The Alchemists Dream

 

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Alchemist by- David Teniers the Younger, ca. 1650

BANG! The sound of a huge door slamming and shaking the whole house woke me out of a deep sleep. “Oh s#@% it’s an earthquake.” I said half to myself and half to my wife who lay next to me. As I leaped to my feet getting ready to dive for whatever safety I could find I looked back toward the bed only to find that it was no longer there. “What the hell?” I muttered. “Fran?” I yelled out as though ready to accuse her of having somehow taken our bed while I slept. It was then that I stopped dead and stared-out across the empty room and realized that she too wasn’t there.

“Fran?” I piteously whispered as I became conscious of a different kind of fear starting to crawl up my spine and causing my mind to swim. “Where the hell am I?” I pleaded. “Ah, it’s dream.” I thought. Though it felt more real than usual, I convinced myself that it was actually just a dream. “Whew, yes that’s what it is. Time to wake up…” But my usual technique for pulling me out of a dream wasn’t working.

Slowly I made my way for the bedroom door hoping that it was actually there in the dream…one never knew about these things until it was all over. Stubbing my toe in the dark I felt the cursed pain burn through my foot. “This bloody dream is too real!” I thought. But there was the door so I cautiously reached for the knob and carefully pulled the door open just enough so that I could peer down the hall.

Instead of the narrow hall that lead from our bedroom to the front rooms of our house I was now staring at a landing with a wooden railing at its far edge. Two steps more and I found myself staring down into a cavernous expanse of books, and shelves, carved columns, and giant reading tables with the amber glow of lamps pouring light across their tops. As I tried to take the scene in I saw that I was standing on a second tier of several aisles of bookshelves radiating outward toward some unseen perimeter. A railed wooden catwalk circumnavigated the gigantic room that was topped by a high vaulted ceiling and accessed all the aisles. The ceiling upon closer inspection looked very much like the inside of a gigantic wine cask.

“I’ve seen this room before. But where?” I muttered to myself. As I pondered this question I made my way toward the left hand side of the library and found myself drawn toward a particular aisle. No longer in fear but experiencing extreme curiosity I walked slowly toward the far end of the catwalk peering down each aisle as I went. Oddly enough at about what I imagined to be the center of each aisle darkness fell and made it impossible to see its end.

After a few steps more I found myself standing before the aisle that had seemingly drawn me to it and without a moment’s hesitation for cautions sake I walked forward. It was as though I were pushing through a heavy veil, unseen and not really felt but experienced. Once through I made my way down the aisle and turning to my right stopped before a row of large heavily clad books that crowded most of the shelf at eye level. Reaching for the largest and most ornate my hand stopped at mid reach and then moved slowly to the left as though it had a mind of its own and as if it were scanning the books for just the right one when it came to rest just inches from the plainest book on the shelf. “This must be the one.” I muttered sarcastically. Having regained control over my hand I again reached forward for the smallest book in the row. It was a cloth-bound book and wasn’t much more than 6×8 or much thicker than a short story. “I wonder what’s all this mystery about?” I said to myself and feeling somewhat disappointed that the book hadn’t been one of the large leather bound volumes that surely held the answers to some age-old questions of the universe. “Ah well, it’s a dream after all so lets see where this takes me.” Holding the book at an angle so that the overhead light could help me see it better I rubbed my hand across its surface. It felt warm and inviting so I accepted its invitation and opened it.

The world seemed to swirl as though I’d entered some kind of vortex. I held fastly to the book, as it seemed the only solid object around. Soon enough the spinning stopped which was a good thing because I was just beginning to feel my stomach coming into my mouth. “God how I hate nausea!” I spat as I tried to get my bearings.

I looked around me and saw a much smaller room than the one I had left and it was dark save a candelabra of burning candles standing on a large table filled with copper condenser coils, beakers, retorts and other laboratory paraphernalia. In the middle of it all sat a man middle-aged in appearance and hunched over a book not unlike that which I still held tightly to. With what seemed to be a turkey quill he was busily jotting something into the book. With every stroke of his pen I could feel the book I was holding move in my hand.

“I’ll be with you in a moment young man. Sit, sit anywhere you like.” He said while waving his quill about randomly toward a clump of wooden boxes. Being that the only chair in the room was currently occupied I found an uncluttered box and gingerly sat down. After a few moments he stopped writing, laid down his quill and looked toward my direction peering intently as though trying to pierce the gloom that filled the room just beyond the reach of the candlelight.

“Welcome!” He said heartily and with the biggest of smiles. His manner in that one word seemed to calm my nerves.

“You’re a dream aren’t you?” were the first words out of my mouth. It seemed almost rude not to acknowledge his presence or to thank him for sharing his space but even though the room was no longer physically spinning my mind had yet to stop swirling and I needed to add some gravity to it.

“How do you know I’m not dreaming you instead of you I?” He said sort of nonchalantly.

“Well I really don’t I guess.”

“Or more curiously, how do you know that you aren’t dreaming me dreaming you?”

“I guess I don’t.” I said while scratching my head and feeling even less grounded than before starting this conversation.

“Of course you don’t and probably never will which is actually a pretty good thing or you’d cease.” He said matter-of-factly.

“Cease?” That didn’t sound so good and my guard went up as I looked furtively from side to side for any unseen threat.

“We haven’t got time for that right now.” He said as he scooted his chair away from the table and turned it to face me. Reaching toward the candelabra he made a twisting gesture with his hand and the room seemed to fill with light. “Ah that’s better. We can see each other now.” He said triumphantly.

“So you’re the fifth this month.”

“The fifth?”

“Yes. I had one visitor…let me see…” he paused to sort out his thoughts. “I had one who said he was from the distant past, another from the near past, one from my future and…when did you say you’re from?”

“The 21st century.” I said proudly.

“Ah yes and one from your future.”

“My future?” I asked dumbfounded.

“Yes of course. Do you think time only flows in one direction? You obviously have much to learn.”

“Well given that this is just a dream I guess time can do whatever or whenever it wants.” I said chuckling to myself.

“You still haven’t got it. This is no more or less a dream than what you’ve been living. This is just as real as what you’ve been calling reality.”

And then I woke up.

 

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Positive and negative dreams…REM and non-REM

 

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The Nightmare by- John Henry Fuseli (1780)

I’ve talked about REM sleep and dreams before, ad nauseam. But research has shown that we don’t just dream during REM, we also dream during non-REM (with its four stages leading up to (and from) REM with non-REM out performing REM by over 2.5:1). And it turns out that there’s a qualitative difference between the types of dreams!

Those who are awakened during a non-REM episode report generally positive dreams while those who are awakened from REM report mostly negative. What’s that about?

Well, during REM sleep the Amygdala (located deep within the medial temporal lobes of our brain) that deals with unpleasant emotions, aggression, and fear and modulates REM sleep, hence the negative vibes. Along that note, it’s interesting that people with depression jump into REM quickly by bypassing the non-REM stages–the positive stages. A dysfunctional Amygdala is also implicated. This rapid entering into REM and depletion of overall nonREM is a marker for depression and often precedes a depressive episode*.

Nightmares are also experienced during REM and are affected by a dysfunctional sleep cycle in that people with depression and/or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) tend to have a lot of them. There’s a movement afoot in the Psychiatric field to find ways of diminishing nightmares in those with chronic depression and PTSD. But nightmares are similar to ancestral dreams and may very well be rehearsals in the struggle to survive. They may be the brain’s way of aiding an individual to confront their fears and tensions head-on. Drugs may in the short term provide a respite for the insomnia of the depressed caused by nightmares, but if used over the long term what may they be doing to the process that nature uses to resolve and deal with fear? Do we really understand the functions of sleep and dreaming well enough to be interfering in this way? Might not it be better to develop a different way of therapeutically dealing with the darkness other than the popping of a pill to suppress it?

REM dreams tend to be dark and sometimes unpleasant and the Western culture tends to avoid these emotions in that it is believed that it’s best to leave them alone. But what is the consequence of this avoidance over time? What is the consequence of suppressing the natural negative? Perhaps in some of us it takes the form of chronic depression, or chronically unresolved fears and anxieties, especially those fears and anxieties that seem to be unattached to any stimulus, what psychologists call “Free-floating.”

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Both REM and non-REM have what appear to be important, perhaps even vital, functions to our survival and learning. It turns out that non-REM is our internal trainer–it mirrors past experience in a time-compressed manner. It literally is helping you in the present to relate to the future from the past. The REM dream, however, expands time and takes you into the future in order to practice it and to test various scenarios. This may explain why some dreams seem to be about what’s happened during your waking life the day before, while others seem more distant, or unrelated to waking life events, perhaps more internal in nature.

Dreams in both forms seem to be nature’s way of preparing us for whatever comes next. Basically it’s an ancient survival tool, the content is different, but the mechanics are pretty much the same.

Dreams seem to reinforce learning, creativity, and survival skills, provide a window to your emotional self, and open a space for life preparation, i.e. practice. They do this by providing a totally different point-of-view to that of our waking life i.e. they are intuitive and visual in contrast to the waking life’s linear and logical. What seem to be intractable problems in one’s waking life can be overcome through the highly creative, free-associating content of dreams.

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*Bypassing non-REM sleep also interrupts the body’s healing/repair/rejuvenation/immunization cycle that further reinforces the depression.

A variation on my first meeting with the Spirit Guide of the Blue Fresco dream

 

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Sophia, the Blue Fresco

I’d like to reintroduce my spirit guide again who first showed up a few years ago in a dream. She’s visited in earlier dreams as a female cartoon character and as a she-wolf named Onoma, but I didn’t recognize her for what she was back then.

She? It is said by some depth psychologists that the soul of a woman is masculine and the soul of a man is feminine. Each represent the less dominant aspect of the dreamer, that which they tend to reject into their personal unconscious, but during the night when the persona and the conscious ego-self sleep, the souls come out to play.

I’ve referred to this dream before having labeled it The Blue Fresco*.

This is a variation of that dream:

I’m at a party of old friends, talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. As we leave, hugging and saying our goodbyes, I look down the street that is dimly lit with tall street lights casting their yellow glow into the night when a brighter glow takes over the darkness and I see plastered across the sky a bright blue fresco. A tall, thin figure, neither male nor female stands huge in the sky with its hands held invitingly out toward me. On closer inspection a tall, slender women wearing light blue gossamer robes comes down from the sky, landing briefly upon the ground and then leaping back into the night.

My wife runs back toward the house to fetch the grandchildren so as to share with them the sight. I worry that she’ll miss this if gone too long. Three other children run excitedly up the hill to get a better look at this painting upon the sky. I yell at them to turn around, but they don’t respond and keep on running. I turn around and walk alone toward the light. Everywhere is music, in the sky and in my head the music pervades. All fear disappears and I follow the invitation.

Interpretation:

Had I lived a few centuries earlier this would have been seen as a powerful spiritual message. For me this is hardly the kind of message I’m used to. Hell, I don’t even believe in this kind of symbolism! Nevertheless, it communicates.

The blue apparition is intuition–the spiritual–with the “angels” representing wisdom and the messengers of the awareness of a wider truth and the receptive, creative aspect of the self. They are heralding the potential for great achievement, the spirit, and the spiritual power within me. The children are the exuberant, growing self, uncontrolled by the external world. The music enhances the numinous, representing the play of forces within, and providing difficult realizations.

I walk on alone–this is how I imagine death, or the end, or transformation of an old way of being. The Christ-like, or holy, figure of the fresco represents the power of the inner influences of the powerful cosmic mystery of life unfolding. The figure is an archetype for the mystery that is my true self (all our true self) and quite likely the connection I have with all others–the roots of my being.

Often religion serves the purpose of gaining some sense of control over the uncontrollable. I’m being invited to release that attempt to control and embrace walking into the unknown alone– to walk this personal road in vulnerability. For me, this dream requires that I give up my knowing and transcend my personal beliefs about what is real and surrender to something bigger than that.

 “The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.”

                                                      –C.G. Jung 

                                                                  

Some say that a dream figure such as the Blue Fresco is an archetypal figure (a type of symbolic image that shows up across all cultures) of the Great Mother.

The Great Mother figure may visit in many forms, such as the Virgin Mary, a Greek goddess, Sophia, the Earth, or even the dreamer’s mother**. Often these holy people inform and even direct our decisions in life.

Sometimes the Great Mother may come to us to suggest that we cut the dependency between she and us. A man needs to do this in order to become an equal with the feminine power. If he does not do this successfully he may then be into resistance of the feminine and try to dominate it psychologically and in his waking life. Both males and females need to accept the mother as being human in nature. By doing so they then are more able to accept themselves.

When I shared this dream with others one of my colleagues exclaimed that the figure was the Sophia, a Wisdom Goddess figure. From that point on the blue fresco became Sophia. Since then she has visited me in her darker forms and in her animal forms. I’ll share those visits in future posts.

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https://thebookofdreamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/soul-healing/   https://thebookofdreamsblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/the-moon-sun-stars-and-planets-in-our-dreams/

**You can add to that list others such as Isis, Athena, Diana, Venus, Qwan Yin, Hecate and Demeter.

An encouraging conversation with the universe

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I’ve started to notice again how when I’m feeling really down, when I’m worried about whether I’ve made a difference or been foolish, whether I’m doing something right, some kind of encouragement comes my way usually in the form of an acknowledgement, “You really made me think” but sometimes it comes as simply as a vanity license plate, “U R OK”. I’ve always marveled at the timing and spot-on qualities of these synchronistic boosts, but have also not fully acknowledged their magical quality.

What do I mean by synchronicity? It’s what Carl Jung called “meaningful coincidences” or an “acausal connecting principle”. When causal connections seems to be impossible one might infer an acausal connection.

When my life seems a little too random in nature or when I start to feel as though it’s all meaningless chance these little encouragements seem to pop up. When I look back across my life I see that they’ve always been there though not recognized as such when experienced at the time. I don’t know where they come from though some have posited that they are expressions of the collective unconscious, a deeper psychic order or proof of a connection with everything, some have also thought them as sent by God.

Those who believe in only the rational and the concrete label these occurrences as delusional and merely as intellectual intuition with no meaningful connections and have applied several negative labels to explain away the phenomenon of synchronicity e.g. apophenia, patternicity, angenticity (many intellectuals love to use esoteric words to express what they don’t understand. It then makes it look like they have a handle on it). Some researchers such as Klaus Conrad suggested that the pattern emphasis of synchronicity was actually part of the early stages of schizophrenia (though this observation may have some merit not every synchronistic pattern emphasis leads to psychopathy. Psychopathy is often a matter of degree, intensity, and frequency so don’t worry.)

Crazy or not, for me they feel like the intervention of grace that nearly always comes when I most need them. I treat them as messages from the universe (God?) that are telling me something important about reality that I may be missing or am not currently in touch with. Over time I’ve learned to not discount them as merely meaningless and incidental coincidence and to treat them as a gift to my life.

The universe seems to talk to us in many ways if we could just slow down and listen. It’s subtle and so hard to hear through all the noise of our plans, arrogance, anxiety, judgments, fears, outrage, pain, self-criticisms, and worries. But learning to quiet ourselves so as to have a conversation with this phenomenal mystery might be the best thing we can do for ourselves and for each other.

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For more on synchronicity you might enjoy this link: http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/04/08/synchronicity-evolution-your-genes-part-2/