Alice in Wonderland revisited or whose rabbit hole are we trapped in, yours or mine?

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A while back my granddaughter and I snuggled up and watched the film Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp. In it Alice tries to pinch herself out of what she assumes to be her dream, but is it a dream? She wanders confused and unable to assert that she is even who she claims to be.

 

“’Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I – I hardly know, sir, just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Like Alice are we in a dream? And like her is it our own unmet fears that keep us there? Is it our unwillingness to assert our true self that keeps us trapped in our own little madness?

Often the whole world seems a confusing place and trying to figure it out is like trying to answer the Mad Hatters oft repeated riddle, “Why is a Raven like a writing desk?” The point is that sometimes there just isn’t an answer, or meaning–sometimes life is just absurd. As one looks closer at the world we’ve made, it all gets “curioser and curioser”.

Falling down the rabbit hole into the dark underworld of our dreams will lead us to a curious and confusing realm. But if you were to imagine falling up the hole and into the daylight might it be the crazy conscious world we’ve all adapted to that is mad and the dark world of the unconscious holding the actual enlightenment we seek? Ah what then?

Trapped in a hole of our own making, preferring to limit ourselves to a very small landscape rather than to open our selves up to the endless view of our real self i.e. to be willing to live in hell for fear of heaven–what madness is that?

 

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Ah, but we all think that it was happenstance that we’re here, that we didn’t choose to be here. Are you sure of that? Maybe that thought is your ego’s way of not having to be responsible for how it all turns out?

But what is madness? Deviating too far from a norm or from what is the standard for common sense? Was it madness to believe that sound and image could be broadcast through the air across great distances? Or that women could ever be the equal of any man and deserved the same rights and privileges? And that there would ever be a willing confederation of traditional enemies as is being witnessed in the European Union? Was it crazy to believe that humans could be made to fly or step foot upon the moon? Or that two young college dropouts could change the way the world communicates? At one time the answer to all of these and more was an unquestioned, “yes, it is madness”!

 

“The Mad Hatter: Have I gone Mad?

Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

–Lewis Carroll

 

Real madness seems to be a society that fights desperately for its freedom and then votes for someone to restrict and oppress them. Then there’s a society who believes that the answer to personal safety and security against guns is to buy more guns, bigger guns, with more bullets, and more power. Or how about those who believe that if you punish hard enough the transgressor will learn not to do bad things (look how well that works in our penal system) or that if you hit a child for hitting that it will teach him not to hit? And why the human love affair with retribution and revenge, how’s that working?

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I’m sure that the readers of this blog could come up with many more bits of curious madness than I’ve detailed here. The point is that perhaps in our madness we’ve reversed what it means to be sane. Maybe we all ought to be a little more mad? In the best sort of way, of course, I mean, all the best people are.

A little night music

 

Nighttime at a roadside inn somewhere near Mt. Shasta.

 

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Found on Myazdatabase images

Banners of blood red and yellow clouds shining brightly in the distance turn grey silhouette upon a mountain’s edge at days end.

There’s a holy feeling as quiet descends across the valley. In communion I stand in an empty field singing to the night.

A bright flash lights the distant mountain kingdom where war sabers of cold and warm meet. The gods of day and night having one last joust.

A knight of the road dismounts his chuffing beast, fills its hungry belly with a sulfurous black fluid, and again flies into the now inky sky.

 

 

How is a dream like a parable?

 

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Both are allegorical in that they both point to something and teach a lesson. “That’s like a fable! You might say.” Though both parables and fables teach lessons, the former uses people, whereas the latter uses animals. Both teach morals, both are a form of guidance.

However, a parable generally refers to spiritual lessons and in this way is not unlike many dreams that help one to develop a connection with their spirit. Over the centuries many people have claimed to have received messages from God through the medium of the dream. Throughout the history of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) dreams were said to have been sent from God to certain individuals that were supposed to be used for the good of all people, or to advance the understanding of one so that they may do more good for others. Parables were for all of these religions a means for communicating religious and spiritual concepts.

Why do parables, fables and dreams exist? The answer may be because that they are easier to remember than a direct example. “Dreams, easier to remember?” You say incredulously.

We don’t remember many dreams these days because it is not encouraged by the culture, but once a dream comes through, it’s hard to forget, especially if you’ve figured out what it means. But just because we don’t use them much, dreams haven’t gone the way of the appendix. Ever notice how much you dream after you start reading about dreams?

Mysteries bewilder us and tend to make us pay attention and to focus. Few of us would want to leave a mystery unsolved. Bewilderment makes us strive to know why, or what, or how–it is the carrot at the end of the stick. Dream symbols also beg that we interpret them just as we tend to add meaning to every event and person in our waking life (though this is most often an unexamined ego-supporting process where we project ourselves onto everything and then label it as reality).

Unlocking the meaning of a dream is not unlike discovering the meaning of a parable in that the process starts with asking the right questions and noting that these questions are affected by our beliefs regarding the symbols. Certain questions will often determine the answers, or at least bias them. So before you ask the questions, take a look at the foundation that they sit on. If you already have an answer, that will drive the question and bend it toward your answer. You see this phenomenon frequently with regard to news articles. This is just another form of, “We see what we want to see.”

 

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The Good Shepherd*, mosaic in 
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna
1st half of 5th century

 

What did this parable really mean? If the word “shepherd” were a metaphor for soul, your soul (your guide), what would the parable mean?

Is it possible to read this parable in yet another way, other than the traditional shepherd/flock metaphor? Might Jesus be telling us of our own divinity, our own spiritual nature and its connection with God? Might he be showing us how we can be following the wrong shepherd (the ego-self)? Might the guide that is within us all and that can come to us through a dream be the unconscious self?

Parables and dreams encourage us to dig deeper into their meaning and then apply the lessons to our everyday lives. Neither have to be an accurate depiction of actual events– they only need to point to the idea being conveyed in order to be instructive.

 

 

*Photo by-The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.

 

Fragments of Dreams

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Dream Fragments by– Margaret Thompson

 

I’ve heard it said that we, and the universe find ourselves in, are but holographic projections. As with any hologram every portion of it reflects the whole. This is true for fractals as well that are fragmented geometric shapes that can be split into parts, each of which is a miniature reflection of the whole.

This idea that parts of something can reflect the essence of the whole can be extended to ourselves as well in that each of us contain an archetypal template of the ultimate self, or soul. It has also been my experience that the merest of dream fragments can reflect transcendent and transformational information equal to or greater than that reflected by whole epic dreams. Sometimes a sentence, or even a single word can evoke hidden associations that open doors to the psyche theretofore unknown to the dreamer.

Even with just a word there may be more than one level of meaning e.g. sometime ago someone shared that they remembered only seeing the color green in their dream. The revelation within this single recall fragment included feelings of being naïve (of having been ‘used’ by another person), of being concerned about their effect on others (the environment of their relationships) and a sense of unacknowledged envy and jealousy regarding a colleague. This person also shared that they had been worried that they were not progressing in their desire to grow deeper into their spiritual quest and had been concerned that they had embraced the interpreting of dreams naively and perhaps incorrectly, as would a novice (someone who is ‘green’). All this from a single word!

What seems like meaningless information can yield immense insight if held in the right context. If it is true that you and I are projecting onto our experience of objective reality our wholly subjective meaning of it, then in everything we see (while awake or dreaming) we can glean information about our inner self—every event* becomes a mini reflection of who we are.

 

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*event: a noun (person, place, or thing)

Definition:

  • something that happens at a given place and time (in Zen, persons and things exist in a relational context and are located in time, thus satisfying this definition of an event)
  • a special set of circumstances; “in that event, the first possibility is excluded”; “it may rain in which case the picnic will be canceled”
  • a phenomenon located at a single point in space-time; the fundamental observational entity in relativity theory.

Alchemy and Individuation in dreams

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Some time ago I interpreted a personal dream that included a number of symbols representing a balancing of opposites. Nestled within the dream was a reference to 20K gold as a transforming element within my psyche. This reminded me of a goal (there being many more than one) of transforming base materials, such as lead, into a more precious and higher level metal in the form of gold. Carl Jung loved the symbolism of alchemy, the mystical precursor to chemistry, and likened it to an unconscious attempt to reconcile, or bring into balance, conflicting opposites, in our personality and especially within the psyche. He likened this process in humans as a conscious and unconscious attempt to create wholeness, or self-actualization. He called this process Individuation.

In the dream the base, or common, metal transformation into a higher level, or rarefied, metal such as Gold has yet another level of transformation i.e. the transformation of gold (the accumulated money) into the symbol of the self (a building) thus gold can also symbolize a base-metal-transformation into and even higher form e.g. the integrated human, in this case, me.

Note that the ultimate stated goal for the alchemist was to create the Philosopher’s Stone, that which makes eternal life. In alchemy, sequential chemical transformations lead to an ultimate goal of human existence—to live eternal. Gold was never really the ultimate goal, just another step along the individuation process. In short, alchemy was also the study of the unconscious and thus its methodology, symbolism and mythology of mankind’s psychic conflicts and seemingly unbalanced dichotomies such as masculine/feminine traits is a metaphor for the therapeutic process and the use of dream analysis as a tool in this process. Thus the purpose of dream analysis is to serve as a tool toward the individual access of the collective and personal unconscious for personal growth toward self-actualization.

According to Jung, the integration of humans was a means of reconciling conflicting sides of themselves primarily for religious, or spiritual function. This function has nothing to do with creeds and dogmas, but an expression of what the collective unconscious does to inspire us toward spirituality and love.

In this way this dream seems to serve as a summary of what I’ve learned so far and acts as a bookend to the last several dreams that have dealt with both the waking dream and sleeping dream material that have revealed some understanding of the self and how it interacts with world.

Another message in the dream is that as I learn to balance (integrate) my conflicting perspectives of myself, I come closer to my true self. I have shadow sides of my nature and sunny sides, negative and positive self-judgments, and masculine and feminine natures. Ignoring, or actively denying any of these conflicting aspects causes the balance scale to tip excessively in one direction and the composite that is me becomes less than whole and less able to live my life in a useful i.e. meaningful way. Tipping toward the extremes causes one to diverge from the path of self-actualization and among other things, creates zealotry—an inflexible response to life.