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?”
I bought myself a new Moon Calendar for 2019. I stick this on the refrigerator both as a means of tracking the moon’s phases but also to add a little of the mysterious and anticipation to the every day.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Moon as it waxes and wanes across the sky. It shows up in my dreams and I’ve even marked special occasions and special people in my life with phases of the Moon. But the Moon has even more meaning than meets the eye.
In the photo at left is Selene the Greek Moon goddess and guardian of the night. She was, according to legend, daughter of Hyperion–the lord of light– and sibling of Eos the goddess of the dawn. She’s also known as Luna, a Roman Titan.
A character in the Archipelago of Dreams, Eo is named after the Celtic goddess for rebirth. She is cast as a Phoenix bush– that which burns, but does not die, becoming reborn anew. In the book she plays a role as a healer of souls and guides Robert in the processes of healing. A star in the East also shows up in the Archipelago of Dreams and represents the deeper self of the book’s hero.
An eclipse of the Moon can suggest that ones feminine side is being overshadowed, or that some hidden aspect is about to be revealed. The moon eclipsing the Sun could very well be a union of the feminine and masculine aspects of ones self. The new light peeking from behind the Moon as the eclipse passes could be a new light, knowledge, or a new perspective.
The moon is often a symbol for the Priestess, or Goddess who may in a man’s dream be about second-sight, or insight, the intuitive, and a messenger guide (this was so for me in the dream, The Blue Fresco) from the unconscious mind.
The full Moon may represents wholeness while the crescent can represent transformation (Shiva in Hinduism is the god of transformation and is represented by the crescent), openness and resurrection (as with the middle eastern crescent of Islam). A waning Moon, can symbolize letting go, whereas the waxing Moon can be about growing insight and awareness.
Sometimes there can be a month when there is no full moon. This is known amongst Astrologists as a “Black Moon” month. For me if this were to present itself in a dream it might signify that something is missing in my life or that I’m not feeling whole and complete or that my inner light is somewhat diminished i.e. that I’m not reflecting the full light of God or the Spirit.
A red Moon can be about violence, disaster and strife, while a blue Moon can represent rarity. The moon also represents the receptive and wisdom. The Virgin Mary and Sophia were likened to The Moon of the Church, the reflector of the light of the Christ (often symbolized by the Sun).
The full Moon in the bookThe Archipelago of Dreams represented wholeness and completion and a goddess messenger for success. Viewing it helped the hero, Robert, to calm himself and get to sleep before battling the shadows of the Dark Lords.
Stars in ones dream can represent knowledge (universal and self) and the divine. Sometimes a star can be like an angel, a messenger from the divine spirit. In some Native American tribes the stars in the sky are the campfires of dead ancestors with their spirits forever looking down upon you. Here too the star played a prominent role in Robert’s transformation while in the Archipelago of Dreams.
The morning star (Venus the goddess of persuasive feminine charm and for the Romans, the mother of them all) heralds the rise of the Sun (the Moon’s male counterpart). This was a good sign for a new beginning and for enlightenment. However, some early Christians saw the same symbol in opposition when they determined that this star represented the devil Lucifer that means “Morning Star” in Latin. Interestingly enough the archetypal image of the devil usually refers to a dark and unwanted side of our own nature that can only be dealt with in the direct light of day e.g. through conscious awareness.
The five-pointed star called a pentacle shows up in many Christian churches as a symbol to ward off evil, though in opposition, or inverted, the star represents evil. The European Roma call it the Star of Knowledge. When an apple is cut in half across the core a pentacle becomes evident–no wonder the apple gets such a bad rap.
The six-pointed Star of David can signify the union of Heaven and Earth–body and spirit.
Shooting stars are often seen as a divine sign, or as a messenger from God, hence the ancient ritual of asking (praying) for some intervention as it shoots across the sky.
Generally, stars in ones dream can represent success i.e. fame and fortune, aspirations and high ideals. Or you could be putting your fortunes into the hands of the stars e.g. luck. A star can also refer to the dreamer, the star of his or her own life.
Planets in dreams may be about creativity, exploration and adventure. Each planet has its own particular meaning e.g. Jupiter may be about success and extravagance, while Venus may represent desire, beauty and feminine power, whereas Mars may be energy, drive, passion, and masculine power.
The Zodiac is a system of explaining the universe through the movements of the stars, around the ecliptic path of the Sun, Moon and planets. To see the zodiac in your dreams is to see a representation of the various traits and aspects that one uses to connect with their universe. For those who are familiar with the signs, a particular sign may point to a particular trait or aspect in the dreamer. The zodiac can also be a metaphor for the passage of time, or the mysteries of life as well as being a metaphor for destiny e.g. something over which you have little or no control.
My last blog of the year is on flowers and their meaning in dreams.
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts. There’s fennel for you, and columbines—There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference—There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. “
–In Shakespeare’s Hamlet
On a walk with my wife early this summer I was admiring all the gardens along our route, not just the quality of the landscaping but the profusion of flowers as well. While bending down to take in the fragrance of a rose I recalled an earlier dream where a rose played a prominent part. This got me to thinking about flowers in general and the special place they have in all our lives and dreams.
We adorn our church sanctuaries with flowers, brides carry a bouquet of flowers as they walk down the aisle and the space is often covered in flowers. The poinsettia shows up at Christmas, the lily makes an entrance at the Christian celebration of Easter, and the Lotus is divine, symbolic of creation. Gods and goddesses sit upon the Lotus that symbolizes purity and raising them above the common, muddy existence of desire and attachment.
Flowers are at our funerals, our graves, our love affairs, our weddings, on national and regional flags, significant celebrations, and we even name our children after them is it any wonder that they also show up in our dreams?
Though today flowers tend to be just pretty emblems of occasion they once had great social and spiritual meaning.
Though Roses may mean a declaration of love today, Marigolds once held that position. Basil is pretty much an aromatic herb for many of us, but for many Indians it is the symbol for the god Vishnu and can be found in a place of honor in their family gardens. Forget-me-nots are the flower of Pisces from the Zodiac, the Yellow Wattle is symbolic of Australia, Tulips are symbolic of Sagittarius and heralds of Spring, and Daisies perfectly symbolize young innocence.
Carl Jung, the 20th century Swiss psychiatrist and guru of dreams saw the rose as representing the Mandala, a symbol of the unconscious self. He thought that dreams with roses were very spiritual in nature and that they were the equivalent of the lotus signifying transformation.
Across the millennia people have assigned mythical and religious meaning to flowers. For example, Lilies might represent the Trinity or the Virgin Mary, Easter, rebirth, or royalty (as in the fleur di lis).
The morning-glory is appropriately named, because the flower blooms in the morning and dies by the afternoon. Georgia O’Keeffe brought the calla lily to prominence with her series of close-up paintings of single calla lily flowers. She wanted the viewer to look closely at the fundamental form of the flower without any preconceived notions. Many of her paintings are considered by some to be spiritual in nature, though some see many of them as sexual so I’m not sure how successful she was at having people see her paintings without preconceived notions. However, the concept of “seeing” something with no preconceived notions is often the Eastern way of seeing a thing’s true nature.
For many years I’ve been fascinated by creation stories, probably because of my curiosity for how and why we got here.
It seems as though every culture, extinct or extant, has a creation story explaining how they and their world came to be. To me they all read like a dream. It’s my intention across a number of my Blog entries to touch on the dream states of cultures in some detail.
One of these cultures in particular is very much a “dream”. It’s even called the “Dreamtime” and comes to us from the Australian Aborigine. I choose this group to be first because they come from the land of my birth as well, though I am not Aborigine, but of the Europeans who invaded their land some 250 years ago.
These people have lived the vast land of the Australs* for some twenty-two thousand generations, that’s 40,000+ years. Before the arrival of the Europeans, some 200 different language groups existed. Though there are now only seventy groups remaining with each calling their land something different, they all tell a similar story of the creation of the world–the story of the Dreamtime.
From the Dreamtime, Rainbow Snake and others “Dreamed” the world into being. Areas in their world are named for the Dreaming of that part of creation that took place there. The word “Dreaming” symbolizes another aspect in that it represents the individual tribal beliefs and spiritual understandings. For example, one tribe might refer to themselves as having Kangaroo Dreaming or Honey Ant Dreaming. All that comes into the world such as a painting, or other object, or idea, is still dreamed and is claimed by the person or group that has produced it. To them everything comes from the Dreamtime. Individual lives come from those of the Dreamtime as well and return to it when the body dies. In all the people there is an eternal part borne through the mother in time from the originals of the Dreamtime.
The visions of the early Aborigine and to some extent today do not differentiate between men or their surroundings. They experience an undifferentiated state of mind that makes separation much less common among them than with modern man. I believe the western mans general lack of caring for the world and each other comes from this separation. In the Aborigine there was no separation between their daily living, eating, working, sexual, and religious lives. All were either dreams or waking visions. And all come from the “all-at-once time”** and are born into a “life in time.” In a way the Aborigine lives in a dream within a dream.
Through the waking dream (awake state) and the sleeping dream and various altered states, the Aborigine interacts with his reality–indeed with his soul. To him everything is connected.
*Variously known as Australische by the Dutch and Terra Australis Incognita (The Southern Unknown Land) and Colloquially since the early 20th century as Oz.
**Known in quantum physics as the super temporal or in metaphysics as time transcendence.
In my last blog I ended with this sentence, “Is being empty of yourself being full of yourself?”
That wasn’t just a play on words. There are a number of “selves” of which I speak. There’s the “self” that you have named and allocated thoughts and beliefs to. Then there’s the self that each of us presents to the world. There’s also the self we would like to be and the self that we think we are.
But there’s more. There’s the self that your parents projected onto you with their “you’re always” or “you never” or “you can’t” or “why can’t you be more like…” statements. And then there are the limits that society places on you with its can and can-nots, shoulds and shouldn’ts that also come attached to and are often held in place by our religious beliefs all of which together define your social-self.
As you can see we are already full of “selves”, ourselves, and all of these make up what is known as the “ego-self”. While wearing this ego-self there’s no room for our real self to be expressed. We spend every moment of every day that we are here on this earth developing and filling our life with the “untrue self”. We spend so much time doing this that the real self is barely if ever visible to us.
“If you do nothing, truly nothing, God cannot help but to come into you.”
“If you leave, God can enter.”
Basically he’s saying that when you are full of yourself i.e. focused on the development and maintenance of your ego-self there’s no room for the Other.
When we try to be “something” rather than nothing i.e. when we think of ourselves as being objects e.g. body, emotions, beliefs, personality we shut out our true nature. When we think of ourselves as being all these selves the real us can’t come into our awareness. This odd way of being is pure ignorance and illusion and robs us of our true inheritance.
So the act of emptying yourself of all these selves allows for your cup to be full of what you really, and already, are.
In conclusion and as I quoted from the Tao Te Ching in the last blog, “If you want to become full, let yourself be empty”.
*The title of a supplementary meditation manual that I authored in 1979 as part of a Title VI-B Federal Grant supporting the identification of and curriculum development for adjudicated youth with special education needs. https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/5393374
We all act as though we know what is real and what is not real. We act as though we know what is fantasy from what is real but are we right? Many think that to be knowledgeable is to be wise, but is this so? If we acquire enough knowledge will we then gain enlightenment and wisdom?
Fantasy, illusion, myth, intuition, the subjective, imaginal, real, sensory, rational, or objective are always seen as opposites of what is considered reality when in all possibility they are just aspects of the whole. There’s an objective reality that each of us interact with subjectively i.e. the subjective creates the objective that in turn creates the subjective. We project onto everything our image of it. Basically the reality that we see is imaginal even what we call ‘rational’ is imaginal and subjective. Yes, it’s all real, but what real and whose real?
All the so-called opposites i.e. the real and not real things are actually compliments that support each other. They are facets of the whole each contributing to the whole and without them there is no whole and without the whole we do not exist.
Get it? No?
Let me try a few quotes from people who are smarter than I am.
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”
–Daniel Boorstin (also attributed to Stephen Hawking)
So you think you know? In short,
“It’s hard to fill a cup that is already full”
–Tao Te Ching– Lao Tzu
“Your cup is only useful when it’s empty”
Have you emptied your cup today?
“If you want to become full, let yourself be empty”
–Tao Te Ching
They all seem to be saying, ‘Be less so as to be more’. But aren’t these opposites? Try living that for a while and you’ll see the truth in it. Maybe more and less define and complement one another and are not in opposition.
So if being more knowledgeable or ‘all knowing’ doesn’t gain wisdom, how do we gain wisdom? In order to find wisdom we might need to open our hearts and minds. Perhaps knowing a lot or thinking that we know cannot help because they fill us up and close us off, but an innocent and curious mind might open us to see what’s really there. This is what Buddhists call the “Beginners Mind”. It’s the mind of a child that is open until we fill it with all kinds of sense and nonsense.
“Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
–Jesus of Nazereth
So whadda ya think? Is being empty of yourself being full of yourself?
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.
Some psychotherapists, most notably Carl Jung, imagined the psychotherapeutic process to be like a mandala. It may be true that the natural process of the psyche attempting to become whole again is also very much like a mandala i.e. that one works their way from where they are on the edge of their psyche toward the center where the Self, the source of their being lay. It’s a healing process really. Spiritually we are said to be complete and whole until we are born and become separated from the whole both psychologically and physically. It’s the Adam and Eve story symbolically imbedded in the birth of every child. But the symbolism doesn’t stop there.
Most religions have some sort of mandala that symbolizes the Way, the path toward the source of our being, the way back to the Eden prior to our birth if you will. Essentially it is the center that represents the goal whether that goal be the Christ, God, or Source or the healing of a fractured soul. Jung in his book, Psychology and Alchemy (1944), wrote, “The way is not straight but appears to go round in circles. More accurate knowledge has proved it to go in spirals…” (pg. 28 in the English version of the 1993 edition). Dreams can be like this as well in that the symbols of a theme can spiral around a central point of the dream.
It seems as though certain image patterns, very specific symbolic patterns show up across all cultures and even between species e.g. the auspicious symbols of the Tibetan mandala, the Rose mandala of many Christian churches, the mandala of the Azteca, the Navajo and the Hindu, the circular pattern in a rose or the DNA double helix when observed from the top down. All show this spiral pattern circling toward some center.
These repetitive themes remind me of a favorite quote from my mother, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” a mouthful that is defined in Wiktionary as “the physical, cultural, moral, or intellectualdevelopment of each individual [that] passes through stages similar to the developmental stages of that individual’s species, society, or civilization.” We see our development process, what Carl Jung called the Individuation process or Abraham Maslow called the Hierarchy of Needs show up everywhere we go, in our dreams, the spiral of a nautilus, or the face of a sunflower.
Symbolically all manmade mandala represent the movement toward wholeness. These patterns are archetypal in nature and indicate strikingly similar symbolic meanings.
In many ways the patterns represent life itself and the manner in which it works.
When these archetypal symbols such as the mandala show up in my dreams I try to pay special attention because I know there’s important information to be had that’s pertinent to my psychological and spiritual growth.
For me it’s heartening to know that the universe is out there always showing me the way if I can just learn to read its often enigmatic signs.
Sitting in the shade of an old Elm and reading some most interesting books I conjured three experiences expressed in the form of poems with each coming from a different place within me. The first comes from a break in my reading when my wife came out to share the late afternoon sun.
“I wonder what the tree is thinking, said she.
The tree doesn’t think, it experiences, said I.
That’s you thinking too much said she.
No, that’s my experience of the tree, said I.
That’s you thinking about your experience, said she.
That’s me sharing the experience, said I.
Again, with the last word, said she.
We both smiled, looked up into the meandering branches, and became
lost within its raining foliage rustling in the breeze.”
The sublime world of the subjective imagination energizes like nothing else. Experiencing reality without objectifying it is a rare treat of grace. It’s like a conversation with God– in a place where there’s no need for words. There’s more than one way of shutting down the judgmental voice in our heads. Peace is what follows.
Have a great morning, or evening, wherever you may be.