Universal Dream Themes

Virtually all dreams are unique to the psyche of the dreamer, but there are a few that have common meanings to almost all dreamers. Some of these are culture bound as would be expected.

For example, industrialized countries might produce dreams of symbolic anxiety where the dreamer is frozen in front of a test/exam that they’re unprepared for, or didn’t remember they had to take, or from a class that they forgot to attend.

Some dream themes such as “being chased”, “falling”, “naked in public, and “flying” seem to show up in some form across all cultures and seem almost archetypal in nature.

Falling is basically an insecurity dream and may even be primordial in nature in that it is part of the human vigilance built into the psyche from the time when we had to take care not to fall out of the tree we were sleeping in. These dreams often reflect a loss of equilibrium and can reflect a loss of self-control. If the dream were a pleasurable falling then you might want to consider it a “flying” dream.

Flying dreams typically reflect a desire for freedom from tedium, or a stressing situation. It’s a cry for independence, to be free, to be your own person, to overcome problems, or restrictions e.g. oppression. They are often the dreams of adolescence. Prisoners, or those who feel imprisoned by circumstance, such as a job, or relationship and those who are forced to endure unhappiness, and those who are experiencing traumatic and chronic health issues can feel free of that in their dream world as they fly free above the walls of a building and across an open meadow. 

Statistically, older people seem to dream more of flying which might reflect a desire to slip the bonds of their increasing physical infirmity. For me these dreams show up when I feel overly stressed and out of control and seek to fly free of the situation. At times I feel threatened and flying has served as a means of escape which is more a being chased, escape, or “running for your life” dream.

Dreams where one feels attacked or chased is a common dream across all societies as well, though the particulars may be culturally affected, e.g. a Masai warrior might be chased by an animal whereas someone living in L.A. or New York may be chased by a mugger with a knife. Today being chased or attacked could relate to the Corona Virus however, this theme still reflects anxiety and insecurity on the part of the dreamer. I’ve read that those people who tend to have being chased dreams don’t tend to have falling dreams and vice versa even though both are insecurity dreams. When I look back at my dreams, they do tend to be predominantly “chased” dreams. These dreams may also expose some feelings of vulnerability especially if you’re running naked, or semi-naked (when in your underwear).

The naked in public dream, however, shows up more often than not when one is feeling exposed as when the façade, or social mask, has been broken, or let down and leaving one vulnerable to being emotionally hurt. If there are disapproving on-lookers it might imply that the dreamer is experiencing guilt, but if the public is cheering it might suggest that the dreamer is feeling successful at shedding some bad habit, or inhibition or reveal some inner exhibitionism. However, performing in front of the public can be very anxiety producing and might therefor reveal a sense of being unprepared.

Which brings us to the on stage and being unprepared dream such as not knowing your lines, or not remembering your character and can be almost nightmarish and show up when one thinks they may be in over their head and think they may not be up to the task as when one questions whether they can handle the new responsibilities presented to them. Basically, these are a much stronger version of the test/exam anxiety dream. Frequently these dreams show up at major decision points in our lives.

“Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe”

“For my own part, I have never had a thought 

Which I could not set down in words 

With even more distinctness than which I conceived it. 

There is however a class of fancies of exquisite delicacy 

Which are not thoughts and to which as yet 

I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt to language. 

These fancies arise in the soul, 

Alas how rarely, only at epochs 

Of most intense tranquility 

When the bodily and mental health are in perfection. 

And those mere points of time 

When the confines of the waking world

Blend with the world of dreams. 

And so I captured this fancy 

Where all that we see or seem 

Is but a dream within a dream.”

–E.A. Poe

I first heard, not read, this poem when recited by the actor Orson Wells and recently ran across it again as I was looking for material for a new book on magic, real magic that is, not hocus-pocus or the waving of wands, slight of hand, and the drinking of potions.

As with the poem the words to express the world that is magic are as with the world of the dream difficult to find let alone be used to describe the special something beyond, beneath, behind the reality we are all accustomed to.

I believe Poe was right that our dreams, day or sleeping, are products (messages?) of and from the soul perhaps urged by the spirit that is our greater self. I also believe, because I’ve seen it, that there is a magic within these visions that can open a whole new world to us if we can learn to get ourselves i.e., our smaller selves, our fearful, self-serving selves out of the way.

How do we do this? Oh, there are means for connecting with this greater self, though I personally have not found a way to sustain the connection but there are roads and doors and ways of being into it. It seems very much like a video game where you can collect a variety of very real understandings and behaviors and employ them toward finding the gates into the magical world. But in this game the collections are not always consistent in their power or appearance and our expectations for them only get in the way.

What is different in this game, however, is the fact that the world of magic is not a level or place or thing attained or gained in that it is already all around and within everything that we do and everything that we are. The goal then is to learn what we need to give up in order to see it, be it and to wield it.

In the book “Psyche’s Dream: A Dragon’s Tale”* one, if they are open to it can become introduced into this world of magic. But there are no guarantees that you’ll find this door into this world for its location does not come to us through the reading of any book or through any actions we may take in its name for all too often it comes to us unbidden and when we least expect it. There is, however, a way of being that can increase one’s chances of finding it. 

*currently being edited and proof read by publisher.

Awakening, alienation, and Schizophrenia—a connection?

Imagine for a moment that everything we see and hear is but a dream a waking dream if you will where all seems real and following a rational and very linear approach to the world around us. Unlike this waking dream what if the sleeping dream were to present a reality that was the mirrored image of the waking dream where everything seems real but seemingly irrational and non linear? The reality of both worlds comes from the individual experiencing them and is projected by the dreamer and is an effect of the inner world of their psyche. In either world as experienced the dreamer cannot be sure they are awake or dreaming.

It is said that if one pinches themselves and it hurts then they are not in a dream but what if feeling in a linear dream world feels like pain and in a nonlinear dream world feels like sadness? One world follows rules of cause and effect while the other does not. Are these worlds any the less real because one does not look like the other?

In a linear world we sleep and then we wake up. It is said that we are becoming conscious from a state of unconsciousness. But could it also be that when we sleep we are becoming conscious of the unconscious? But perhaps they are mirrored forms of one consciousness.

While pondering this little thought experiment I settled down to meditate on it when a question formed in my mind that wouldn’t go away and shanghaied my focus. It went something like this: If a person were living within a waking dream, what would happen if they actually woke up?

As I sat upright I began to imagine what might happen. If most of what drives our vision of the waking world is effected by our personal and collective unconscious material that includes many archetypal symbols shared by all humans both in dreams and in what we call consciousness, what if we were to awaken from this shared symbolic vision and find ourselves functioning with a different symbology? This would probably affect our linguistic system, visual and mental interpretation of everything around us.

Those around us who were still living in the world and asleep would see us behaving in a most peculiar way and we might be confused what with not being able to communicate adequately with those around us. Even our experience of objects and people around us might be altered and our relationship to these might look somewhat delusional to others.

Looking closer at the possible behaviors of this theoretical “awakened” person, I noted the similarity with the diagnostic pattern of schizophrenia. I also remembered an article I’d read years ago that discussed the similarities between those with schizophrenia and shamanism. The seemingly bizarre philosophies and insights of many religious mystics also come to mind. 

R.D. Laing, Scottish psychiatrist during the 1950’s through 1980’s, suggested that Schizophrenia was triggered by what is known as a Double Bind situation, what is sometimes called the “Incompatible Knot” caused by extreme and prolonged different, or incompatible messages and an attempt of the psyche to resolve these. Laing also suggested the possibility that when experiencing this double bind situation the ego and the self cannot express themselves and that can cause a very personal symbolism that is meaningful to the individual and incomprehensible to all others—diagnostic of Schizophrenia.

Might some of those who experience schizophrenia be among the “awakened,” or they who have experienced a shift in perception? This is hard to tell especially when some doctors use a medical model, or even a behavioral model based on biologics. Laing suggested that behaviors such as those exhibited by those with Schizophrenia, can both conceal or expose experience. Is it possible that the Schizophrenic is trying to communicate the experience of the shift in awareness, but have lost their connection with the world around them? 

However, this connection between awakening and schizophrenic behaviors is only rumination, or at most, speculation in that there is no evidence for a connection nor for that matter is there any evidence for the Waking Dream as a reality though the idea can be used as a therapeutic tool. However, if the connection is true, I’m not sure I want to be awakened.

There does seem to be some experiential evidence, however that society has created a context for behavior that may be antithetical to normal, or natural behaviors e.g. where there is encouraged and unnatural split between inner and outer experience—we are, generally speaking, not aware of our inner selves and thus most of us experience a pervasive alienation from one another and a general misunderstanding of reality. Under extreme cases this may lead to extreme forms of alienation e.g. Schizophrenia.

“For without the inner the outer loses it’s meaning, and without the outer the inner loses it’s substance.”

–R.D Laing, The Politics of Experience, 1972

‎”For nature, as we know, is at once within and without us. Art is the mirror at the interface. So too is ritual, so also myth. These, too, bring out ‘the grand lines of nature,’ and in doing so, re-establish us in our own deep truth, which is one with that of all being.” 

                     –Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, p. 132

The Door into Magic

Section from the Ripley Scroll by George Ripley, 15th century Alchemist

Whether it be hard science or the science of the psyche (psychology) science does not have the tools with which to measure the world of spirit, soul, and magic thus it chose to leave them out of its investigations. How does one measure a poem, theatrical art, a painting, or a sculpture except to quantify their size, number of stanzas or chemical makeup of the medium, none of which takes into account the real meaning explored by the psyche by both the artist and the art appreciators?

Now that is not to say that the scientist cannot appreciate the art and beauty of the natural world it is only to say that it has not the tools to investigate the deep poetry that is reality.

How does one measure the creative spirit or the soul? Science has not as yet been able to explain the creative process or what drives it or the deep effect that the process has upon the human psyche. The more one creates the more profound one seems to become. Creativity seems to transform both the human persona and the human soul but simultaneously reflects metaphorically the whole of the human psyche as well. In this way, myth, art, psychology and the spiritual all fall into the realm of what I for want of a better word call magic.

In fact, the very act of creating for humans is the magical act of creating the self. As we create so are we created. Our creativity actually changes us and molds us into a different self. Now that’s magical!

In many ways, however science is the technological manifestation of magic in that it has created magical pictures and sounds from a distance and even mastered the transmutation of elements e.g., gold has been made from base metal the magical goal of the Alchemists using modern manipulation of atoms.

Magic is ineluctable. That is to say that we cannot escape it for it is everywhere and in everything. There is the kind of magic of the everyday where the soul becomes enchanted, a gorgeous sunrise, an airplane with outstretched arms leaping into the air and defying gravity, the silence of walking the carpet of a redwood forest, fireflies darting through the branches along the edge of a swampy meadow, the birth of a child, the growth of a tree from a tiny seed filled with the invisible power to create a giant oak, falling in love, the gift of forgiveness, or a prayer answered are all forms of magic. 

There are also remarkable coincidences and synchronicities that transform life, graces that should never have happened, epiphanies, and miracles that are here to inform and guide us if we can learn to open to them. The legendarium of the magicians and saints are full of such stories. 

Then there are magical moments when somehow you know that you are connected to everyone and everything and that the point of life is not just about survival.

There is the magic that transforms inorganic nonlife into organic life. At our elemental root we are not alive but an inexplicable and mysterious something at this level of existence that magically transmutes the basal elements of existence i.e., lifeless hydrogen, carbon and oxygen into the higher form we call life. At our very core there is a universal alchemist performing what can only be called magic.

It’s the place where the dream of your conscious and unconscious selves meet and share what is real.

However, there is another kind of magic or energy, a wonder and awe that lies deep within the heart, core self, and immortal Spirit. It requires an esoteric discipline reflecting aspects of the mystical and cosmic wonder of the psyche or totality of the mind including all its personal and collective elements that when freed to be what it is, demons and all, will then allow us to see the magic embedded in everything. 

Yes, magic is everywhere, not always seen but implicit in that we were born of it and with it, and it is quite visible, and knowable. But we cannot see it through the lens of the conditioned mind. Blending it with the exoteric practicality of science it can be quite complimentary.

There is a door and way into this magical realm. However, the Spirit of the Door through which one can enter The Way is hard to find and often comes to us unbidden no matter how much or how little we have looked. It can come to us in the middle of a dream or while walking down a street of many earlier walks. Sometimes we find ourselves standing before it as if led by some magical spell.

“Out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”–Rumi

There’s a poem fragment by Rumi that goes like this, “Out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” * Has always been special to me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

After working a dream today, it struck me that this poem was speaking to the dichotomous material world that we all find ourselves in. I’ve never bought the idea that this is all there is to life e.g., one endless conflict of opposites and then we die. I have always believed that there was more. Rumi speaks to that space that lies beyond the material world of rights and wrongs. It is a place (field or gathering place) where we all are connected and where we all are one. This is a transcended state which is very much in keeping with the Sufi concept of the universal.

 *another translation would be “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” One can also substitute “belief” and “unbelief” for rightdoing and wrongdoing and it still retains the idea that beyond the dichotomies we humans create there is a oneness where we all meet.

Opening the heart to who I am

Stepping out of the shower this evening drying my hair with a towel

I free the heart to soar with the angels and I give my soul the right to roam

Drawing hearts on the mirror’s foggy face

Like skipping rocks across a river

Stepping out into the crisping dusk

Asking the universe for what I want without apologizing

As September leaves, Mars chases Saturn and Jupiter through the sky

And the moon’s brazen light competes for dominance of the heavens.

Briefly I stop apologizing for my wild

And put no lie into my fire embracing the magic of who I am.

I stop trying to fit into what is not me  

I am not that critique or image in a mirror or in someone else’s mind

I am what I was meant to be

A short review of a Carlos Castaneda book

In Carlos Castaneda’s book The Art of Dreaming (Harper Collins, 1993) Don Juan (a shamanic character in the book) shares a few secrets to drawing meaning from dreams. One of those secrets as I see it was to focus on the elements of the dreams aka the images. The second secret was simply ‘persistence’ because the mind can’t cope with persistence and eventually the barriers to dreaming and remembering begin to fall. The third secret is that one needs to take “short glances” at these images i.e. to stop and look at them too closely during the process of having them actually creates a barrier to one’s attention to them. The fourth secret seems to be that dreams often reflect what it is you don’t know. The fifth secret points out how dreams are affected by our insistence on self-importance. Dreams reflect our presentation of ourselves as in what we are doing to maintain the illusion of separateness that causes our difficulties in seeing the world as it really is.

These concepts seem to reflect my own experiences with respect to dream work and though coming from a fictional Shamanic character from the imaginal recesses of Castaneda’s psyche they appear to hold true within the art and science of dreamwork, at least from my own perspective.

Though he uses some terminology that may be alien to some dream workers such as “energy bodies”, the “realness” of dreams, dream images as energy, the “out of this world reality” of dreams, and “gates of dreaming” these ideas are easily translatable into current dream work practices and understanding.

I believe that Castaneda has found an entry into his Psyche and the collective Psyche of us all that helps him see a larger picture of reality than most of us.

Human beings live in two different worlds simultaneously. What are the things that keep us bound up into one?

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Psyche’s Dream: A Dragon’s Tale” (still in editing stage) where the young neophyte learns of “The Mother” the most powerful of the human archetypes.

Human beings live in two different worlds simultaneously, the conscious and the unconscious.

There may also be a conscious part of the unconscious. An organizing paradigm similar to that of the ego of the conscious mind.

When we sleep the conscious mind is disengaged and yet something stimulates the brain into creating a symbolic world much like that of the conscious world yet many orders of different that speaks to hidden material that the conscious mind doesn’t notice and does this just as the conscious mind brings up thoughts and feelings associated with the world it finds itself in.

To be whole and thus powerful in magic one needs to be able to access and understand both worlds. One needs to integrate all the parts of oneself. But how to do this? 

There are archetypes living in both worlds that can help us to navigate the whole. The Mother is one of these.”

Seek not answers from outside the Mother. She is the powerful aspect of the feminine and is the key to opening the door to the magic of the world. Your masculine form is what you use to act and assert upon your decision to walk through the door, but it is your feminine aspect that provides you the opening. It is the marriage between the two that will make it possible for you to wield the magic that is life. But as with the general human psyche the masculine and feminine aspects are also of two worlds i.e., two minds, the dark and the light.

Seek your answers from both your mothers she of the bright light and she of the dark and deadly. They are both illusion and of the deeper self and both inform your being. You must confront them both and recognize them for who they really are. In this you will be the Way.

Intuitively we know that the Mother is a Spirit Guide into the unfamiliar territory that will lead us into a new way of being and will give us the power to survive the world we live in. But we also know that we would have to untie the knot that binds us to our own mother, the knot that keeps us tied to her memory and all the decisions we have made regarding our lack of trust in her for our well-being or our overdependence on her for the same.  The knot is illusory but keeps us from freely being who we are. Love the being not the knot. It is time to let go and open to a new spirit.

Creating the world around us: It’s our world and we’re responsible for it, warts and all.

Seeing the world through our dreams. Dreams are about us, what is going on within us in our minds and in our bodies. Dreams are a projection from the unconscious psyche and a statement about what is going on in there, especially with regard to what is happening around us. Given that most of what we perceive is going on around us is a projection i.e. a personal construct of what is going on inside us, it might behoove us to look at who is really responsible for what we experience.

The world seems full of shadow people, monsters, demons, and bullies. But if we look closely at some of their behaviors we would see that to a varying degree these behaviors reflect some of our own. We cheat (though not as much as some others), we betray, sometimes lie, are occasionally selfish, cruel (though we may not intend to be), rationalize our misdeeds, make ourselves look more important, more talented, smarter, more attractive than we are, sometimes we’re insensitive to others, we develop addictions, participate in hurtful gossip, dehumanize those who are different from us, and/or treat others badly. Yes, mixed in with all our good qualities there are negative qualities. In short, we are human. And it is these human frailties that we reject and keep hidden inside us that color the world we see around us. The truth is that those behaviors that we condemn in others are to some degree our own shadows– what doesn’t work in us we project onto the world around us.

But as humans we don’t really want to be responsible for what isn’t working in the world around us, who would want to? It’s too much of a burden and besides what can one person do? But what if I were to tell you that we are responsible for it all? I didn’t say that we are to blame, or that you and I have to take on the whole world, what I said is that we are responsible. Not as a burden but as a simple fact. Simply put, it’s our world, our nation, our community, and our family. What kind of revolution would it be if we were to acknowledge that it’s our world and that we are responsible for it all?

Yet we act as though something outside of us is responsible i.e. God, the President, Bankers, corporate CEOs, politicians, Mom, Dad and the ubiquitous “They.” But nothing outside of ourself can really save our butts, just as nothing outside the dream is the cause of the dream, or its focus. Both inside and out of the sleeping dream we use our images, our constructs, of people, events, and things to establish meaning, our meaning.

There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world most people only think of changing humanity, getting rid of the “they” and getting a new “them” to change it all and very few think of changing themself. Often this comes from thinking that we are too small to make these changes in ourselves, that something is broken and making it too hard to make the changes needed. Besides what can one person do?

In the book The Archipelago of Dreams, Airmeith the Dream Healer realizes that it only takes the awakened awareness of one ‘Being’ to transform the human universe–that to bring light to one Dark Lord can have a balancing force on everyone else. You see she knew that at a fundamental level we are all connected and part of the One, in the book it is called “The Is” (for ‘what is’), and what is done to one is done to all of us. What she needed to do was to heal the rift between a man’s mind and his soul so that the illusory separation caused by the ego, the individual personality, would disappear and leave behind the true nature of mankind. 

As Robert wanders deeper into the region of the Otherworld, that often-dark world within the mysterious realm of our dreams, he discovers a healing, a truth and honesty the likes of which most of us have never seen. In our waking lives there seems to always be a battle brewing between what we are and what the smallness of the world wants us to believe we are. 

Deeper still Robert becomes aware that the Dark Lords aren’t the enemy outside ourselves but the enemy within us. It is our own Dark Lord that we need to come to grips with and to transform our experience of.

“There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man.
How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.”

–Leo Tolstoy–”Three Methods Of Reform” in Pamphlets

In the Archipelago there is also a battle that reflects this struggle to become whole. It’s a battle that if not won, human kind will face eternal loss and damn them selves to a hell of their own construct. Ahh, but aren’t we already doing that? We’ve created the hell we experience in the world and with a shift in the way we hold responsibility I wonder if we could also create the heaven? 

In the Archipelago of Dreams, Robert needs to find it in his self the power to become big enough to turn his life around. Though he is accompanied by a small band of ancient magi it is really up to him, for there’s not really any one to turn to for the kind of help he needs. In short, there is no “they” out there.

You want the world to change? Be what you want the world to be and it will change.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” 
― August Wilson

Past present future, such an odd way to look at time

Time keeps showing up in my dreams but frequently not in the same linear order one is used to in the waking world. I explained this in an earlier blog posting Aug 13,2020.

In playing around with time I realized that there were two points of view worth mentioning that of time being relative and not absolute and depending on the motion of an observer to what is observed a la Albert Einstein and the second is the concept that if there is only the Now and it never moves on there would never be time but only eternity as per St. Augustine.

Time can be a trickster as well. I can look at a group of stars in the present moment but what they are to me in the now only existed in their distant past given the limitation of the speed of light so I’m never seeing the present moment when I observe a star. Heck, the star may not even exist in it’s present having burned out eons ago, yet here it is in my present.

Actually we see nothing in the present moment of now given that there is a neurological lapse in time between something sensed and that something being “seen” by the brain. In that case we are always looking at the past but calling it the present aren’t we,?

Then there’s the whole issue of space and time in that according to the physicist Hermann Minkowski space and time cannot exist alone but as a union that when viewed in this way makes the existence of each possible i.e., they create each other. This is probably a little like left needs right in order for there to be a line between two points, or up needing down, happy needing sad, good needing evil, etc.

In dreams this relationship to time and space might also show up in a concept like happiness being symbolic of its opposite, sadness, so that being happy in a dream may be speaking to ones sadness or need for happiness.

In any event as my mind is want to do it wandered into the enigma of time (labeled as such because no one as yet knows what it is) when I started to write a story about magic (whatever that is). The following is an excerpt from that story when the teacher is working with his student regarding the realization of magic.

“To be attached to your beliefs, biases, and expectations leaves you closed to the here and now and it is only in the here and now that you have access to magic. Anything that takes you out of the now such as an expectation built from decisions from your past or a fear of some nonexistent future reality will take away your access to magic. The truth is the past and future do not exist, do they?”  

“Well the past is no longer here, and the future hasn’t happened yet so you’re right they don’t exist. At least not now.”

“Precisely! ‘Not now’. So, what is left is the now, and if there is only the now where is that ubiquitous thing that there is never enough of? I mean time. Without the bookends of past and future all you have is the eternal now. It is there that you will find the magic. It is from this magical place that you can journey through the eternal. It is only in the now that you can experience love and it is only through love that magic can happen. 

Humans have a funny relationship with time in that they believe that it moves and that it only moves in one direction, past to present, present to future. But to twist a phrase given to me by an old friend, “It is a poor sense of time that only moves forward.” Time does not actually move at all for there is only the present moment… Yes, and if time and space are as my friend and fellow wizard Albert suggested are two sides of the same coin what happens to the coin if we get rid of one side?”

“It, it doesn’t exist?”

“Precisely, yet again! You are both old and young, wise and foolish. The experience of time and space that you have been conditioned to is not a hindrance to your journey through it.”

“But that means that you’ve also gotten rid of reality.”

“But only the reality you thought you knew.” Finished the magus feeling triumphant… When you look at your dreams what do you see? Do you not see people flying or walking through walls, shifting scenes across great distances with no means of transportation, or swimming some great sea while breathing underwater? It seems like magic does it not?

When you sleep that ego-self part of you is shut down and its highly rational and linear perspective and point of view on reality is put on hold and what happens?”

“Magic?” proclaimed the boy tentatively.