My Native Language is Image

Recently, I have begun to keep a dream journal, again. As in the keeping of past dream journals, the very act of writing seems to stimulate the remembrance of more dreams, and I wonder if by attending to them, the door to the nightworld perspective widens, bringing with it richness and complexity, scrambling the sensibilities of the dayworld experience.

Flying foxes, or bats, sleep 18-20 hours a day.

In the nightworld’s stories and images I am no longer the master of my soul, but live as one among many. The rational order and structure that shape the dayworld no longer strictly apply; time and place shift suddenly, people, animals and situations seem unpredictable and often bizarre compared to the waking state. In dreams, animals and babies talk, we fly like birds, meet strange lovers who seem to know us, run in slow motion, breathe underwater, change sex, and talk to the dead. Here we live amongst archetypal or primary forces that find their way into psyche – for in sleep we cannot but give ourselves over to their world.

The dream world is perhaps a place where soul is shaped by psychic weather much as a tree is shaped by earth, wind, fire and rain. Perhaps dream states place us closer to the primary source or state of awareness. Animals evidently dream, if REM states are any indication and even fruit flies sleep. Maybe we should reverse our idea that we fall into sleep and reconsider whether we are not, rather, falling awake. If dreams are primary and their language is image, then as James Hillman suggested in his book The Dream and the Underworld, image is primary.

Living with this idea increasingly suggests to me, that we develop and use language to translate that primary state of the nightworld and its dream images. But the dayworld perspective filters our experience, by narrowing down the sense of ourselves and each other into separate, private beings; each masters of our own house. The more we live life through a dayworld translation, unaware of the depth of the source of our being and knowing, the smaller and more limited our dayworld perspective becomes. To ignore the depths of psyche, where Pluto’s riches are found, is to shrink our awareness by filtering all we know through the logic and reasoning of dayworld awareness alone, in time becoming increasingly dependent on how well we use language to translate to ourselves and to others the imagistic sense of the world’s impression upon us.

“It is this dayworld style of thinking—literal realities, natural comparisons, contrary opposites, processional steps—that must be set aside in order to pursue the dream into its home territory. There thinking moves in images, resemblances, correspondences. To go in this direction, we must sever the link with the dayworld, foregoing all ideas that originate there—translation, reclamation, compensation. We must go over the bridge and let it fall behind us, and if it will not fall, then let it burn.” James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld

Albrecht Dürer, Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn (1516)

This is not to say that keeping a dream journal is necessary or would even change this situation. One’s relationship to the dreamworld is always in danger of contamination by dayworld perspectives with its need to be master and commander. Dreams then are at the risk of becoming our playthings rather than angels or messengers carrying across from that primal source something new, unexpected or forgotten. Attending to the nature of the relationship between dayworld and nightworld is then, perhaps our life’s work, whether we remember our dreams or not. To acknowledge the existence of an underworld perspective, allowing a place for mystery, and experiencing as Persephone did, the force of the god Pluto dragging us out of our dayworld hubris, stripping us of our innocence, relieving us from our duty of being master and commander, might free us to live mythically, storied lives and place ourselves more fully into the context of the time and place we live in.

If dreams and images are primary, the relationship between language, sense and image then is both vital and flexible. If we see the world through the lens of language without awareness of the lens that filters our vision, our perception will be limited to our ability to define in words the world around us. For some, and they will argue, that is all there is; cold, objective reality, everything black and white, either true or false, dead or alive, good or evil. Quantity then takes precedence over quality, measure over meaning. The talk of soul or dreams, angels, messengers, gods or archetypes is then a throw back to human superstition and ignorance.

The trouble with that perspective lies in its claims of superiority; as if to no longer be susceptible or influenced by any force other than one’s strength of will, education, and societal norms will rid us all of the ills of human existence. So, if we live in the hard facts of “reality,” we have somehow reached the pinnacle of human achievement where ignorance, disease and war will be driven out and reason will usher in peace and perhaps someday, ever-lasting life, even if only through the creation of robotic machinery that we deem to be just like us, or the perfected us, reflecting back an unobtainable quality of perfection and innocence forever out of our reach.

“Mythical metaphors are perspectives toward events which shift the experience of events. They are likenesses to happenings, making them intelligible, but they do not themselves happen… We are those stories, and we illustrate them with our lives (Re-visioning Psychology, pp. 101-2).” James Hillman

An excellent essay on Hillman’s ideas here: http://aras.org/sites/default/files/docs/00051Wojtkowski.pdf

Alchemical Psychology, Part II – Blue

A  look at James Hillman’s book, Alchemical Psychology, the second stage. Part I, Colours, is here.

The move from the morbidity of black is towards blue. Still a bit shadowy, but perhaps coming to us just as we are able to see in the dark, and is that which can only come from adding light, or waiting until our senses become more acute. Adjustment can come through accepting the darkness we find ourselves in, the isolation that we experience there which surprisingly leads to gaining enough distance for reflection.

“The blue transit between black and white is like that sadness that emerges from despair as it proceeds towards reflection. Reflection here comes from or takes one into a blue distance, less a concentrated act that we do than something insinuating itself upon us as a quiet removal. This vertical withdrawal is also like an emptying out, the creation of a negative capability, a profound listening – already an intimation of silver.”

Having lost the ground of our being that we once stood so firmly on, a new grounding can emerge in which we allow a place for the things in life that once fell into the shadows, because we could not bare them, disowning them through idealization of both ourselves and the world around us.

“The soul’s putrefactio is generating a new anima consciousness, a new psychic grounding that must include underworld experiences of the anima itself: her deathly and perverse affinities expressed alchemically by the “moon bitch” (CW 14: 181), “rabid dog”(CW 14: 182)  and lunacy that comes with the moon goddess, Diana.  The dark blue of the Madonna’s robe bears many shadows, and these give her depths of understanding, just as the mind made on the moon has lived with Lilith so that its thought can never be naive, never cease to strike deep toward shadows.  Blue protects white from innocence.”

We cannot reach the white without giving up the childish innocence we once new and perhaps cherished. Blue keeps us in touch with the black of the underworld, the darkness and sometimes terrifying nature of life, giving us enough distance that we neither identify with the darkness, nor the childish insistence that everything is good.

Without these gradations that the color spectrum offers, we risk perpetually swinging back and forth from the cynicism of living in a cold, dark world to the craving for a paradisiacal one in which suffering is abolished and innocence is presumed and worshipped.

“What before was the stickiness of the black, like pitch or tar, unable to be rid of, turns into the traditionally blue virtues of constancy and fidelity. Country-and-Westerns sing the blues of desertion and fidelity. “Gone and left me,” “done me wrong,” “but I can’t help lovin’.” I may be ruined and bruised, yet still my heart’s still loyal. No way to put something behind me and get on. Blue remembers, and the black in it doesn’t let things go. The tortured and symptomatic aspect of mortification – flaying oneself, pulverizing old structures, decapitation of the head-strong will, the rat and rot in one’s personal cellar – give way to mourning.”

There is so much more that HIllman brings to his chapter on blue, but I promised myself that I would be brief, in the hopes that you, dear reader, will remain curious enough to continue reading this thread and perhaps even read his wonderful book. So, I will leave the last words on blue here to Hillman:

“As an archetypal grace given with the cosmos, the colors donate their imaginative force to our creativity. How else account for the blue masterpieces in the arts? Gershwin, for instance, or Miles Davis? Is it merely a convention that names their music blue? Or does blue’s archetypal power affirm its imaginal reality by means of these masterpieces? Blue made the music blue as it makes our souls sorrow. Blue’s specific gift is to the mind so that its sight can be insight, its vision visionary, and metaphor its terra firma.”

Hillman, James (2011-10-10). Alchemical Psychology (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman) (Kindle Locations 2213-2217). Spring Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Links to all posts in the series:

Colour My World , Alchemical Psychology, Part I – Black http://wp.me/pZ0y1-T7

Alchemical Psychology, Part II – Blue http://wp.me/pZ0y1-TA

Alchemical Psychology, Part III – Silver http://wp.me/pZ0y1-Um

Alchemical Psychology, Part IV – White http://wp.me/pZ0y1-UT

Alchemical Psychology, Part V – Yellow http://wp.me/pZ0y1-WV

Alchemical Psychology, Part VI – Red http://wp.me/pZ0y1-XT

Alchemical Psychology, Part VII – Air http://wp.me/pZ0y1-11b

Alchemical Psychology, Part VIII – Caelum http://wp.me/Z0y1