While cleaning up my desk from all the notes and paper, books, and articles I collect over time I ran across the following missive written on a napkin from some long forgotten coffee shop experience.
“Everywhere I look light is playing with me. Rays, rainbow streaks, dancing shadows and flying things winking in and out of existence as the sun plays off their wings before they dive into the shadows of the no-see-ums.
The tall tree sways in the breeze like the soft fur of a Persian cat being gently petted– the light playing off its many strands turning green into a palette of golds, rusts, and orange.
Suddenly a ball of light catches my eye. It radiates into a moving mandala with a center of pure light– delightful! Like a beam from another universe inviting me in.
“What am I?” It says.
“I don’t know.” I say.
“That’s right!” It says. “And what do you think of that?”
A dream dictionary is basically a book of symbols to aide a dreamer in interpreting a dream. I say “aide” because symbolic meaning is fundamentally unique to the dreamer i.e. the dreamer projects subjective meaning onto the dream images.
A dictionary can help with meaning, but it is not the ultimate meaning because as with any dictionary the author of the material attaches various emotions, memories, and cultural significance to a word in such a way that every word takes on several layers of meaning beyond that which is included in the dictionary. So the symbols in a dictionary can help, but they can’t ultimately define for the individual exact meaning.
Not too long ago I came across a number of dreams that included symbolic drawings that defied definitive meaning, so I decided to experiment with these “dream sigils” to see what they could reveal.
What’s a sigil? Essentially, they are symbols of ones “intentions” and in the process of creating a sigil the “will” of the person creating it is infused into the drawing thus reinforcing the intention. It is a “thought form” designed to giving “being” to an idea.
Before going any further, intentionality should be distinguished from intention because in intentionality the thought creates a reality within itself–a representation of something that has objective existence vs. intention that is the purpose or anticipated outcome of some action.
A sigil can be both in that it can represent an objective reality while it also can be used for some specific outcome.
In the mystic tradition of the Tibetan Buddhists it was thought that one could bring an object or being into reality through sheer will i.e. a materialized thought (the Tulpa). These thoughts could summon into existence a demon, or object of desire if delivered into reality in the appropriate manner.
For modern use the sigil may be similar in purpose to a mandala that may focus the mind, or in the development of a trance state. Some Buddhists suggest that certain deities live within a mandala and can be communicated with when focused upon.
This idea is not altogether unlike the reanimation technique used with dream material as a means of broadening the work and meaning of a specific dream. The dream itself becomes the mandala whose meandering designs pull the dreamers consciousness into its center. Carl Jung labeled the technique Active Imagining where the images of the dream can be brought back to life and interacted with within the context of the therapy session.
As with all things brought to consciousness their reality is pretty much a function of the material projected upon them by the observer. Thus in the creation of a sigil one can observe the associations that present themselves during the process.
For example, note the sigil on the left that I created for the word “Spirit”. In this representation I removed the vowels and left the remaining unduplicated consonants “SPRT”. The drawing took no time at all to produce, seeming to flow from the pen without much thinking on the part of the brain. I felt excitement laced with a happy feeling and a sense of success while producing it. The result exhibited a bold strength combined with a sense of purpose and confidence. For me, when I’m in touch with the Spirit, everything just flows.
Energized by this success I tried another and chose the word “Dreams” (what else?). Eliminating the “e” and the “a” and combining the DRMS I started to draw, but after several iterations I became frustrated, yet determined and wondering why there was such a difference. Then I realized that for the last two nights my dreams had been confusing and frustrating with me failing to get ahold of enough material to extract any meaning. This sigil also reflected the chaos and vulnerability experienced in my former nights dreams.
The very act of creation was a projection of myself in relation to the symbols! In both cases my attention was brought to focus on my real world experiences with the concepts being represented. It had been my intention to use this process to gain insight to the meaning these words implied and indeed they did just that–the subjective intention was realized in the objective creation. Hooha!
Though my sigil may not have charmed something or brought a demon into existence it did objectify an inner demon (my tendency to easily frustrate) and enable me to broaden the experience of the former night’s dreams. And again, by bringing the demon shadow into the light of consciousness I was able to deal with it and thus banish it. Now that’s magic!
I presented a workshop yesterday noon to a half circle of seekers willing to dive deep into their souls in search of the one spring from which all souls flow.
I spoke of the other times we had gotten together and as an after thought I happened to mention those times that I have presented this same workshop to the denizens of the forest where I entered the ancient green light of the woods and sang the songs that bring forth the soul of souls. No sooner spoken and beginning our chanting journey it was as if conjured through magic that the forest seemed to fill the room and began to sing its own song. I could hear the sound of the wind through its many branches, the crack and skitter of all kinds of four-legged players punctuated by an occasional chirp and squawk that all joined together creating a descant of harmonies singing to the spirits of the woodland thicket.
It was the perfect place to search for the spring of the soul of souls.
Soon enough the chanting of others started to rise above my own as they began to own the song. In a breath or two my voice no longer led them deeper into the copse for they were marching on their own path. They continued to sing the spirit into being and I was left to walk with them as they marched ever deeper into the wood. No longer needing a leader I took another trail, searching for my own soul but that would eventually lead me back to the main party just in time to invite them back to the room we had left behind.
As we sat around our spiritual campfire stories of individual journeys were shared until the time had come for us to leave.
All in all a good trek through our collective mystical forest I thought.
In honor of Samhain, the Gaelic festival known here as Halloween I’ve written two articles, one here and one in the Dark Knight of the Soul Blog where I’ve parted the veil between two worlds of reality. It is in this place where magic happens.
In a seminar of long ago and in a far off place I once sat with a stranger and face-to-face we just looked at each other. First there were all the worries about what he was seeing of me and then came my own judgments and critiques of him and of whether I was doing the exercise right. After what seemed like hours, but only several minutes, my vision of him softened and went slightly out of focus.
The voices in my head that I’d been entertaining that were related to the person across from me, and of myself, and of the process as well came to a standstill and I was left looking– quietly looking. It was then that I noticed that it was myself I was seeing in the chair facing me. There was no other chair, or person in the room, just me, looking at me. My sense of self seemed to expand outward and filled the space of the room. I seemed everywhere, but not really anywhere. It was so real that I inhaled sharply and my partner came into focus. I then shared with him some information about him that I could not have known. When finished he did the same for me.
The exercise was to reveal to the participants that there was a deeper level of communication available to us than the everyday of our experience. The experience was that for one brief moment I was not a separate being from him and something communicated in that space, something that should have only been filed within a separate head, a separate consciousness. It was then that I realized that we are all “communicating” unconsciously on some collective level. The exercise made it possible for our forms to experientially transcend the common experience of separateness. This was my first taste of magic– the magic that is the world throughout and around us.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
Separation may actually be a function of the human brain and not really exist outside these rational and linear stacks of cells encased within our skulls. No that’s not to say that you and I don’t have bodies, or egos generated by memories, judgments, decisions, thought processes, feelings, and experiential input–those are separate, but perhaps our core selves are not?
Many times I’ve prayed to my God for help or guidance and had an answer to that prayer show up within virtually no time at all. How is this? Perhaps in the letting go of my own need to control I open myself up to what’s already available in the universe? When I let go of my projections, personal control, and self-protections, when I’ve stilled the mind of any expectations my vision clears and I can see what is directly in front of me, metaphorically speaking. I find myself in another world, one that transcends the world my mind has created. This feels like magic.
Things seem to work much better when I get my self out of the way, this is what the rituals and chemical inducements of the shaman, the wizard, and the witch are all about e.g. making room for the soul by getting the body out of the way.
Here’s a lesson in magic, when we don’t allow the body, or any of its aspects such as the ego (the internal image of self) or persona (the external image of self), define what we are, or are capable of, then the door to magic opens. When we can transcend the dominance of the body it frees the expression of soul. In short, letting go of ego-dominance allows for magic to happen.
“Magic is a way of living. If one has done one’s best to steer the chariot, and one then notices that a greater other is actually steering it, then magical operation takes place.”
–C. G. Jung (The Red Book, p. 315)
Because we live in two worlds, the one of the every day, and the one of the archetypal unconscious, that which informs most of what we do in the every day, and yet keep these worlds separate we are incomplete in our ability to impact reality, or to even understand it for that matter. Dreams, and meditation allow us access to both these worlds through the portal of the imaginal.
When young we lived in the imaginal that made life a place to play in. We then strove to be others expectations of us. This cut a lot of us off from our magical selves. This happens so much that we often find ourselves walking through life with little or no purpose as though what we do, or have, or feel, or don’t feel is the goal of our lives.
We have lost the magic of “being” because we have lost much of the art of imagining and magic arises from the imaginal. The soul loves to play and when released, amazing things can happen. The artist knows this, as does the writer, the poet, and the musician–anyone who releases themselves from their limits and intentionally creates. It’s when you “let go” of your same-old, same-old and drop into the chaos of uncontrolled play that the magic of the child returns.
Here’s another lesson in magic: If you want to learn about magic, watch the children.
“An apparition of indeterminate gender floated high above us, then drifted gently down into the circle of light, barely touching the floor as it landed. It was a ghostly apparition in a form that never seemed really present in the here and now. It was as though I was seeing it in the past, present, and future simultaneously, but not quite solidly in any of those frames… A cold breeze worked its way up my back, and I consciously forced it back to wherever it had crawled out from…”
“I see discontinuity (it said). I see a place where both aspects of being and spirit are not sharing. I see a rift forming where this Being lost the vision given by the Is. I see this Being made up for its loss by creating its own reality in the name of the Is, but not of the Is. I see “ a vision of oneness, the light and the dark in harmony, aspects seemingly in conflict operating as a whole. The vision of the Is includes everything with nothing left out. The yin struggles in your world to be heard, the yang having actively suppressed it out of fear, greed, and ignorance and then codified it as though it were the word of the Is. But the Is becomes aware through the Being. It needs the Being to manifest all of itself, and when the Being becomes unbalanced through the expression of only half of itself, the expression of the Is also becomes unbalanced.”
This was part of an otherworldly conversation between myself and an apparition met one summer evening some thirty-three years ago on the other side of reality. It was an experience of painful awareness that threatened the very fabric of my life as I knew it. But this was not exclusively a story about me but of all of us and the rabbit hole we’re all falling down.
The conversation was an excerpt from the story of a journey I took one dark and rainy night that dragged me beyond the reality I knew and into a world of chaos that was vaguely familiar. This was a story of a desperate need for healing for myself and for the very fabric into which we all are woven. It’s a story that continues into this day and has now pulled all of us into its torn and fragmented web.
Take a peek beyond the veil and into a world beyond this world and come with me on my journey to visit the Dream Healer on the Archipelago of Dreams.
He drew a circle that shut me out, heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win, we drew a circle that took him in.”“Outwitted” by.– Edwin Markham
The Circle it’s arguably the most powerful of all the geometric symbols in both the waking and dreaming worlds. There’s “a circle that drew him in”, an inner circle, crop circles, expand the circle, circle of life, concentric circles, magical circles, circular thinking, a containment, circular file, geomancy, Ouroboros, circle the wagons, coming full circle, secret circles, pie charts, Arctic Circle, going in circles, square the circle, circle of friends,, circling the drain and on and on and on…
Circles in dreams, mandalas, magical incantations, and intuitive awareness’s are used to exclude and include, highlight or delete, expand or restrict awareness. Without the circle virtually nothing would move or exist for that matter e.g. there are gears, wheels, cells, atoms, planets, planetary orbits and galaxies that all come in circle-like forms.
Interpreting dreams can be like peeling an onion that symbolizes the concentric layers of the dream’s symbolism that can lead one to the inner self or God Him/Herself.
This process of digging down into the self is often represented by a circle that is in itself a representation of the self called a mandala. There are also bisected circles to represent the need for balance (yin/yang) or a circle with a cross to represent the Earth our birth mother or with a central dot to represent the life giving mate of the Earth, the Sun.
Buddhists draw the circle to represent completeness and wholeness while Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews use it to symbolize the divine.
Carl Jung the famous Analytical Psychologist and dream guru suggested that anything circular in a dream from a bicycle wheel to a ball symbolized a mandala that in itself represented a divine map to the soul.
Nodding off while sitting before my computer after three hours of writing I dreamed a box with me standing inside. As I looked up I saw the flaps of the box taped shut from the inside. Slowly the space within the box and the walls as well began to move as though the whole room were turning itself inside out. Still looking at the taped flaps I was now on the outside looking down instead of up. A very disturbing vision but consistent with the blog posting I’d written earlier in the day.
After I came to I recalled a book written by Madeleine L’Engle titled “A Wrinkle in Time” where she had described a hypersurface cube, or four-dimensional analog of a cube, called a tesseract. “Googling” this object I found an animated gif that pretty much mirrored the vision of the nap.
Trapped in the box I was able to escape the trap that I’d obviously put myself in (remember the tape was on the inside) by manifesting the inner into the outer, perhaps this was a metaphor for what needs to happen in order for the entrapped soul to more fully and authentically express itself?
A tesseract (or hypercube in this case) folds the fabric of space/time onto itself thus overcoming the limits of time and space. This same phenomenon, though unknown to him at the time of the writing of the book, was what Robert experienced when gazing into the mirrors that lined the walls of the Aelf house he visited while on the Island of the Dream Healer in theArchipelago of Dreams.
In Robert’s story mirrors played an important role in revealing hidden information on the characters of the island called Tir Na Nog. Hidden information is often revealed in dreams in that mirrors are a metaphor for reflecting the inner self.
The world that you and I live in is three dimensional (3D) in nature, thus the box I’ve been referring to is a cube. When the bigger-self is experienced I imagine yet an inner cube within this cube that when properly stimulated turns itself inside out to become the larger cube and creating yet a fourth dimension and thus revealing what’s inside. This may very well be the process of transformation in graphic form.
BANG! The sound of a huge door slamming and shaking the whole house woke me out of a deep sleep. “Oh s#@% it’s an earthquake.” I said half to myself and half to my wife who lay next to me. As I leaped to my feet getting ready to dive for whatever safety I could find I looked back toward the bed only to find that it was no longer there. “What the hell?” I muttered. “Fran?” I yelled out as though ready to accuse her of having somehow taken our bed while I slept. It was then that I stopped dead and stared-out across the empty room and realized that she too wasn’t there.
“Fran?” I piteously whispered as I became conscious of a different kind of fear starting to crawl up my spine and causing my mind to swim. “Where the hell am I?” I pleaded. “Ah, it’s dream.” I thought. Though it felt more real than usual, I convinced myself that it was actually just a dream. “Whew, yes that’s what it is. Time to wake up…” But my usual technique for pulling me out of a dream wasn’t working.
Slowly I made my way for the bedroom door hoping that it was actually there in the dream…one never knew about these things until it was all over. Stubbing my toe in the dark I felt the cursed pain burn through my foot. “This bloody dream is too real!” I thought. But there was the door so I cautiously reached for the knob and carefully pulled the door open just enough so that I could peer down the hall.
Instead of the narrow hall that lead from our bedroom to the front rooms of our house I was now staring at a landing with a wooden railing at its far edge. Two steps more and I found myself staring down into a cavernous expanse of books, and shelves, carved columns, and giant reading tables with the amber glow of lamps pouring light across their tops. As I tried to take the scene in I saw that I was standing on a second tier of several aisles of bookshelves radiating outward toward some unseen perimeter. A railed wooden catwalk circumnavigated the gigantic room that was topped by a high vaulted ceiling and accessed all the aisles. The ceiling upon closer inspection looked very much like the inside of a gigantic wine cask.
“I’ve seen this room before. But where?” I muttered to myself. As I pondered this question I made my way toward the left hand side of the library and found myself drawn toward a particular aisle. No longer in fear but experiencing extreme curiosity I walked slowly toward the far end of the catwalk peering down each aisle as I went. Oddly enough at about what I imagined to be the center of each aisle darkness fell and made it impossible to see its end.
After a few steps more I found myself standing before the aisle that had seemingly drawn me to it and without a moment’s hesitation for cautions sake I walked forward. It was as though I were pushing through a heavy veil, unseen and not really felt but experienced. Once through I made my way down the aisle and turning to my right stopped before a row of large heavily clad books that crowded most of the shelf at eye level. Reaching for the largest and most ornate my hand stopped at mid reach and then moved slowly to the left as though it had a mind of its own and as if it were scanning the books for just the right one when it came to rest just inches from the plainest book on the shelf. “This must be the one.” I muttered sarcastically. Having regained control over my hand I again reached forward for the smallest book in the row. It was a cloth-bound book and wasn’t much more than 6×8 or much thicker than a short story. “I wonder what’s all this mystery about?” I said to myself and feeling somewhat disappointed that the book hadn’t been one of the large leather bound volumes that surely held the answers to some age-old questions of the universe. “Ah well, it’s a dream after all so lets see where this takes me.” Holding the book at an angle so that the overhead light could help me see it better I rubbed my hand across its surface. It felt warm and inviting so I accepted its invitation and opened it.
The world seemed to swirl as though I’d entered some kind of vortex. I held fastly to the book, as it seemed the only solid object around. Soon enough the spinning stopped which was a good thing because I was just beginning to feel my stomach coming into my mouth. “God how I hate nausea!” I spat as I tried to get my bearings.
I looked around me and saw a much smaller room than the one I had left and it was dark save a candelabra of burning candles standing on a large table filled with copper condenser coils, beakers, retorts and other laboratory paraphernalia. In the middle of it all sat a man middle-aged in appearance and hunched over a book not unlike that which I still held tightly to. With what seemed to be a turkey quill he was busily jotting something into the book. With every stroke of his pen I could feel the book I was holding move in my hand.
“I’ll be with you in a moment young man. Sit, sit anywhere you like.” He said while waving his quill about randomly toward a clump of wooden boxes. Being that the only chair in the room was currently occupied I found an uncluttered box and gingerly sat down. After a few moments he stopped writing, laid down his quill and looked toward my direction peering intently as though trying to pierce the gloom that filled the room just beyond the reach of the candlelight.
“Welcome!” He said heartily and with the biggest of smiles. His manner in that one word seemed to calm my nerves.
“You’re a dream aren’t you?” were the first words out of my mouth. It seemed almost rude not to acknowledge his presence or to thank him for sharing his space but even though the room was no longer physically spinning my mind had yet to stop swirling and I needed to add some gravity to it.
“How do you know I’m not dreaming you instead of you I?” He said sort of nonchalantly.
“Well I really don’t I guess.”
“Or more curiously, how do you know that you aren’t dreaming me dreaming you?”
“I guess I don’t.” I said while scratching my head and feeling even less grounded than before starting this conversation.
“Of course you don’t and probably never will which is actually a pretty good thing or you’d cease.” He said matter-of-factly.
“Cease?” That didn’t sound so good and my guard went up as I looked furtively from side to side for any unseen threat.
“We haven’t got time for that right now.” He said as he scooted his chair away from the table and turned it to face me. Reaching toward the candelabra he made a twisting gesture with his hand and the room seemed to fill with light. “Ah that’s better. We can see each other now.” He said triumphantly.
“So you’re the fifth this month.”
“Yes. I had one visitor…let me see…” he paused to sort out his thoughts. “I had one who said he was from the distant past, another from the near past, one from my future and…when did you say you’re from?”
“The 21st century.” I said proudly.
“Ah yes and one from your future.”
“My future?” I asked dumbfounded.
“Yes of course. Do you think time only flows in one direction? You obviously have much to learn.”
“Well given that this is just a dream I guess time can do whatever or whenever it wants.” I said chuckling to myself.
“You still haven’t got it. This is no more or less a dream than what you’ve been living. This is just as real as what you’ve been calling reality.”
If you have the answer, then don’t bother to read on, because it’s not about finding an answer. It’s about the paradox and about unsticking the mind by grasping the unknowing, because it is only in the unknowing that something new can enter. This is a type of Zen Koan and is designed to put the mind into a double-bind and thus paralyze the ego-self, that which thinks it needs all the answers.
There’s another Zen story about the professor who comes to a Zen master for the purpose of learning something about Zen. The master offers him a cup and asks if he would like some tea. “Yes, of course!” Replied the professor and the master began to pour and pour until the cup ran over and filled the saucer then ran across the table. “But the cup is full!” Cried the professor. “And so are your ideas about Zen!” Suggested the master. Again, it is with your mind full, when you think you already know something, that there is no room for anything new.
Here’s a third story where Chuang Tzu, a Taoist teacher, told of a time when a man traveling in a boat sees another boat heading right toward him. In reaction he yells in anger and shakes his fist at the other boat to come about and change course, but nothing happens and they close the gap getting closer and closer. But now he notes that there’s no one in the other boat and his anger subsides and he himself steers clear. His preconceived notion nearly got him killed.
These stories lead to three more lessons in wielding magic, 1) Embrace the double-bind–the paradoxes of life, but embrace them as mysteries; 2) Give up what you know–actually, give up what you think you know. Until you do, you cannot learn anything; and 3) Learn to respond, not react–don’t operate out of your preconceptions, or your expectations e.g. be appropriate to the moment and action will flow easily.
Actually all three require letting go of the ego-self, the “I” and this leads me to a fourth lesson.
The “I” divides us from the magic that is all around us. It separates us from one another and makes us less than whole. In a men’s group this morning we got to talking about how so often we humans get caught up in dichotomies separating left thinkers from right, conservative from liberal, etc. We talk about diversity being a good thing but rankle when it bumps up against us. Every time a group doesn’t think or act the way we think they should we take our game somewhere else, church denominations split, political parties cut each other off, friends and lovers walk out on each other–separation, separation, separation.
However, I think that the very divisions can point to the whole and we can become more aware of what the whole looks like through the diversity. Each point of view is valid none are superior, or inferior, to the other except through the lens of our egos. And I contend that it’s only when we embrace our opposites that we can feed our souls.
Speaking of opposites, there’s an old Chinese fable that tells the story of the difference between heaven and hell. In both places there is a large banquet table. Each of the people sitting around the table is given 5-foot long chopsticks to eat with. In hell the people try in vain to feed themselves with their 5-foot long chopsticks while in heaven each person just feeds the person across from them. In heaven they surrender their individuality and rid themselves of their self-imposed division.
In church on Sunday we passed the peace of Christ amongst us when I came upon two folks who were deaf. In their signing the peace of Christ I noted that the sign for peace was the clasping of the left and right hands back and forth–how appropriate, peace comes from the inclusion and union of opposites.