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.

Mystical Experience

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Many people over the years have shared their unusual experiences, bidden or unbidden, eyes open or eyes closed and all having profound effects on their ordinary state of consciousness. All those who shared seemed to experience a deep sense of connectedness or union with others and/or the environment.

Some people have had these experiences while in deep meditation, through their dreams, or while just walking down the street. There is for all a sense of transcending the self i.e. the ordinary self identified by name and body to a place of communion with something much, much greater.

Some years ago when descending from a hilltop building toward the parking lot below I happened to look out at the dusky glow of the city as it was slowly being cloaked by the evening light. My focus went to the traffic on the street slightly below me and made eye contact with one of the drivers.

Suddenly something else looked out from those eyes driving by. It was a spirit so profound I could only imagine it to be that of God. As I scanned other drivers this same observer looked out and saw a man standing on a hillside about to descend toward a parking lot. I was both seeing them and seeing me through them. The boundary between us disappeared and the stress of the day melted away.

I continued down the embankment with tears in my eyes knowing that something had changed forever in the way I was seeing the world. As I climbed into my car and pulled out of the lot and into the traffic on the street the experience lasted for at least another few minutes, or longer, or shorter, I don’t know because time too had stopped. Fortunately this didn’t last too much longer or I’d no doubt have ended up in a fender-bender.

This is what some philosophers call a mystical experience, though others might label it a brain burp caused by some random misfiring of neurons.

The phenomenology of mysticism was summarized in Borg and Wright’s book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Chapter 4 page 61) where a five-part description of a mystical experience was presented.

Borg suggested that the pre Easter Jesus was a mystic and that “If one takes seriously that the sacred can be experienced, and that people who have such experiences frequently and vividly may be called mystics or Spirit persons, then it seems apparent that Jesus was one of these (62-63).”

Though Borg was describing the pre Easter Jesus he was also defining the experience of mysticism and mystics in general. Borg’s description seemed spot on with my own experience as well as those shared by the many people who have written me over the years.

Mystical experience generally involves five characteristics; Ineffability: where the experience can’t really be described through ordinary words, Transiency: where the experience is somewhat brief, Passivity: in that they are usually unbidden, received rather than achieved, Noetic: produce a knowing of something not known before the experience i.e. a new reality. This may also include a sense of awe and joy. Fifth in the series is that these experiences are Transformative: they transform a person’s way of being in part because they see the world differently after the experience.

For me the experience on the hilltop above the parking lot was one of many I’ve experienced throughout my life all of which have shifted radically my vision of reality. Though my ego-self continues to insist that I view reality through a vision of separateness I know and am able to easily access the “knowing” that has grown from my experiences of the mystical.

I wish that I could share that there was some secret means for accessing the mystical spiritual but nearly all of my experiences have come unbidden though my tendency to give emphasis to such things as dreams, meditations, spiritual, psychological and emotional exploration may have left me more open to it. I have often had a dream or a meditation or rumination that I thought should have produced something deep and profound only to have it reach the level of interesting but hardly awe-inspiring. It’s one of those pieces of “magic” that can’t be made to happen but can be allowed or given room to happen.