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.

The unity that brings wholeness

 

 

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In our dreams as in our waking lives we seek connection through friendships, family, weddings, marriages, and sexual experiences.

Because we experience ourselves as separate and not being able to inwardly know what is not us we are profoundly strange to each other and spend much of our waking and sleeping lives gravitating toward some kind of unification.

Ultimately this may reflect the deep desire within our souls to unite with something that is essentially not ourselves. We do this by assuming a persona that reflects what we feel is missing in our lives. We do this in our relationships as well often choosing to be with someone who shows us parts of themselves that are alien to us or who shows parts of us that have lain dormant until brought to life through the experience of the other.

Each of us has several aspects or “natures”. There is the passionate, the spiritual, and the sensual side to all of us in varying degrees and much of what we do in our lives is focused toward finding experience that fulfills our drive to live out our true nature i.e. to express our souls fully.

To that end our dreams not only give insight into ourselves, but help us to intuit the mystery of the other as well thus moving us toward the unity that brings wholeness.

10 ways to get in touch with your greater Self

 

3846532.jpg In the world of dreams the unconscious taps into the greater Self (the center of the psyche–the transcendent, unchanging part of what we are). One can take the information from this world and in combination with his conscious self become a self-actualized whole. Many of the world’s mystics, shaman, wise men and women have discovered varied paths leading to the ultimate of the Alchemist’s dream–to transform our humble selves into the stuff of gold. The following represents nothing new, or profound, just another way of taking the path.

 These 10 lessons toward expanding one’s consciousness are by no means the only means for attaining greater awareness of Self, but each require an ability to open one’s psyche to a greater whole than your ego-self ever imagined existed.

These lessons are deceptively simple and require constant practice. At first the path will seem smooth and flat, but after a time it will rise radically and become full of stones and tree roots ready to trip you at every step. Winds will rise around you and squalls will pummel you leaving the road slick and muddy.

The mind will give its all to convince you that you cannot do it, or that it is not worth the effort. There will be times when you seem to have reached the top only to find yet another mountain peak beyond that can only be reached through yet another valley. Basically, enlightenment is not for wimps and the closed-minded will never even find the path to begin the journey. Some will become distracted and wander into the bush and be lost forever. Only a few will have the courage, heart, or the wherewithal to find what lies beyond the veil of the mind.

If you wish, you could think of it as a digital game where you collect power and resources that will help you to attain levels of understanding that will guide you to the highest levels of awareness, sort of a Mario Bros. of the spirit world.

Does this seem a bit too dramatic? To those who have begun the journey my description is but a mere reflection of the trials experienced when one decides to take this journey. They also know that they often travel alone for this is truly the road less taken.

Do you wonder if you’ve got what it takes to travel this road? You’re already on it or you wouldn’t have read this far!

The Beginning 10 ways:

 1) Embrace ‘not knowing’ and see what you get. Knowing fills the mind

and crowds out the empty spaces where the spirit dwells.

2) Be curious and live in the incomprehensible. The already explored and

comprehensible is of the small self–the limited self. Why explore what

you already think you’ve visited?

3) See with your heart (the head has its place in the realm of

things, but it is the soul that reigns in the greater world of the spirit)

4) Let go of expectations (they only limit you to what you already think

you know)

5) Surrender your willful point-of-view. A singular point-of-view rules

out all others and leaves you spiritually myopic.

6) Give up control. Control is of the ego-self–the small self. It is also part

of the defensive self that is only needed if you don’t feel safe–see below.

7) Embrace vulnerability because it expands what you are open to. The

opposite is to be defensive and that puts up walls and closes down

possibilities.

8) Daydream a little (Einstein was expelled for daydreaming too much,

but it was in his musings that he discovered the secrets of the universe)

9) Be a little impulsive and less reasoned. Creativity cannot be found in

the past that is gone–or in any future–which doesn’t exist. It grows out

from the moment.

10) Imagine what can be (it broadens the realm of possibilities and

encourages you to see what’s around the next bend)

 

So, what do most of these lessons have as their foundation, in what way are they similar? This not a frivolous question, and is perhaps the fundamental lesson to be learned in this group.

In future blogs I’ll explore other ways to reconnect with what the Jungian Analyst Dr. Murray Stein called “The spirit of the depths,” the instinctual unconscious. Carl Jung, a founder of Depth Psychology, looked for a way to bridge the gap between our conscious and unconscious selves. He suggested that it was symbology that could bridge the gap. He also went on to say that to leave the gap unattended would create and was actually creating worldwide neuroses. To him it was because of this disconnect with our archetypal instinctual selves that the world’s religions were becoming stagnant, adverse to growth, and no longer alive (or enlivening).

Functioning from Source, the nonlocal I

 

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For the past two weeks I’ve been writing about intention, practical magic, and the universal soul.

I’ve suggested that intention is the basis of all creation because it is ones intent that comes before all learning, reasoning, inference, recall, and action. I’ve tried to show that we are all our deepest intent– our deepest desire. Down in our center we intend that which will ultimately fulfill us e.g. what will make us happy at our spiritual level.

There seem to be two levels to this spiritual level– this soul level. One is our personal soul that which makes up all our personal desires, holds our individual egos (the “I” that we think we are), our experiences and conditioned behaviors. It’s that part of us that operates within the world of space/time, what might be considered our local mind.

Outside of the local mind is the universal soul where the nonlocal or superlocal mind resides. Our “I” self is but a reference point from which we view the greater Self that is the place where together the observer and the observed, the seer and the seen experience and create. It is in this place where everything is possible because at this level everything already exists. But when we trap ourselves in the box of the local mind, the limited mind of the ego and its conditioned behaviors, we cannot imagine anything from the universal and thus are limited in what we can create.

In short, that part of us that you and I believe is the real us, that part we call “I” is the ultimate limiter of the extraordinary beings that we really are. It is this limited local “I” that needs to be transcended, laid aside, before the real magic of our being can be practiced. The individual “I”s of the world need to cooperate i.e. as Deepak Chopra said, “the trees must breathe so I can breathe” so that the illusion of separation can be transcended and we can collectively move beyond our constricted awareness.

We do this by asking ourselves a very simple question when attempting to manifest our intentions, 1) How will attainment of this intention serve me and how will it serve everyone else around me?

If the answer is about fulfillment for me and happiness for all concerned, i.e. for the universal “I” versus just the individual “I”, then we begin to create the extraordinary and magical world about us.

 

Practical Magic

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Frequently in my writings I refer to “magic” but why do I use the word “magic“? Well, mostly my use of the word is to capture people’s attention but I also use it as a means for exploring a place that is found in all of us that is connected to the source of our being and the incredibly fantastic and magical things that can happen when we make that connection.

There is so much more to magic than meets the eye. For the past two weeks I have been writing about what I call “practical Magic”– the magic of the everyday. I’ve even shared a story regarding the psychological underpinnings of the process of developing greater wholeness of the human psyche. Following the studies of C.G. Jung regarding the psychoanalytic implications of Alchemy I’ve jumped into a deeper realm of my own psyche.

In studying the concepts of Practical Magic I’ve run across a number of occult references, all interesting from a psychological projective standpoint, but relatively unhelpful when it comes to the art and practice of transformation.

While digging into these various disciplines, however, I have found a philosophy that makes a great deal of sense and seems, at least to me, to have useful value for the practice of Practical Magic.

I thought that I would share a summary of a portion of what I’ve discovered. In presenting it I have scoured all references to the ancient Asian linguistic traditions that are attached to the philosophy. I’ve done this because it’s made it easier for me to understand and follow through my own linguistic and cultural traditions. I am aware that the cultural tradition of the Asian world is significantly different than that of my own– the western European– and because of that many of the concepts don’t translate well but what I present here is a rather simplified understanding of the foundational concepts of what I’m calling “Transcendent Magic” (not my own word for it has oft been used before and not to be confused with the occult Transcendental Magic) where one allows for the transcendent spirit of the divine to make itself known. 

Continue reading Practical Magic