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.

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.

 

The Never-Never

 

“The second star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning.”

 

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A metaphor for our Unconscious Mind?

In several blog articles I’ve explored how myth reflects the workings of the human psyche. Though not myths in and of themselves there are also popular fantasy stories that have added to our cultural mythology that themselves are allegories to the workings of the psyche. I’ve looked at such stories and poems as Shakespeare’s Mid Summer Nights Dream, Louis Carroll’s’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Today I thought I’d tackle yet another of the English-speaking world’s favorite fantasy stories, Peter Pan.

“The second star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning.

But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?

Fly, of course.

Fly?

It’s easy! All you have to do is to… is to… is to… Ha! That’s funny.

What’s the matter? Don’t you know?

Oh, sure. It’s… It’s just that I never thought about it before. Say, that’s it! You think of a wonderful thought. “

 

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From Disney movie Peter Pan

And thus began one of fantasy’s most incredible magical journeys, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie.

What is this Never Land of which he spoke?

Barrie thought of this land as a place found in the minds of children. Each land is as different as each child, though there are some basic similarities as it is between children as well. This seems not unlike the archetypal images of which Jung spoke which would make Never Land an archetype for the psyche’s imaginal realm.

In this way Never Land might be likened to the dream world with the “mainland” of Wendy, John and Michael Darling representing the waking world.

Barrie’s Never Land was probably a reference to the popular name for the Australian Outback i.e. The “Never-Never” that was to be found in the deserts of the Northern Territory. This wouldn’t be too far fetched when one thinks of the Australs as the southern most land mass on the planet and thus analogous to the unconscious mind from whence all dreams are born.

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Never-Never National Park

Neverland can only be reached by flying and in the dream world, flying is a metaphor for freedom and independence, it’s also a central theme in Peter Pan’s world.

The star in the beginning of the story serves as a guide or map to the place of their desire; where they aspire to be i.e. Never Land. In dreams stars also relate to ones aspirations and desires. There’s also an aspect of fate or luck in the story because you’re encouraged to believe that you just have to follow “the 2nd star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning”, a star in ones dreams also symbolizes this same aspect of luck.

In the book The Archipelago of Dreams Robert also followed a star that drew him into the Spirit World of his deeper self where he also tempted fate.

Growing up in some way is also an aspect of many stories both in the desire and the resistance to it. We all want the seeming independence of being grown up and in charge of our fate, but how many times have we all, when overwhelmed with the responsibilities of our grown-up status, wished for the simpler days of our childhood? In our dreams this often shows up in images of our childhood home, friends, events, or family.

You see, our fantasy stories as well as our myths come from the same place as our dreams– they are projections of our deeper, and all too hidden, nature.

 

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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.

Who are you?

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From the Book of Dreams– RJ Cole

An old man tired and at the end of a very long day lay his head upon a rock and soon fell fast asleep.

In his sleep the Other came to him and hovered quietly until noticed.

“Who are you?” the man asked.

“Who are you?” Was the reply in turn.

“Awake I am known as Robert. And you?”

“I am the same as you. In sleep I am what I am when awake.”

“What is your purpose here?” asked the old man.

“What is your purpose?” Asked the Other.

“I’m not sure. What is my purpose? I’ve searched my life over to find my purpose. Are you here to show me?”

“It’s not about searching for purpose, in that you cannot find it. Your purpose will find you. When it does you’ll be it.”

“How will I know when it’s found me?” asked the old man.

“When you’re being it.”

And he woke up.

 

 

Two more synchronistic events

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I tend to think that the world or the soul of the world– God, spirit, Gaia, is always talking to me through what events it puts before me. I call these events synchronicities– or as stated in the dictionary, “The simultaneous occurrence of causally unrelated events and the belief that the simultaneity has meaning beyond mere coincidence.”

Have you ever been thinking of someone you haven’t seen for quite a while and the phone rings and it’s them? How about a couple who have almost identical thoughts at the same time or when you’re looking for a thing to pry something and there on the ground is the perfect tool? That’s synchronicity.

Carl Jung called them “meaningful coincidences” i.e. some kind of spooky connecting principle and something that takes place in the field of energy that surrounds us all. He thought of life as having a deeper order and not just a jumble of random events and that we are imbedded in this deeper order. He suggested that sensitivity to this might be part of the process of awakening to this deeper aspect of the universe. Religious people might label these events as “grace”. This awareness might also show up in our dreams. If one were to imagine that we are always at some level “dreaming” then it is possible that some focused attention to both sides of our consciousness, awake and sleeping, might be useful to understanding what’s going on in this phenomenon called reality.

To this end I share the following two synchronistic events as an illustration.

 

1) One morning I walked into my favorite coffee shop wearing all blue and one of the Baristas playfully exclaimed, “It’s Blue Bob”. I then told her the story of a student I once met when volunteering some years back who had painted her face blue and wore a blue bob haircut. They laughed and at that very moment in walked a girl with blue hair cut in a Bob and everyone nodded at her to get my attention. Was this coincidence or a synchronistic event? I don’t know. The meaning? Who knows, but I am now programmed to notice how many things seem to be blue in my environment and the effect that the color has on me e.g. energizing.

 

 2) Today I’ve been worried about my rather passionate, and somewhat aggressive, response to a friend claiming that autism was caused by the vaccine given to children. Knowing that all studies claiming this have been unequivocally discredited and rejected I argued most loudly. Later feeling bad that I tried to bully his position into submission and yet still trying to support what I considered a reasoned position I wanted to apologize for my behavior, but how to do this without looking like I as weakening the position?

As I sat in the coffee shop I struggled with what I would say to my friend when a young boy perhaps 9 or 10 years old walked up to me and while making no eye contact he reached out and ran an index finger across the length of my mustache. Satisfied, he then walked off. “Must be autistic.” I thought to myself, which I confirmed later with his parent. What was he trying to tell me? Was it that it was all right to have been upset with the person I’d been talking to about the causes of Autism and that my approach of apologizing for my type of behavior without apologizing for what I was defending would work out? When I later approached my friend I shared my apology and then calmly reinforced my position through reason at which my friend said that he understood and took no offense to my earlier behavior. He said that I had given him something to think about.

 

Enough said?

 

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”

Through the Looking-Glass– Lewis Carroll

The feminine soul comes to me through my sleeping dream bringing with her the secret alchemy of wholeness

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Traditionally it is thought that the soul of a woman is masculine and the soul of a man is feminine and that it is this interesting opposition that is trying to be reconciled through our dreams and relationships.

 

Seeking I am lead to a place from which I cannot return.

 I am reminded that I am but a visitor here from a place I never left.

 

 She came to me by dream urging me toward distant hills.

 She opened me that I may give birth to the creative.

 Though I sought comfort in ideas, she led me to the song of my heart.

 

 My desire for her is but her desire for me.

 I draw her unto me as she draws me unto her.

 I dream her with every breath

 as she is the breath that dreams me.

–RJ Cole 2017

 

Who is the ‘she’ of whom I speak? She is my soul who animates me– the spirit guide who comes to me as a means of bringing balance to the archetypal dueling forces of the masculine and feminine within me. She came to me in a dream to help my conscious self unite with my spiritual self and invite me to leave the diversions of both my adult and childhood selves behind and scale the mountains beyond where my true self lay. She is the connection with my soul that I yearn for.

The Dark Matter and energy of the universe

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I was reading an article on Dark Matter the other evening. This is the hypothetical matter that many astrophysicists believe may account for the majority of the total mass of the universe. It’s the matter that seems to be missing when we add up all the mass that we can see and deduce. They suggest that we can’t see it, but it’s there! It is in all of us, just as are the physical building blocks of the galaxies.

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Physicists also suggest that this matter is not like the matter we see, that it is comprised of something quite different than the usual protons and electrons whose conglomerates we see in the stars and our everyday world.

As I read I was reminded that the “dark matter” of the mind is what is known as the unconscious and that the unconscious as it is expressed in our dreams, visions, musings, and meditations is also not ordinary in form–it doesn’t seem to be cohesive or linear, appearing fragmented and unwilling to follow the conscious world’s physics i.e. it defies, or functions in opposition to, the physical realities of the waking world.

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The unconscious is a realm of all manner of magic where one can render objects to do any bidding without fear of failure e.g. where the dead can be resurrected, and we can breathe underwater, fly, and cause all manner of levitation. In the mind beneath our consciousness time itself can be without either cause or effect, be non-sequential, and even run in reverse. People and animals become interchangeable and often morph into one another.

In the waking world, this world at the bottom of Alice’s rabbit hole would seem irrational and chaotic and yet there’s just a hint of common sense that can lead us to make greater sense of the waking world at the top of the hole.

The dream world is I believe very much like the so-called Dark Matter that makes up most of the universe. Is it a coincidence that both the unconscious mind and dark matter account for approximately 70- 95% + of their respective totals e.g. for the total psyche* or the total physical universe?

 

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All of our myths, creation stories, fiction, poetry, art, and wondrous inventions are allegories of the observable universe. Anything that we find within ourselves may only reflect what is found in nature.

In the Hermetic  tradition of the druids, and Wiccans, there is a saying, “As above, so below”– that which is below corresponds to that which is above**. In this case the ‘above’ is represented by all that is conscious and seen while the ‘below’ is manifest in the unconscious or unseen. It would seem that both the physical and mental realities follow this dictum as well.

It also appears that there is movement toward bringing seeming opposites together to form a whole e.g. visible and dark matter, the conscious and unconscious mind. Both the physics world and the world of human psychology are working toward a Grand Unified Model of reality. Researchers such as James Hillman, Carl Jung, and other Depth Psychologists might also suggest that that’s what all humans are doing i.e. developing toward a unified whole–a process known as Individuation–the recognition of differences and then their reconciliation toward being fully human.

Like with Dark Matter, whether you know of it, or see it, the unconscious is there and a part of you.

 

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

 –T. S. Eliot

 

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*The psyche is the individual’s perceived and perceivable universe and is comprised of both the conscious and unconscious.

**From the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. It’s also preceded by a Vedic philosophy. The Hermetic philosophy portrays God as a transcendent God i.e. absolute in which we all participate.

A love poem: I dream of Lithia.

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I’m spending a little time in one of my favorite little towns in Southern Oregon when this dream poem came to me.

 

A breeze extends its wings across the pond. A harlequin cloth spreads accross a palette of greens and yellows.

The wake of malards smears the trees bending in reflection upon the darkening pool. Sounds of water and restless leaves whisper in my ear as the sun sets gold and the air stills before the night.

The scent of deepening darkness wraps itself about me as a musk settles and I’m cloaked in her shadowed embrace.