwise, i.e. let your imagination play with each image, especially noting any feelings or memories.
  • Every image is an energy complex with clues for you, be it person, situation, color, sound, word, idea, memory or feeling.  Keep going back to the original image – to that “aha” and be sensitive to phrases that come to mind, such as “I’m flying high.”  (to note later) Go with what clicks to the association that holds energy for you.  
  • Dealing with archetypal amplification – is there a numinous presence in the dream, an animal, a god or goddess, a reminder of a myth or fairy tale with a royal or divine quality?  Let the story haunt you – find the story.  Keep in mind that every symbol in your dream belongs to you alone.  A personal response is required in relation to the archetype.  Something is trying to evolve in your life.  Ask, “What does this have to do with me?”
  • Observe the flow of energy from Inner to Outer and Outer to Inner as it occurs.
  • What part of me is that?  What is their attitude?
  • Where have I seen that functioning in my life lately?
  • Where is that feeling or attitude in my personality?
  • Who in me feels like that or behaves like that?  For example, where is that sadness in me?

Remember – continuing dreams will reflect our effort to relate to the unknown in ourselves and how conflicts are setup to avoid the messages.

The dream will reflect our inner world –- it could be a village or city within.  Most dreams are concerned with this world and your relationship to it. Your relationship with this inner world will affect your relationship to the outer world.

We usually jump first to the outer situation, but remember there is another world within fully operating.

Once in a while prophetic dreams will come.  I would say that all dreams offer some preparation for change or a new horizon.

Prior to conflict discussions with one’s wife or husband, both men and women are wise to acknowledge and address possible, similar conflicts that could be occurring with their inner partner.

If a man has a mother dream, that particular complex of energy includes the Great Mother, which offers the potential of supporting his power and accomplishments in a correct way.

If a woman has a dream that a man dies, she then is called to consider the full range of the masculine archetype and what might be dying in her and evaluate whether this is generative or not.

“You will never find anything in the unconscious that will not be useful and good when it is made conscious.” (Robert Johnson)  You may be forced to meet a noble hero or heroine and will have to face these fine qualities in yourself. 

It is worth pure gold to know what you are really up to. 

Ask yourself, “Where have I seen myself doing that lately?”

If the figure is unknown, give them a name like Trickster, Brother John, Wise Mother, Tyrant, etc. and get acquainted with them as beings in their own right who live in your village.  Allow them to describe themselves and learn from them directly.

The best test of your connection with the truth from the dream is whether your interpretation energizes you.

Let us carry this further:  How to further tell if the interpretation is approaching truth:

Did you learn something you didn’t know?

Are you inspired to look at the unfinished business in your life?

Keep remembering – your dreams concern you 99.9% of the time.

Learn to live patiently with big dreams as blueprints for growth.  Stay with the images.  Stay with the tension.  Befriend all aspects of the dream.  Time will tell.

Who did you meet and what did you learn from each other?

With some understanding, what might correct action be?

Physically do something to strengthen the dream impact.

You may be called to an immediate change or specific behavior.

Reverently do a ritual or ceremony in honor of the dream.

Send a letter, or card; make a phone all; buy flowers; light a candle; take a walk and think about the dream——but honor the dream in some way.

Above all, do not use the dream as an excuse to act out. 

Remember, all dreams will support your right to live who you really are.

Regarding Active Imagination

This is the special use of the power of Imagination – a dialogue you choose to enter with the many different parts of yourself, while you are awake.

You talk to and interact with your images and the energy will  answer back – allow this—an active exchange between the conscious and unconscious energy systems – often startling, offensive, delightful, surprising and enlightening.

One must participate fully – could have cold sweat or feel authentic terror, but the result of such a confrontation eventually is a deep sense of peace with the feeling that an agreement has been made for all within to  be known and to either thrive or die

You should have someone available to you the first time that you do active imagination—tell someone and that you would appreciate them being available.

Did I just make this up?  Whatever you “make up” comes from your unconscious!

You can go directly into the dream environment, or, some have special place in the “mind field” you go first to receive the dream – make a place for greatness.  For some, it can be very helpful to have a set, orderly procedure or ritual, a certain chair etc. 

Active imagination can be experienced through writing, dancing, writing  or playing music, painting or sculpting – an invitation for the unconscious to speak through us.  If one part needs release, write, tear or burn.

You will eventually want to establish:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • What do you have to say?
  • Extend the dream and be open to resolutions given.
  • Imagine living  the dream differently.
  • Know that you will have feeling responses – you are in active participation, listening, responding and honoring all possibilities, what was frightening, what was dishonored, what was ecstatic, what was conflicting, etc. 
  • We are called to relate to our lives—come into relationship with these sometimes overwhelming, impersonal forces in your unconscious.
  • We are Trustees of Life in a field of opposites and on the road of life and death.

May you come to know and understand that there lives within you a constant source of wisdom communicating to you through the symbolic messages in your dreams, revealing and supporting your “Spiritual Unfoldment.”