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.
In a potted plant sitting obscurely in a corner of the patio behind our house sits a lamp that when night falls begins to glow an eerie blue. White crystals at its base fracture the light and send it helter-skelter across the garden floor eventually being absorbed into the dense forest of green across the miniature meadow. “What is that Grandpa?” Said my Granddaughter one warm spring evening while we sat in the dark before the moon took over the sky and dispelled the eerie shadows of the night.
“Ah yes, that’s a Fairy Lamp” I explained. “Ohh, what is that?” she whispered.
“A Faery Lantern, the link between two worlds (or the link between worlds) is like what the dream is to those who sleep and leave the world of light for the world of the night, the world of bright consciousness to the world of dark shadows.”
“The faeries are those images that reside within the dream and guide the dream body through the labyrinth of the inner psyche. Like Dickens’ ghosts of the Christmas Carol they cross through time and solid walls as though they didn’t exist. They are of the intuitive and imaginal world beholding to nothing of the material and rational and yet, and yet, hold the very secret of life, the cradle of our soul.”
“Light the lantern and sleep will overtake you and the fairies will come, dancing and flitting, soaring and buzzing through the air with an invitation to follow deeper into the night realm, deeper into the shadows of the unknown.”
“It’s mostly a curious world, a mad hatters craziness that can turn on the moment to either the sublime or upon a nightmarish Jabberwocky” I growled and clawed the air menacingly while my granddaughter recoiled in mock fear.
“It’s a place of wizards, wisdom keepers and great ladies, heroes, lovers, martyrs, tricksters, devils and death. It is a world where unicorns still forage and people can take wing over vast green meadows. Here the archetypal male in us all holds his hand to the female we all share and rejoices in the union that eludes us in the waking world.”
“As we travel through the world of the night the shape-shifting creatures of the dark will lure us into the Neverseen, the Land of Faery and introduce us to our true self. Once met and understood we can never ever be the same.”
“What do you think of that?? I queried and looked over at her, but the faeries had already come and taken her through the light of the lamp. I smiled and pulled my jacket against the encroaching cold.
I was doing some research this morning for my website when I came across a reference for the symbol of the Dragon in a dream. I’ve recorded several symbols for the dragon (see Dragon Symbols in the Dreaming Wizard website ), but was not aware that they are often seen as riddle makers as well. Given my run in with a Riddlegnome in the book The Archipelago of dreams (see Books by Author on right hand column), I wondered what part a riddle played in fantasy stories, or dreams for that matter.
Frequently riddles are a collection of opposing characteristics describing a single person, place or thing and yet it is the essence of the answer that reconciles the opposites into a single correct answer.
Riddles are often found at the entrance to all kinds of things and are presented as a means of opening the doors to something such as a cave, lair, or bridge and as such aid in the protection of these things. The riddle’s solution is thus the answer to an achievement of something valuable and nothing worth achieving is won without struggle. So it’s no wonder that the Dragon that is often seen as the protector of human treasure is affiliated with the riddle.
The riddle also represents mystery and mans struggle to discover the truth of things. Its solution elicits many of the same feelings associated with the discovery of an unknown truth–the conquering of something heretofore bigger than oneself.
For me at least, any riddle always tries my patience and tests my wit. It is also a metaphor for something that makes me feel stupid and requiring usually a higher degree of analysis and synthesis skill than I think I have. It can often be seen as the prelude to failure and an obstruction to progress. But I must be in pretty good company, or it wouldn’t be used as a protective charm so often in stories of magic. However, I also suspect that they are used in most cases to strengthen one’s higher-order thinking skills and as such as a game to test, or hone, one’s mettle.
While researching, my own dragon entered the room and of course, true to form, posed its own riddle that I present to you now, but unlike my encounter with the Riddlegnome, I will not munch on your bones should you fail to answer correctly.
“It is as warm as a summer’s breeze, or as cold as a stone on a winters day.
It is brighter than a star, or as black as a moonless night.
It can be as hard as rock, or as malleable as clay.
It is of the flesh and of the spirit.
It opens itself up to the universe and yet it can close hard latched when vulnerable.
It is all-powerful and yet easily broken.”
What is it?
There is no reward, or punishment for a correct answer other than the one presented by your own ego. Is that not always so?
Do whatever you do for the sheer joy of it and to honor, that which gave you the life to do it.
I had a dream the once where I was watching a small airplane struggling to gain altitude, to free itself from the gravity restraints of the Earth below. The engine sputtered and it looked as though it was going to crash into the side of a bridge. At the last moment it pulled up sharply, did a backward barrel roll, and barely missed the ground as it pulled out. I thought him a fool until I could see the pilot grinning as he turned the plane into a corkscrew roll, climbed and dove again, oblivious to the danger of failure and screaming with joy. Then I understood and grinned with him.
The dream reminded me of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach*. Jonathan was a seagull who lived to fly. He practiced impossible dives and rolls for the shear joy of the flight. The other gulls frowned in disgust and judgment because that wasn’t appropriate behavior for a seagull, but that didn’t affect Jonathan, because he wasn’t doing what he was doing for the approval of others–Jonathan was doing it for his own soul.
Sometimes I find myself dismayed at how few people show interest in my work with dreams. I keep looking at my blog, book, and website statistics to validate that I’m succeeding. But the real truth for myself is that I do what I do because of the sheer joy of doing it–I do it to free my soul and to let it soar. When I allow the judgments of others to define me, there’s no freedom to soar, much struggle, and no joy.
Yes, it’s nice to get acknowledgment for who you are and what you’re doing, but engineering your life so as to gain acceptance is a trap with no joy in it. Yes, you may need to work toward acceptance in order to advance or maintain a career, that’s a good strategy sometimes, but notice that the people who are flying high sometimes take risks as well and nearly hit the ground time and again. Like Jonathan it is in their nature to soar. Deep down I believe that it is in all our natures to break free of our self-imposed restraints and do a barrel-roll through the clouds.
Deep down beneath our cultural, social, ego-bound, and well-trained personae there is a soul struggling to be free of the gravity of our restraints. The first thing to do is to acknowledge that you have such a soul, such a desire, such a need to be free– to fly as your self and not as someone else’s image of what you should be.
“He spoke of very simple things- that it is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form.
“Set aside,” came a voice from the multitude, “even if it be the Law of the Flock?”
“The only true law is that which leads to freedom,” Jonathan said. “There is no other.”
It won’t be easy, even Jonathan crashed a few times before he got the hang of it, but that gnawing void in him kept pushing to be free.
Practice being free, a little at first until you begin to master its technique. Accept that there might be failures and that from them you’ll learn.
Dedicate everything you do to something bigger than yourself. Over time this will free you from your worry-filled ego-self that wants to be accepted, to blend, and not look too weird. Jonathan may have looked as though he was doing what he was doing just for his own pleasure, but in reality he was honoring the creator who never intended that we should constrain ourselves and become servant to our limited images.
Give thanks to your own wings, your own gifts, and the time you’ve been given on Earth to learn to soar.
“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way”.”
Just as the New Testament of the Christian Bible attempts to portray a new covenant with human reality there is an equivalent in physics. The old world idea of reality can be outlined in what is known as Newtonian physics. You know Newton he was the guy who started pondering the geometry of the universe because an apple fell on his head. In this point-of-view the world outside ourselves was thought to behave in a particular way i.e. individual events were predictable and from this predictability a precise schematic of reality could be deduced. This was the world of Einstein and Sherlock Holmes.
But along came a new guy in town, quantum physics–the study of sub atomic phenomena– and a new testament to reality was born. In this new take on the way things are the predictability of the Newtonian world is turned on its head, instead of being dropped on the head as with the apple, and the predictable becomes unpredictable and probabilistic. No longer can individual events be predicted because in this reality only groups of events have any potential for reality.
It gets weirder in the quantum reality because in this world you and I create reality through our experience and there is no reality beyond our experience of it. In this fundamental world that lies at the foundation of all that we see or seem the old adage that “seeing is believing” is wrong because here “believing is seeing”– we see what we’ve programed ourselves to see (though I contend that outside the physical world this has always been the way for human beings, socially, politically and psychologically i.e. we only see what we want to see).
In the tiny world of the quantum everything seems mystical, intuitive, and irrational. In many ways the left-brain rational view of reality that adheres to a rigid understanding of cause and effect has to give way to the irrational, nonlinear, and whole pattern experience of the right brain.
Note that these descriptions of rational vs. irrational, linear vs. creative, logical vs. intuitive follow the psychological profiles of the inner feminine and masculine that I’ve been writing about. Once again a singular left-brain masculine view of reality begs to be balanced by the right-brain feminine view. i.e. the world can be, and I assert that it should be, both assertive and receptive, rational and irrational1. Most societies reflect a left hemisphere bias on reality, the world of trying to understand everything. But there is room for the right hemisphere that stands in awe and wonderment.
Here’s an exercise to strengthen your right brain experience of reality: the next time you are awed by something just let the feeling be. Don’t try to figure out, label, or understand it. Just let the feeling sit within you–within the right hemisphere of your consciousness. Don’t engage the feeling with thought and logic, let the left-brain rest. Eventually you will ‘understand’, but in a whole new way, a way that words and formulae can’t describe, but every bit as real.
Do this with everything, a leaf, a bird flying across the sky, the rustle of a tree branch, the honk of a horn, the smell of food, a flower, or of a pretty girl walking by. Don’t identify it, label it, categorize it or phantasize about it, just “be” with it. It’s hard, I know, because we’re so used to giving precedence to our left, language based, and rationalizing brain. Practice this when it’s practical to do so (trying it while a truck is bearing down on you and blaring its horn is not a good time to “be with” the experience of it all) and you will experience the world in a much larger way.
1When I use the word “irrational” I don’t use it in the derogatory sense. I use it to refer an other than linear cause and effect way of seeing things an “other than rational” experience such as is experienced through intuition, or the so-called sixth sense.
Early one morning as the sun was still climbing above the tops of the faraway mountains, I threw on my jacket as insurance against the lingering cold from the night just passing and headed down the street to the old river trail. As I descended from road to trail a cold wind skipped playfully about me and I zipped the jacket tighter.
It was a gorgeous morning full of promise, birds calling to one another, a croaking frog and the buzzing of bees busily working the pollen of the flowers along the water’s edge.
I decided to head toward the little town off to the west and was sure that the path I was on was the true path toward that destiny. But somehow I got lost. “Funny”, I thought “This was always the way before!”
A little further down the path the ground became rocky with pools of muddy water and broken branches making the going much tougher than I remembered. I should have turned around, but I was convinced that this had always been the way to town and that I needed to persevere.
The sky became grey and ominous, threatening to pour down and a stiff wind snaked down the gully pushing me back against the way of travel. What had started off in beauty had quickly changed into darkening struggle, but I soldiered on. Debris began to build up against my forward progress and the rain had become so forceful it actually blew horizontal to the path and every step became painful. The sun had become so covered that the sky was nearly black and I could no longer see either my way forward or my way back.
I was cold, wet and lost and rapidly losing all hope, and to make it worse, the river was rising and lapping at the edge of the trail as it crumbled and began to disappear. A stepped back against a soggy berm so as to not be pulled into the chaotic waters but soon found I had no place to stand and the thoroughly drenched hillside offered no safety even if I could have climbed its muddy flank.
It was then that an old woman came out of the thicket and beckoned me to follow. At first I resisted, who knew what this old hag was up to and what dangers she would lead me into? But after several waves to me I decided that it couldn’t get any worse should I follow her and it was a sure bet that the way I was going wasn’t going to get me home so I let go my pride and followed her into the dense forest she had come from.
The going was tough, but the deeper I went into these woods the quieter the storm became until eventually we came to the edge of a great meadow ringed with tall redwoods. A grove of fruit trees stood to the east of us and it was there that the woman led me. Crossing the meadow the sun began to dry my clothes and warm the deadening cold that had gripped my soul earlier.
Somehow the world had changed, new vistas revealed themselves and just beyond the grove sat the sweetest log cabin I’d ever seen. As she stood at the door the woman beckoned to me to enter and because I had learned to follow her lead I walked inside. It was all I could have imagined it to be, I was home.
The patriarchal society that I grew up in had always told me that I should know where I was going and how I was to get there, but the road it lead me down was never-ending and never ever felt like home– I never felt as though I’d made it.
It wasn’t until I began to trust my inner feminine nature, that part of all of us that teaches us to open to our true Self, the wholeness that we are through our connectedness with everything, that I was able to see the real path for my life.
When we let go of our fantasy of what life is and follow our destiny even though it may not seem like the rational path we’ve been taught was the only true path, when we leave our preconceived goals and ideas and carefully conceived plans, then can we follow a path toward authenticity.
Sometimes the path has to be shattered and all seem lost before we can be open to the outstretched hand that offers us something new. Sometimes we need to let go our stubborn resolve of what is supposed to be in order to create a better way.