Biblical Metaphors for wisdom and Healing

 

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There’s magic to be had from the wisdom center of our unconscious minds and I receive quite a number of dream requests that involve religious themes and images. I thought that from time to time I would present a few of these as an adjunct to my spiritual and psychological musings.

The following dream was sent not too long ago. I have redacted any reference to the dreamer and made a couple of minor changes to aid in flow, otherwise the dream and response are word-for-word.

 The Dream:

I am a Lay Preacher in a church in the United Kingdom. Before the dream I had been reading one of my study units Christ is Alive. I used to only remember the waking moment of a dream, but now I sleep less heavily in a sort of 50/50 world. Often in the dreams I hear a narration or overhear what is said. I had a waking dream this morning and many of the symbol words are not listed on your site. So would be pleased for your view as I am not an interpreter of dreams.

Joseph and Mary where in a garden [&] I was listening to them as they spoke and saw them; it was when she was young. Below is what I heard.

Joseph was saying I will build you a shelter in the garden, I know you and your cousin Elizabeth enjoy sitting in the garden knitting. But the weather is getting colder, you need to keep warm I will build you a shelter, so you can enjoy the sun but out of the cold wind. I will build you an arboretum out of wood, darkened on the inside, and will surround it outside by close-planted cedar and larch trees. I will make an entrance by removing one of the stone pillars and I will make it ‘L’ shaped with a space for your donkey. I will make a seat for you to sit on from a piece of finely polished oak that I have in my workshop. I then saw a view of the finished arboretum before I awoke. That was my dream of Joseph & Mary

A Possible Interpretation:

Let’s focus on some of the images e.g. Joseph and Mary as the parents, or caretakers of Jesus: This may represent your own “care-taking” responsibilities. The garden: This can represent a need to cultivate new skills, or your spirituality. Love is also a factor in this dream. If it were a representation of the garden of Eden it could represent the need to recapture your innocence, or your faith (building this garden might also suggest a building of faith). Building of gardens or being within gardens might also suggest some career development needed. The shelter: This may be a security symbol, but could also represent you, your inner self (much as a house or building would). It could also reflect your fear of things, ideas, and/or people who are different from you.

Trees in general, may refer to your hopes, desires, and personal development. Larch trees are often shamanic symbols of strength and protection as is Cedar (though Cedar is also a symbol for healing).

The warm sun and the cold wind symbols are essentially opposite in nature and may reflect that enlightenment has its colder side even though you are trying to avoid it e.g. shelter from it. This could be read as a need to be conscious of some vulnerability, or that you may need to be open to whatever comes your way. The “sun” can also represent “son”, in this case Jesus, while wind can be the breath of God, but it can also represent some turmoil/stress (inner or outer), especially if the wind is strong.

Pillars can represent strength and stability, something that holds you up (such as faith). It can be how you’re standing up to the stress, or how you’re being ‘supported’ by others. Using it to create a doorway can be about personal transformation into something more personally fulfilling.

I’ll add some of these images to the dictionary, thanks. (This has been done in the Dreaming Wizard Dictionary) http://thedreamingwizard.com/dream-dictionary_263.html

Because many dreamers have asked for a broader list of dream symbols with their possible meanings I have also collected over 5000 dream images from over 3000 dreamers and included them in a new book “Morpheus Speaks: The Book of Dreams” coming out in paperback this November (more on this later).

The Waking Dream:

 The dreamer wrote back that they were indeed having a crisis of faith after two failed sermons, an argument with a church member, and an admonition from the lead pastor. He had to temper his own ego in order to make a course correction. This he did and has had two successful Sundays at the podium since.

The dreamer’s inner place of wisdom came to him in a time of need and offered solutions for growth and healing. Trusting this place within you can add great power to your everyday life. Dreams come to us in part for our health and well-being. They are also a place where the mind works through the experiences of the day. Being aware of this process can give you a leg-up in dealing with what life throws at you.

Love and Acknowledgment

Spiritual+Love.JPGIn one of my dreams a group of frustrated and critical women, an un-nourishing restaurant experience, and a missing suitcase representing unacknowledgment, unrealized longings and social neediness, and a symbol of independence and of not going somewhere in life confronted me. Whew! With dreams like that who needs stress?

But through my dream and subsequent reflection I learned something about myself. Once again I noticed that I was still looking for approval from my mother and as was usual, I didn’t get it. She’s been dead for 13 years now and the part of me that’s still looking for acknowledgment is the part of me that tried to get it 60+ years ago.

I also learned again that there’s no satisfying acknowledgement from outside myself when the inside has yet to acknowledge. I project the unsatisfied acknowledgement onto the stage of the waking world and then blame the waking world inhabitants for not acknowledging me properly. I’ve known this for quite some time, but I always seem to forget until the universe brings it up to me yet again, and again, and again.

This is not to say that the waking world inhabitants don’t have their own acknowledgement issues. I’ve observed many folks either delivering conditional acknowledgements, or throwing up subtle and not so subtle barriers toward acknowledgment coming their way.

Conditional acknowledgment, the kind where one hand delivers while another takes away such as “He’s really good for someone as awkward as he is!” Is like no acknowledgement at all. Don’t bother, I say. Don’t toss an acknowledgment that’s going to drop to the floor before the intended receiver can catch it. You won’t make any goals that way.

Acknowledgment is a tricky thing, we’re all looking for it and it’s all about the approval we didn’t get, or perceived not getting, from our parents. Acknowledgment can be energizing and empowering, or de-energizing and disempowering depending on the sincerity and quality of the delivery. Better to just say “good job” than to get all flowery and come across as disingenuous.

I used to present a workshop a number of years ago called “The Acknowledgment Workshop”. I spent a great deal of time helping people discover what acknowledgment was and was not and what were some of the barriers to giving it and some of the obstacles to getting it e.g. accepting it. What I didn’t do then was to talk about the inner dialog that many of us have that makes it difficult to present, or accept, nor did I spend much time talking about who’s really responsible for getting and giving acknowledgment.

Bottom line– Personal responsibility is more than being responsible for your actions, it is also being responsible for what you project onto your experiences and onto the actions of others. Responsibility includes your interpretation of reality and what you do with that.

Acknowledgment is a dance between the receiver and the giver with each responsible for what is delivered and what is received. We owe it to the one to whom we are giving the acknowledgment to make sure that it is given in a way that it can be received and that it actually is taken in the manner it was given. It is also incumbent on the receiver to communicate to the giver what is wanted and needed.

That last part is by far the most difficult because it can be quite embarrassing and it has the potential for disempowering the giver e.g. it can be seen as a criticism of the acknowledgment and thus insult the giver. Mostly I wait until another time and place and unrelated to the off-putting acknowledgment to make a statement of what I need regarding an acknowledgment, though if it’s just between the other person and me, I have been known to take them aside and let them know that I didn’t really feel the acknowledgment, but for an acknowledgment junkie like me that doesn’t always happen e.g. why take the chance that whatever acknowledgment was there will then be rescinded?

I also learned (again) that one cannot receive or deliver true, unconditional acknowledgment through the ego-self. It is through the larger soul-self that acknowledgment is experienced. It is through that part of each of us that is, and experiences, love. And as with everything meaningful, that’s where acknowledgment comes from either in it’s giving, or it’s receiving–love.

Acknowledgment has the best chance of traversing the distance between people when it comes out of that place of love and is embraced by the same place in the other. Love is never conditional,half-hearted, or self-serving.

Yet love in the form of an acknowledgment isn’t always about “peace and pleasure”*. Love can come to one whether consciously intended or unintended by the giver, in a way that makes the receiver look deeply into their self to see what lies in their heart of hearts.

The Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran wrote in his Prophet pointing out another level of love,

 

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

 But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure*,

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.”

Though Gibran may not have meant it this way, I believe that there are some secrets of the heart that need to be made known so that they do not prevent it’s true expression. In this way a conditional acknowledgment can be in the service of love because it focuses your attention on what you’re doing with it and provides the opportunity to ask yourself why. For me the pain of an unsatisfying acknowledgment can be useful and healing. My heart is often opened through pain and thus I try not to reject its healing process.

Epic tales, epic symbolism

 

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The Battle between Good and evil –by Robert Adelman found on Deviant Art

 

 

As a boy I was fascinated by the tales of Middle Earth as told by J.R.R. Tolkien. I also knew that if one fought bravely enough that good could eventually triumph over evil.

As I grew older I became aware of the Northern Norse mythology that Tolkien used as the foundational source material for his work. But unlike his stories I learned that the most striking feature of this mythology was that all was hopeless, that the apocalyptic battle at Rognarök was humanity’s doom, and that no matter how bravely the hero fought the monsters and giants would defeat humanity and the gods of Asgard.

But I also learned that for the gods and heroes and heroines of the North loss in battle gave meaning and mettle to the warrior who courageously stood their ground and fought on regardless of the fact that all was hopeless.

What’s this? I was dismayed that these epic battles would ultimately end with evil triumphing over good. How could this be? The purity of courage be damned I thought, it needed to be rewarded and besides winning and defeating was the goal of all good and evil confrontations or so I thought. Oh yes and by winning of course was meant that “good” would always prevail.

It wasn’t until years later that I achieved some insight into these wonderful tales from the North.

From the writings of Carl Jung I was introduced to the concept of the Conflict of Opposites and the effect of either ignoring or battling the shadow i.e. evil aspects of our personal or collective nature. In this context. either ignoring or actively suppressing the shadow one gives it power, diminishes their own power, and leads to their being overwhelmed by it.

I surmised that if Jung were right, then the hopelessness and defeat so often celebrated in the Northern myths becomes an allegorical warning to mankind regarding its relationship with the shadow aspects of its personality. Is it possible that when one resists or denies the shadow either in themselves or the society in which they live that its power over us becomes paramount in that our violent response only adds to the violence of the shadow and increases its power and makes impossible to overcome? Oh I won’t deny that some battles can be won but ultimately the shadow keeps returning ever more powerfully. Will we never defeat it and have a permanent peace?

We are both good and evil. So what does this say about a God in whose image we are created? If then God is also both, to resist this would seem futile and self-defeating.

I remember that in a long ago Judo class the teacher talked about not meeting force with force to overcome ones opponent but by using the opponent’s own energy to defeat them. To me now this simple strategy seems a  useful metaphor for dealing with the shadow forces of our nature. If we allow ourselves to become the shadow by denying it we will be defeated no matter how glorious or courageous our actions but if we learn to accept this darker aspect as part of ourselves and turn its energy toward good it can add to our own best intentions and we can prevail.

 

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What determines what reality is or is not?

 

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As I’ve so often said we each project so much of ourselves onto the world that we see that  reality becomes rather complicated. Because reality has no meaning other than what we as individuals assign to it or what we collectively assign to it we have an empty journal or a blank script or canvas if you will with which to work.

Essentially we get to stand before every moment of our lives and paint our world using whatever colors we like. We also have the ability to just be curators or patrons of the art that others create, or to paint pictures for others to enjoy, or to paint just for ourselves. Like an artist we can become so immersed in the process that we forget to step back from the canvas now and then to admire the work or to evaluate it in the context of an even greater picture.

The picture that we each create is the story of us, what’s inside of us, all our dreams, hopes and fears. Sometimes the pallet has many colors, sometimes only grays, blacks and muddy browns, but it is us who wield the brush through the pigmented oils given to each by virtue of our being here.

I have found that for me the ego-self flashes and flares, fumes and stews sometimes mixing so many colors that the balance skews or the mix becomes muddied. But when I can get this part of myself out of the way amazing creativity and clarity can show up. When the soul is hidden, oppressed, or damaged there is no art, just a confusing mud.

Now I’m not talking about chaos because even in what seems chaotic there’s a rhyme, an underlying beauty. I’m talking about the dull, soggy, sloppy mess we accept as life and that once in a while we escape from through some form of distraction. This isn’t the life of the creative soul but the confused state of the limited, and limiting, persona– the sleeping consciousness. And this part of us represents so little of what we are that it scarcely qualifies to be called an “I”,  “me”, “you” or an “us”.

There is so much hidden behind the walls erected by the fearful and arrogant ego that we’ve begun to think that this wasteland is all there is.

Not so!

We, that is you and I, are going on an expedition to find who we really are. But this expedition’s purpose is not to arrive at a predetermined destination, for where we are going nothing is predetermined and doesn’t exist in any one place. We are going to uncover that part of us that doesn’t exist in time or place. It is that part of us that will never die for it’s never been born– that which came before the physical us and will continue long after the physical ceases. It’s the still, quiet place in all of us, that knows the real us.