Dreams

Ever Deeper Core of Meaning

Myths . . . are accessible collective narratives containing densely coded symbols and archetypes that can awaken stage-specific dynamic interplay between instinct and archetype.

—Maren T. Hansen, An evaluation case study of a myth class to stimulate identity development for early adolescents

     C. G. Jung taught that images are spontaneous irruptions from the deep psyche that can manifest in a variety of forms which are not limited only to visual images but can also appear as emotions, thoughts, fantasies, and daydreams. These psychic products are furthermore symbolic, meaning they contain hidden knowledge which the psyche is attempting to convey to the conscious sphere, whether this conscious sphere is that of an individual's or that of an entire society. In the context of “densely coded” symbolic images being conveyed to an entire society, the imaginal language of films, books, poems, fairy tales, myths, and a variety of visual and performing art forms such as music, dance, and religious ritual allow us to sound the depths of the psyche in order to understand the messages it has for us. 

     What we have learned during our course is that these symbolic images are imaginal stand-ins for the immense variety of psychological experiences we encounter during the span of one lifetime. Each image—whether it’s an overwhelming irruption of sorrow, a nasty moment of jealousy, or a drawn picture of a caged bird—is a symbol which represents an inner psychological event. Usually, the images that are spontaneously produced and the images we are drawn to at any given moment are reflective of the current cycle of psychological growth and development while throughout the vast pantheon of imaginal material produced by the human psyche we find images and narratives that tell the story of different stages of psychological experience. These are then grouped into types of myth and types of books and types of art, all of which reflect certain psychological and archetypal characteristics and processes. 

     All of us are living our lives from within the inner parameters of these different psychological cycles so that the stories in myths and fairytales, and their counterparts found in the art world and especially in the world of films, can help us to identify which stage we are in. These stage-specific narratives thus contain a great deal of information for how best to navigate that particular section of the psychological road. The overall goal, at least according to countless myths and fairytales, and according to depth psychology, is individuation, which is the process whereby the sphere of consciousness and the much larger and more powerful sphere of the unconscious form a symbiotic harmony, what has been termed the Ego/Self axis. This harmony is only achieved at a great price, namely, the price of enduring great psychological disharmony and suffering, for it is the continual defeat of the ego in the face of the much larger and transpersonal powers of the unconscious that slowly polishes the soul into a vibrant jewel. The quest for individuation and the seemingly never-ending obstacles faced on this quest are often symbolized in the myth of the hero’s journey, most notably articulated by mythologist Joseph Campbell. 

     My vocation—the calling of my soul—is to become a theoretical archetypal psychologist and a scholar. For me, the application of learned material to my own psychological life for the purpose of psychic research and to gain an ever deeper knowledge of the intricate and mysterious workings of the psyche is of paramount importance. In this sense, knowing the way myths and fairytales and films identify inner dynamics and show them to us through the use of symbolic images is of immense value. In this course, I have learned that images are not only symbolic but that they carry a moving, dynamic core of meaning which, when deciphered, explodes open our usual narrow ego perspectives.

And so, onward!

One Ring To Rule Them All

Lord of the Rings (1954) presents a multivalent universe of characters, ideas, and myths—it is quintessentially polytheistic. But what about Sauron? He is a man with one plan, one vision (the single eye), one definition, one idea—one ring. The others have many rings and plans and lands and insignia and cultural bents. The others are all different, with different histories, different proclivities, different physiognomies, foods, customs, and traditions, a veritable archetypal panoply. But Sauron wants to rule over them, bring them all together and “in the darkness bind them.” Why? Because “the logic of monotheism attempts to override” particularities; it focusses on “a single and empty abstraction that can contain all things” (Hillman, 2013, p. 157). Sauron wants to obliterate the multiplicities and replace them with the one vision. This is the way of the ego, too, in each of our lives. 

The danger of literalizing transforms a mother complex vis a vis the son, enforcing a degeneration of puer consciousness into the overcoming/subservient hero/ego. The mother as Great Goddess when made literal becomes the monotheistic complex, the one drive (one ring to rule them all) that defines all subsequent behavior. Yet the son, the hero, the puer, and the mother each contain and point to multitudes of possibilities for “the archetypes do not so much rule realms of being as they, like the gods, rule all at once and together the same realm of being” (Hillman, 2013, p. 127). There can simply be no son, hero, puer, or mother existing independently from one another. They coexist simultaneously as do all the gods, all the complexes, all the afflictions. Attributing values to archetypes is a fantasy of the ego (p. 111) and serves to dislocate the vision of experience inside a relic consciousness now solidified because of being “condemned to a single view” (p. 127). 

Hillman, J. (2013). Archetypal psychology. Uniform edition of the writings of James Hillman vol. 1. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications. 

Hillman, J. (2013). Senex and puer. Uniform edition of the writings of James Hillman vol. 5. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications. 

Us And Them

In his essay, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man,” Jung called being “unhistorical” the ultimate “Promethean sin.” (Jung, 1931/1970, p. 69 CW 10 para. 153). In other words, a great deal of hubris lurks in the fateful untethering of individual, culture, and psyche from the grounding fecundity of history and tradition.

There are similarities between this idea and the one-sided promotion of individuality which unfolded in the social structures of the last few centuries. The division between self and other found literally in the separation of rich from poor, black from white, male from female; spiritually, in the extreme segregation between man and nature; and psychologically, in the way the “mentally able” were privileged over sensitive dissenters, is in direct proportion to the power of the state to control and manipulate. After all, united we stand, divided we fall.

Abandoning a holistic, multifaceted approach in favor of strict individualism destroyed many possibilities for social equality across all frontiers. This loss of wholeness clearly gave rise to the dominant neurotic features of today’s individual psyche, neuroses which are now “. . . accepted as fact and product of modern existence . . . ” (Jansz, 2004, p. 121). The collective psyche is now chained to the rocks where each day its liver is eaten out by a rabid bird—even, perhaps, by “the Aryan bird of prey” (Jung, 1931/1970, p. 80 CW 10 para. 190), reincarnated and embodied today in Global Corporate Consumer Capitalism. We are unconsciously paying for the hubris of self-obsessive individualization—devoured alive each day by our fears and anxieties.

Unfortunately, "psychology firmly fixed widespread beliefs about the fundamental inequality of races” (Jansz, 2004, p. 180), and appears to have been weaponized for furthering destructive attitudes, adding fuel to the fire of “Us versus Them,” and helping to justify policies of imperialism.

Thank goodness for depth psychology!

Jansz, J. & van Drunen, P. (2004). A social history of psychology. Blackwell Publishing. Malden: MA.

Jung, C. G. (1970). The spiritual problem of modern man (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 10, 2nd ed., pp. 74-94). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1931)

Unfolding A Life In Work

DJA700, “Introduction to Depth Psychology,” provided me with a historic foundation upon which to build my future academic work in Jungian and Archetypal Psychology. While I did not find all of the material equally inspiring, I was nevertheless deeply engaged. The first two modules gave me a look at the ancient shamanic roots of depth psychology and the origin of the word mesmerize. I also learned how the scientific and industrial revolutions led to a preponderance of psychological disorders which gave birth to depth psychology.

We moved on to study the three great founders of depth psychology—Freud, Adler, and Jung. We learned about Freud’s insistence that sexual energy lies at the center of all psychic activity and that it alone is responsible for the creation of the unconscious, since that is where the psyche must deposit all its sexually charged shame and other repressed materials. Adler taught that the well being of the human psyche is tied to a holistic approach to an individual as situated within society and within social equity. Adler felt that inferiority/superiority complexes were instrumental in causing psychic malaise. Then, of course, there is Jung. He is my hero and no matter how often people go on about his romantic misadventures, I still find his work to be supremely illuminating and of extreme relevance to our current world troubles. Jung espoused a vision of the psyche that includes the personal unconscious, the broader collective unconscious, and a number of inhabitants, features, and psychic proclivities which populate and animate psychic existence, all of which exert a formative influence upon our daily lives.

Later, we learned about the social implications of rapidly spreading psychological practices and saw some of the corrosive, diabolical methods for inequitable social engineering that psychology was used for, especially in the post modern world. In the last two weeks we studied Ken Wilbur and his Integral Psychology, which, for me at least, requires a great deal more than one week of study to be understood. Finally, we did our best to decipher Susan Rowland’s views on Jungian psychology by studying Jung’s prose with its invisible peaks and valleys—the expressions of the unconscious embedded in his words and sentences. “Jung believed and wrote as though he believed that the thinking and discriminating mind—conventionally used to produce non-fictional argument—was situated within a sea of unconscious creativity” (Rowland, 2005, p. 1). In other words, the unconscious was also doing the writing, and Jung let it do so.

My favorite part of the class happened when I discovered Gustav Fechner’s The Little Book of Life After Death, in which, among many other moments of beauty, he postulates the development of human consciousness and its evolution into an angelic eventuality. This further cemented my personal attachment to the Romantic ground of depth and archetypal psychology, with Keats’s profound notion of life as “the vale of soul-making.”

My work is still amorphous and unknowable, like the archetypes. I am in the middle of a creative journey and cannot know yet what the outcome will be. The history of depth psychology and its many permutations is a snapshot of academic work as creative work. I’m able to see the knowledge which developed out of the discovery of the unconscious, and I’m able to take inspiration from its serpentine progression. All our forebears in this work, people like Jung, Freud, Fechner, Adler, Whitmont, von Franz, Mesmer, Edinger, Hillman, Rowland, Mayes and countless others have each expressed a life in work, exhibiting the way a vocation unfolds into a realized vision. For me, this means that I must simply continue putting one academic foot in front of the other, paying careful attention to every step, and taking special notice of the numinous moments along the way when a certain idea takes hold of me and doesn’t let go. In this way, I hope to unfold a life in work as a writer, an artist, and a scholar.

Hubris, Sacrifice, and Living the Religious Life

The never-ending school shootings are the unconscious sacrifice and American Exceptionalism as embodied in the Second Amendment, the so-called infallibility of the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution—is the hubris.

I’m more excited about the second part of the lecture--that subtler level of sacrifice and its practical application in everyday life. This is where we can develop “. . . that stability which human existence acquires when the claims of the spirit become as imperative as the necessities of social life” (Jung, CW 10, para. 190) [Italics mine].

The correct relationship of hubris to sacrifice is exactly that of the ego to the Self. There is a healthy way and a destructive way, and the healthy way unequivocally requires sacrificing the ego to the Self, again, and again, and again.

Strange moods, dark forebodings, irrational sorrows, sudden, unmistakeable intuitions, creative outpourings, the immensity of our dreams—these are the “significant” parts of “psychic life” that “always” lie “below the horizon of consciousness,” for “when we speak of the spiritual problem of modern man, we are speaking of things that are barely visible—of the most intimate and fragile things, of flowers that open only in the night” (Jung, CW 10, para. 194).

Sacralizing average moments in the day by surrendering egoic inclinations in favor of nurturing “the restorative possibilities in embracing the dark, underworld of shadow and dream” (Slater, nd, p. 114)—this is what it means to live a religious life.

Each morning, I write down my dreams. Each day, I honor the shadow (sad songs, angry, passionate drawings), 10, 20, 30 times a day I check in with myself: Where is my attention going? Who is in charge right now?

I finally know what Krishnamurti meant when he said you must die to your Self.

Blood Bond

The immediate value of dreams doesn’t come from explaining them, analyzing them, or following their overt or covert suggestions. It lies in re-entering them, living inside them, tasting and chewing them, until they become incorporated into the fabric of our waking hours (Lipsky, 2008, p. 14). 

When our course first began, this quote from our reading seemed abstract to me. It contained a promise that had yet to unveil itself, like a gift. I thought dreams were to be understood and utilized for personal gain and advancement of growth. Dreams were the powerful work animal and I was to harness them with my goals so that together, we’d super-quest and super-charge the individuation journey. But as I began the sincere work of keeping a new dream journal for class, I started to apply the coursework to my day-to-day dream interactions with exciting and disconcerting and dichotomous, paradoxical results. At every turn, I found alterations and mood swings and simultaneous explosions of exaltation and emotional destitution. The more I worked with my dreams, the more they resisted my ego’s greedy, acquisitive approach until I finally let go of the harness. At last, an organic, untethered way of the dream emerged of its own accord. Significant and astonishing was how letting go of the acquisitive approach permeated my entire consciousness. A corresponding psychological outlook spread across the horizon of my soul the way a few drops of blood beautifully flow and dissolve in water, fusing completely with its molecular structure. I think this is what is meant by re-entering a dream, living inside a dream, tasting and chewing a dream. 

In our course, we learned the craft and methods for dream work and of course, these are very useful. Associations, amplifications, and animation of dream figures, active imagination work, writing and speaking and dreaming in waking hours, developing a profound receptivity to the exceedingly subtle vibrations and messages of the unconscious—all these are powerful tools and important knowledge that I’ve come away with after taking this course. 

I have personally experienced the way dreams work together night after night, month after month, forming a series of linked narratives. What this tells me is that I am living my life in the unconscious in the same way that I am living my life in waking hours. In my dreams, I am growing and changing and evolving. In my dreams I am facing challenges, overcoming obstacles, questing and seeking, trying and giving up. In my dreams, I meet the darkness that cannot be named and also meet the strength and resilience I need to face it. Joseph Campbell says that when the truth is shoved down our throats, we choke on it—as do all people who meet true doctrine. Our course has taught me that my dreams are the true doctrine and sometimes I will choke on this truth. Even so, as it starts to go down, as it begins to be digested and assimilated, the truth of the dream spreads and becomes a powerful life force. It does so of its own accord, this work is not created by “me,” it is not manufactured by “me.” Dreams are real. I emanate outward from my dreams, not they from me. Indeed, this awareness has grown so pronounced that I feel in perfect kinship with Leonard Cohen who says:

Hold on, hold on my brother,
my sister, hold on tight. 
I finally got my orders: 
I’ll be marching through the morning,
marching through the night, 
moving cross the borders
of my secret life. 

For this is how it feels when dreamworld and waking world are fused in a bond of blood. A new, secret life emerges, powered by the prerogatives of the soul, where dreams have been “incorporated into the fabric of our waking hours.” This is where our course and the craft of dreamwork has led me—to a value in dreams that is no longer abstract, but immanent. 

I have crossed the border into a new land. There is no need to look back.

Lipsky, J. (2008). Dreaming together. Larson publications. Burdett:NY.