Σοφíα, Gaia, Psyche

Some time ago I was down in Santa Barbara attending an introductory course on a relatively new approach to dream work. It’s called Dream Tending and though I’m only just scratching the surface of its potential, it has created enough of a change in my perspective that I want to alter the manner in which I work with a dream–yours and mine.

Today’s blog entry I think will reflect some of that change. As I learn and practice I’ll share this already transformational journey.

 

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The Dream:

I’m walking down a forested path with overhanging bushes and trees. I’m looking down a downward sloping path that seems to go into darkness as it bends slightly to my right. Oh, oh, there’s a skunk walking around the corner and out of the darkness, waddling rapidly toward me.

I’m feeling a little fearful. “Will it spray me with that foul smell?” It doesn’t seem menacing, but I’m unsure as it passes me on my right, brushing alongside both myself and the bushes along the path. It’s heading up the path and as it does it seems to be changing from a skunk into a furry, fat old raccoon, less menacing and certainly less fearsome, though I still cringe at the thought of it spraying me once it has passed.

Here’s where I would normally begin the interpretation part of the dream work, however following at least the spirit of the Dream Tending technique, if not actually the letter of it, I continued to work with the image of the creature. What I am attempting to do is to keep the image alive so that I can continue to work with it and interact with it as opposed to doing forensics on it, which requires that it be still so that I can take it apart and study it. The old method requires that the image be unanimated e.g. dead and of course in this state it can only give me information about what was and provides nothing ongoing–it flattens, or two-dimensionalises what started out as an interactive three dimensional being within the dream world.

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Both of us seem focused on where we are going as though we each have a mission. As I’m working on this image I’m engaging the creature and say to it, “Good Luck!” and it responds, “Same to you!” There’s a sense of us being on the same team and performing our prescribed duties in a communal manner.

I’m having a sense that the creature is female and that she’s emerging (ascending) from where I’m headed–she having a purpose in the upper realm while I have a purpose in the lower realm.

We both seem excited by our respective missions. The mission seems like one for the planet versus a personal mission. She is coming from the mother, while I am going toward the mother with us both traveling along this two-way path.

I’m imagining the path now to include lots of back and forth traveling, doing the business of the planet. I’m noticing that this has always been the path that I have been on, but I didn’t have the eyes to see it. Now it feels as though I’m part of it versus being separate from it i.e. in true partnership. I’m feeling hopeful and energized.

I don‘t know what’s around the corner and though I’m feeling a little hesitant, I’m letting that pass and head down anyway. This transforming creature (from skunk to raccoon) reminds me of Alice’s Rabbit whose imaginal emergence becomes an invitation into a world beyond the normal–a world beyond our collective illusion–a glimpse of a world yet more real.

Though the skunk may represent my hesitancy in that I might need to protect myself, it also changes into something much more benign and welcoming.

I seem to be on the road to embodying my new position on the planet in that I am marching to its center to pick up my orders, so to speak.

I’m noticing that the thought, “Living life intentionally” comes up and that the dream seems to embody and encourage this intentionality.

I’m also struck by the animal’s femaleness and wonder if she is also a metaphor for transforming my relationship with the feminine. Am I finally recognizing our connection, our true partnership? Is the animal Psyche, Gaia, Earth Mother– the feminine side of God? Is she welcoming me as she did in the “Blue Fresco” dream summarized in the posting of 8-30-2016?

Am I being invited to help in bringing the feminine back to the world so as to heal its overly masculine imbalance? Is the image in the Blue Fresco the Sophia of the ancient Jewish tradition, the feminine aspect of God, the wisdom side of the masculine?

These are archetypal symbols that dramatize and establish core meaning to the images of the dream and invoke the divine that is in all dreams e.g. the Divine Mother and Wise Old Woman. They can be seen in virtually every mythology including those that were scribed as drawings on cave walls (the original temples serving as both tomb and womb, and earthly connection with the underworld and the spirit), or carved from clay before the dawn of the written word.

 

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A neolithic mother goddess found at Catal Huyuk near Anatolia in modern Turkey c. 7000 B.C.E. These goddess figures can be seen to represent the earth itself.

“Oh that’s just a myth!”

 

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Stonehenge in England has been the center of many myths of the supernatural.

 

Fact or myth?

Myth, or the study of them, mythology, is frequently what the other guy believes in. All too often it is denigrated, put-down, and demeaned. “Oh, that’s just a myth!” is often heard as a means of dismissing something that one doesn’t believe in, or disagrees with. We are taught very early to discriminate between what is real, fact, and what is not real, myth or fiction.

That’s well enough, but many of the things we believe are real can turn out to be myth. At one time the whole world believed that the Sun orbited the Earth, most believed there were many gods and that women were property. “God created the world in six days!” Is this a myth or fact, or maybe a myth that points at a fact? After all, it is a fact that the universe was created. It’s the how, when, or why that stumps us and so we make up stories of explanation and adhere stubbornly to them until something better comes along.

And that is the purpose of myth–it’s a means of pointing to what is often the ineffable i.e. what we have trouble putting words to. Our myths point to a reality that is hard to express, or visualize. They also point to human or environmental behavior that is difficult to explain otherwise. It’s not that these behaviors don’t exist, but that we are trying to fathom the world, its people, and ourselves through the power of allegory and myth. We project onto our gods, our heroes and on to other people our own myth. When we learn to read it, the reality of the real world will begin to reveal itself.

Even though myths are often used as the end point of explanation, they can also be the first step in dealing with reality in that they identify what needs explanation e.g. what is it we are seeing? Essentially myths may serve as allegory or symbol of what is real. This is also what our dreams do, they point to the reality we may not see.

For example, when we say that we are a writer, a biker, and a lover of chocolate we then want to explain why that is so. For example we might say, “I am the way I am because my Dad was a biker, my Mom a reader, and chocolate’s an addiction, or surrogate for the love I never got because my Dad was off riding and mother too buried in her books. Or here’s a more ancient explanation for the unknown, “the sky is dark and thundering so there must be an angry god” or perhaps a vengeful sorcerer, demon, or witch.

We develop a lot of myths about ourselves e.g. any time we say, “I am the way I am because…” we are creating our personal myth, our personal explanation for reality–the story, or narrative, that we live by and through. Of course most of these behavioral explanations require some form of blaming someone, or something, other than our selves. And for many of us the whole of life is a myth. Does that mean that your life isn’t real, or true? Not necessarily, for in each personal myth is the seed of truth if we had the eye to see it. Mostly we are so busy making up stories about who we are that we can’t see the reality beneath the stories.

Why do we seem to give such power to our myths? What we seem to do more often than not is to confuse the pointing finger with what the finger is pointing to.

Myths can also be used to hide the assumed reality of ourselves so as to protect us from what we fear the world is, or what we fear we are. There is of course nothing wrong with a personal myth and it’ll do until something better comes along. But you might take the first step in your own growth, and in deciphering your own metaphors for understanding life, your life. As Jean Houston, a human potentials movement leader, said “myth does serve as a manner of explanation, but it is also a mode of discovery…it is the stuff of the evolving self that awakens consciousness…”

You might ask yourself what is your personal myth i.e. who and what do you think you are and are not and why? Jot down a list of adjectives along with their explanations and then scan them and look for themes. What reality does all this seem to point to? For example, if you are someone who meets criticism with hostility and are quick to defend your position, what is it you fear you are that you then feel so compelled to defend against it? What are you protecting?

The myth you have created can inform you as to the fact of you, the reality of you. The informants are all around you and every judgment you have of another person is part of your personal myth and can tell you more about you than it can about them.

Every point-of-view, every criticism, every acknowledgment, and every belief contains valuable information about you and collectively this information can paint a picture of the ‘you’ who exists in the world. And I believe that the more you understand what you’ve created the more you can discriminate between that and who you really are.

 

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

― C.G. Jung

 

Let’s use the biker, reader, chocolate example again, if you believe that chocolate should be one of the main food groups because it is such a good pick me up when you’re feeling down, or you get upset anytime someone ignores you, and your explanation includes what your parents did when you were a kid you might look for a theme in that. Is there “hurt” in that, or “abandonment”? Is there fear, or anxiety? Do you feel compelled to defend your position? From what and why? The story will reveal parts of yourself that you may have hidden long ago. Where else in your life do these feelings and reactions come up? Do they arrive in your dreams, work, school, or on a date? What might they be telling you about yourself?

Many views on a god: An oversimplification

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Given that this time of year has several of the world’s religions celebrating the spirit I thought I’d do a quick and dirty review on the Gods they believe in.

 

Atheism presents a case against the existence of God, but wouldn’t it need an image of God to present a case against it? Why the need to refute the existence of something you know doesn’t exist? These might be considered antireligionists. In fact they seem to make a religion out of antireligion. Originally this word “atheist” was given to those who didn’t believe in the gods of the larger society. Today it represents the belief that there are no gods. They base their beliefs on the fact that there is no “empirical evidence”. Never mind that there may not exist the means for gathering or detecting empirical evidence re: the spiritual.

Life after death: In atheism there is the belief that there is no life beyond death. There is of course no “empirical evidence” to support this belief.

Deism suggests that there is a God but that it is not involved in our every day life. It teaches that God is knowable through creation itself.

Life after death: Regarding any after death phenomenon the deist claims that there’s no evidence either way i.e. of its existence or non-existence.

Theism makes a case for God’s continued intervention in the lives of its creation. Theism teaches that God is not knowable. Types of theism 1) traditional Abrahamic religions known as monotheisms and 2) polytheism such as Hinduism comprised of many gods and demi gods with one primary god and with each representing a different aspect of reality. Note that Paganism may be considered a branch of polytheism. In truth this term was used by Christians to demonize polytheistic religions so as to establish their inferiority. Modern Paganists incorporate nature worship into their belief systems. There are Pantheistic (the belief that all reality is identical with divinity), Polytheistic, animistic and even monotheistic pagans. There are even Henotheists who believe in their one god but not to the denial that there may be other gods e.g. Yaweh or Allah. The Muslims believe that Allah and Yaweh is the same God. Pantheists believe that though there may be many gods such as with polytheism there is an underlying unity e.g. in Hinduism, the Brahman.

is copy.jpegThe Brahman

Life after death: Theists believe in a life after death though there is no evidence to support it.

Animism: Totemic Spirit beings formed the creation. For example, in the Australian Aboriginal cosmology Rainbow Snake created the world. Totemic beings continue to create the world as the ancestor spirits. The Inuit of the Pacific Northwest Americas have stories of Raven who created the Earth, the father of all life who was created out of the darkness. As with some of the old Hellenistic religion Raven could come to earth as a human (remind you of anyone?) or an animal (e.g. lion, sheep, dove)

 

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Raven– creator god

Life after death: The Australian Aboriginal, for example, believes that every person essentially exists eternally in the Dreaming. This eternal part existed before the life of the individual begins, and continues to exist when the life of the individual ends. Both before and after life, it is believed that this spirit-child exists in the Dreaming and is only initiated into life by being born through a mother. The spirit of the child is culturally understood to enter the developing fetus during the fifth month of pregnancy.

Secular Humanism: Secular humanism posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. This may be somewhat like Atheism but a little less cynical. An essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy without the imposition of any belief.

Life after death: A concern for this life (as opposed to an afterlife) and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.

 

Nearly all the isms require either belief or experience.

Belief of any kind requires trust and confidence that something is true or the validity of something often backed by evidence but also through something called faith.

Experience is a direct observation or personal encounter not requiring trust or confidence, faith or evidence. It’s a knowing separate from knowledge. Knowing is the experience of something first hand while knowledge is gained through other people’s experience. It’s like the difference between book learning and on-the-job practical experience.

Belief seems to lock up ones thinking because if you think you know the truth there’s no room for the truth in your knowing. Belief tends to be static but experience is in the moment-by-moment living. Experience is of the “be here now” while Belief may be of the “be here then”.

For example, at one time I could never believe in God for I had no experience of it. Once I had an experience of it I no longer needed a belief in it. Now that doesn’t mean that I haven’t locked-in my experience and turned it into a belief e.g. “I believe in God because I’ve had an experience of it”. I’m only human and that’s what we do. When I notice I’ve done this I try to think of the experience as a fond memory of a past moment that I’m not experiencing at the present moment and let it go. When I’ve truly let it go the moment often returns reminding anew.

This isn’t easy this not holding onto a favorite memory and allowing whatever experience I’m having in the moment to just be what it is. But somehow there’s a knowing that transcends the memory and the desire to lock it up in a precious little silver box, a knowing that floats freely wherever I go as long as I don’t hold onto it. It’s that free-floating knowing that keeps God bidden or unbidden always by my side.