Dreamland

“Myth is the dream of the people – the dream is the myth of the individual” Herbert Silberer

Whether my attraction to liminal states comes from a lifelong interest in dream states, or attention to dreams leads to an interest in liminal, non-ordinary states, or a mix of both, is unclear. Perhaps it’s the persuasive sense of something deeper and richer, the hidden treasures calling out as beauty does, that draws me more closely to both.

“The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened.”James Arthur Baldwin

A dream of mine is for a willingness to be changed by everyday communion with the world as it is; an edgeless movement between day and night. Perhaps then, an exchange between the mysterious states of dreaming with day world awareness of time and fate, can bridge the two more readily. Maybe when the day world sense of reality becomes less “me,” then the night world of dream figures and mysterious places becomes less “not me.” The waking dream of the day world blurs the edges into a more seamless connection of day into night, you into me and life into death.

The etymology of the word “dream” is itself evidently controversial, ambiguous and unclear, but surprisingly relates to “joy, mirth, musical sound.”

In his book, Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology, Sonu Shamdasani’s discusses Théodore Flournoy, and his influence on C.G. Jung:

Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology (häftad)“The dream could have a purposive and teleological role in developing latent faculties. It derived this from the special significance that Flournoy attached to the creative imagination. This faculty was “the foundation of our being.” It was stimulated by reality, to which it applied itself through acting to transform it. As a result, “the human soul is a machine to transform the real.”

Who remembers the day world or questions the reality of waking states while dreaming? Dreaming is perhaps a deeper immersion into a more passive state where something other than willed, intentional focus of the day world has its way with us. As the Greeks told of Persephone’s abduction into Hades’ Underworld, so are we immersed into a world not of our choosing.

We may wonder what dreams mean, but one of their gifts is that they do not so readily give up their meaning. While dreaming, who asks what does this mean? In some sense, their gift is the freedom to let the characters, plot and movement of the dream roll on, moving us into unknown territory with no need of anything other than participation.

“It is, indeed, good that no valid method [of dream interpretation] exists, for otherwise the meaning of the dreams would already be limited in advance and would lose precisely that virtue which makes them so especially valuable for psychological purposes – namely their ability to give a new point of view.” C.G. Jung

Although no precise meaning may be found in dreams, they may give us insight as if shuffling the deck of our day world experience and viewpoint. They allow us an experience that may not be available to us in waking states. Who knows where dreams are drawing from? There are many theories, and I suspect they each may contain some validity. I like that we cannot precisely know the dream’s function, purpose and meaning. Yet they can serve creativity by offering insights that bring us new ideas and new ways of seeing when we attend to their presence and messages.

Jung,1910 Prints & Photographs Division Library of Congress

Dreams allow us an alternate way to see ourselves, others and the world. If attended to, they can act as a bridge to the unknown, and in that sense have a creative function.

In a letter to one of his students, Jung says:

“In the deepest sense we all dream not out of ourselves but of what lies between us and the other.”

One of the gifts that Jung gave us is to reconsider the value of the dream world as a counter weight to a one-sided day world experience of both ourselves and others. Dream plots and characters may force us to see ourselves and others in ways that shock us or are entirely unrecognizable.

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.” Carl Jung

I have found though, that by attending to dream images and movement, they do reveal to me a much-needed understanding, often through a highly charged emotional dream that upon waking, shows me something I was either unable or unwilling to see before the dream.

So, perhaps it is that our conscious, waking, day world self, finds its deepest roots in the mystery of whatever source dreams and life itself may come from. Maybe, in some way we may never fully understand, we carry with us the origins of the universe and all subsequent traces in a blend of physical and psychological experience that serves to further articulate the mystery of being.

Dreamland by the artist Joni Mitchell

“We’re going to lay down someplace shady
With dreamland coming on” Joni Mitchell

Except as noted, all quotes from Sonu Shamdasani. Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science. Kindle Edition.

Primordial Necessity

My impatient fate
Approaches me,
Stepping zealously
On the air.
It approaches me quietly,
Without noise,
It comes from
The remote area.
And I feel
That in no time,
It’ll open
With its burning fingers
The sacred, the whitest
Door of mine. Tsira Gogeshvili

“Original Sin is accounted for by the sin in the Originals. Humans are made in the images of the gods, and our abnormalities image the original abnormalities of the gods which come before ours, making possible ours. We can only do in time what gods do in eternity. Our infirmities will therefore have to have their ground in primordial infirmity, and their infirmities are enacted in our psychopathologies.” James Hillman

For James Hillman, revisiting our pre-Judeo-Christian past, returns us to a polytheistic world in which the gods were both many and varied. Taking us back in time, prior to the modern scientific view, where reason now denigrates ancient cosmologies as anthropomorphic fantasies with little or no value, Hillman recalls for us what is lost in limiting divinity to the one God.

The Abrahamic God, psychologically speaking, condenses all divine power into one transcendent power, with admission left for only one Adversary down below; the Devil. This condensing forces an entire pantheon of ideas underground – for the gods personify archetypal ideas, images and powers – absorbing them into Abrahamic religions as either friend of the Devil, or friend of God. An entire pantheon reduced to two primordial powers forever at war with each other, battling over ownership and fate of us mere mortals.

My purpose here is not so much to bring more conflict to the competition of beliefs or ideas, but to turn to the Greeks, ironically because we do not share their beliefs, for an understanding that imagining through myth and story are primary; before belief. Seen through the lens of fantasy, Greek mythology, as the Neo-Platonist writers of the not too distant past understood, displays affliction and suffering as belonging, necessary and creative in ways we moderns may have lost sight of.

For the Greeks and other pre-Judeo-Christian polytheistic worldviews, each god personified a distinct nature or image, and through story displayed their characteristics and interactions with each other in a world alive, moving and fierce, and yet, divine, universal, unchanging.

But what does a polytheistic view do for us that a monotheistic one does not? For Hillman, polytheism offers us an articulated view of our nature through images and stories, and especially pathologies, or where we suffer. Sin then is not only, as some Christian theology understands it, an absence of the presence of the divine, but through necessity, a compelling or exaggerated influence of one of many gods, shaping the style, character and fate that befalls us. Evil here can then be attributed to a compulsion, habit or addiction to one aspect of any one of the gods, not only to that of the Evil One. It’s as if the early Judeo-Christian consciousness rounded up all the gods, split them into opposing forces, leaving us with the opposition of Good vs. Evil, an unbearable tension in need of its own redemption, for nothing is purely good or evil.

Perhaps the absorption of polytheism by monotheism, when imagined as a shift in consciousness rather than a deliberate man-made manipulation, can itself be seen as an aspect of the goddess Ananke, a necessary shift. The monotheistic shift in consciousness has brought us the gift of rationalism, and objectivism, both of which have led us to the ideas and discoveries of science and technology. Although we can and do argue the merits of different styles of consciousness, that argument is itself a display of the objectivity of a monotheistic style of consciousness. We cannot, I believe, undo a style of consciousness through an awareness of it only, but we might gain an understanding of the nature and value of imagination inherent in the mythologizing that remains present in us, regardless of belief.

Polytheistic consciousness is perhaps a more deeply immersed and subjective experience of a world animated and alive. The shift away from that state allows us to amplify the sense of ourselves as separate from the environment, and to imagine the world into things unto themselves, with being and function independent of us and each other. The nuance of each god that gets lost in the monotheistic experience can be regained when we look to the images of the gods, recognizing in them primary, or archetypal influence; the source of all bounty and affliction, ever bringing us gifts through the limitations we are bound by through the infirmities we suffer.

Aion or Chronos, bound by Necessity

“Man is as much in the image of the gods and goddesses when he is ludicrous, enraged, or tortured, as when he smiles. Since the gods themselves show infirmitas, one path of the imitatio dei is through infirmity. Furthermore, it is this infirmitas of the archetype that can be nurse to our wounds and extremities, providing a style, a justification, and a sense of significance for ours.”

Ananke

In one version of the Greek myth of creation, the two primordial gods, Kronos (Time) and Ananke (Necessity), were entwined together, and “circled the primal world egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea and sky.” Wiki

The first movement, or cause within the cosmos is this embrace of time and necessity. Hillman sees these archetypal figures with their influence on us as that which engage us through the archetypal structures, or gods, themselves. Hence they are Necessity Herself, primary to all we are and become:

“Necessity in Greek mythical thought is spoken of and experienced in pathologized modes.”

What is meant by the word Necessity, who is Ananke? Hillman provides a list of semitic roots from the works of Heinz Schreckenberg: narrowing, throat, surrounding, embracing, strangling, to wind tightly around the neck as the neck-band of a slave, a necklace or yoke.

In a variation of the myth, The Moirai were described as ugly old women, sometimes lame. They were severe, inflexible and stern. Clotho carries a spindle or a roll (the book of fate), Lachesis a staff with which she points to the horoscope on a globe, and Atropos (Aisa) a scroll, a wax tablet, a sundial, a pair of scales, or a cutting instrument. At other times the three were shown with staffs or sceptres, the symbols of dominion, and sometimes even with crowns. At the birth of each man they appeared spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of life. Shown here in a Flemish tapestry, Triumph over Death, ca 1520, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Ananke is that unseen binding or limit through her entanglement with Kronos, or time, that creates the world: the Heavens, Ge, the earth, all the gods, mortals, plants and animals. Necessity then, is experienced in our environment, the place of our being, and in the relations of family, community, obligations, servitude, all of which, as Hillman says, “governs our being.”

She also has associations to the Underworld, operating as an invisible psychic force. She herself is imageless, which Hillman suggests accounts for her compelling force upon us that leads to our afflicted states. She is blind necessity underlying all images that capture and compel us into mythological states experienced as reality.

“To use the word “reality” implies an ontological condition that cannot be otherwise. Therefore there must be something unalterably necessary about images so that psychic reality, which first of all consists in images, cannot be mere afterimages of sense impressions. Images are primordial, archetypal, in themselves ultimate reals, the only direct reality that the psyche experiences. As such they are the shaped presences of necessity.”

Ananke’s constraints that lead to our afflictions are the theme of Hillman’s essay titled, Athene, Ananke, and the Necessity of Abnormal Psychology that move from a general discussion of Ananke, into a deeper discussion on the relationship between necessity and affliction. Taking his cue from Plato, Freud and Jung, Hillman sees the constrictions of necessity as a first cause, that which then calls for Nous, or reason through persuasion for the presence of “creating principles.” Hopefully, more reflections to come in a later post. Here’s a quote in closing:

“You may have noticed that I continue to call pathologizing a creating activity. Plato presents ananke in a similar manner. He assumes it to be an arche, a first principle not derivative of anything else. It is also a creating principle entering into the formation of the universe. And it is necessarily always there, not gradually overcome through the extension of the rule of reason. As the demiurge never wholly reduces chaos to order, so reason never wholly persuades necessity. Both are present as creating principles, always. “In the whole and in every part, Nous and Ananke cooperate; the world is a mixture resulting from this combination.” 

Except as noted, all quotes from Hillman, James (2012-11-24). Mythic Figures (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman). Spring Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Becoming the Vessel

In reviewing last week’s session of the Jung Platform’s class on James Hillman’s book, Alchemical Psychology, I want to reflect more on the place and nature of the vessel in the work. Hillman says:

“You are the laboratory; you are the vessel and the stuff going through the cooking.  So, too, the fire is an invisible heat, a psychic heat that clamors for fuel, breathing room, and regular loving consideration. How to build the heat that can dry up the soggy, soggy dew, melt the leaden oppressions, and distill a few precious drops of intoxicating clarity?”

The wrestle of Jacob - Gustave DoreSuffering can frequently be a catalyst to move us into the deeper unchartered waters in which we can, by necessity, dispose ourselves to the alchemical work. Drifting aimlessly, we’re sometimes not even sure if we are still afloat. Sometimes though we can transform our suffering, by making ourselves available to experience that dark night in which we can’t know yet where we’re going.

We must now, at least for a little while, feel the acute aloneness that comes when the world no longer makes any sense.

But until we can acknowledge the darkness around us, that the cold aloneness like an endless deep-sea has cut us off from others, with a growing fear that we may not make it back to shore, we may never need to confront the angel who waits for us to say yes to the invitation to enter into a unique cosmic wrestling match.

“In Greece, in the Asklepian temples where “patients” went to find healing by dreaming, they incubated for a period of time devoting themselves to focused brooding and right procedures in order to be blessed by a beneficent dream. In the Bible, Jonah, abandoned by his shipmates, had to remain for a time in the belly of a great whale sunk in the depths of the sea. In that darkness he generated heat, lost his hair. Solitary confinement; utter internality. This is the Nekyia, the night sea journey through the underworld made also by Odysseus, Aeneas, and Hercules, and by Eurydice, Inanna, Persephone, Psyche, by Orpheus, by Christ.”

Neither a journey for journey’s sake or to get to some place of our choosing, nor a way to fix ourselves or the world, it is perhaps a journey of necessity because reaching the edge of the sea with still no land in sight, tired, lonely and hungry, this is where you now find yourself.

“Whether this underworld is frigid and ghastly or burning with the hots of hell, it is a realm characterized by temperatures suitable only for demons, ghosts, heroes and heroines, goddesses and shades who are no longer altogether of the upper world.”

While it may be that “not all who wander are lost,” some of us will very much find ourselves leaving the upper world, without a map, a compass, or even a boat. Even our friends and family become strange to us, all is dark and everything we once thought we knew ceases to make any sense and no longer interests us. None of the old ways work anymore.

“Outsiders. Marginals. Alchemy is a profession of marginals; those at the edge. Those who live from their own fires, sweating it out, self-sustaining their own temperatures which may be at variance with the collective climate.”

In our modern world, the difficulty of the alchemical work, the profession of marginals, lies in our need and willingness to be alone, suffering until we can make our own compass, one which will chart a course of our own making. We moderns are soft, accustomed to traveling together, looking to experts to remind us to wear a seatbelt or a helmet, avoiding harm at all cost. There is much shame around getting hurt, we are to be held accountable. No longer optional, we must fill out the accident report, insurance claim, pay our liability insurance, all the while hoping to mitigate the harm done with “no-fault” policies.

Old Woman stretching out her hands to the fire - Pablo PicassoSo, how do we accept being in the margins, enough to let go of our need to be “on top of it” and in control. What will happen in accepting the invitation to wrestle the angel?

When you find yourself already at the edges, in the margins, and you know that you’ve already come too far and there is no turning back, that is when you might finally see that you have become the vessel and that you are also the substance.

In the vessel and substance that we have now become, we can prepare to do the great work. In alchemy there is first off the matter of the heat, and as the scintilla, or spark of our suffering has just lit the fire, we’ll need to turn our attention to its properties.

“If alchemy is the art of fire, and alchemists, “artists of fire,” as many texts repeat, then the alchemist must be able to “know” all the kinds of fire, degrees of fire, sources of fire, fuels of fire. And, the alchemist must be able to fight fire with fire, using his own fire to operate upon the fires with which he is operating. Working the fire by means of fire. Nature works on nature. Alchemy, an art of nature, a natural art that raises the temperatures of nature.”

All quotes from Hillman, James (2011-10-10). Alchemical Psychology (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman) Spring Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Some absorbing work…

 

File:Olga Wisinger-Florian - Falling Leaves.JPG

I am part of the load
Not rightly balanced
I drop off in the grass,
like the old Cave-sleepers, to browse
wherever I fall.

For hundreds of thousands of years I have been dust-grains
floating and flying in the will of the air,
often forgetting ever being
in that state, but in sleep
I migrate back. I spring loose
from the four-branched, time -and-space cross,
this waiting room.

I walk into a huge pasture
I nurse the milk of millennia

Everyone does this in different ways.
Knowing that conscious decisions
and personal memory
are much too small a place to live,
every human being streams at night
into the loving nowhere, or during the day,
in some absorbing work.

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

http://www.rumi.org.uk/poems.html#RealityAndAppearance

In a Nutshell

A quick tour of C.G. Jung’s idea of the Self is featured in the video below. Jung’s notion of the Self is a more modern term for describing an experience of what has had in the past many names and which Alan Watts called At-One-Ness. Humans from various times and places, have acknowledged a place in their culture for transpersonal experience – understood and assimilated through stories, myth, symbols, language, initiation. Support was given for assimilating these profound experiences that were understood to benefit the whole community. A whole that people knew themselves to be a part of and could not exist apart from.

Not to idealize the past, for all ages have had their share of miseries and hardship, and we carry the past with us and hopefully carry it forward into the future remembering and honoring what we’re here for.

For many in our day, an experience of deep unity, relatedness or what Jung  called the Self is not easily reconciled with our day to day living and can be ridiculed and considered suspect, unreal, or if you’re really hip – something your brain is doing to you. Yes, that’s how separate some of us feel today, not only the separation from God or the Garden, the gods or each other, but from the very body that we are! Amazing!

What caught my attention while listening to the video was the mention of the idea of assimilation, living with one foot in the conventional world, one foot in that other place, which has been called by many names – The Tao, the Underworld, Anima Mundi, Hades, The Light, Heaven, Cosmos, Nirvana. Many of us have glimpsed these places now and then. But like a dream that we wake up from, suddenly realizing we’re not dreaming,  little is left but the fluttering as that other world quickly fades away. Not without a trace however, or thankfully without leaving its mark.

Once you’ve been there, touched by it, you cannot unknow it. No one, no matter their expertise, lack of belief, teasing, logic or ability to talk you back into life’s conventional stream of activity, can take away – not only your memory of where you’ve been, but the knowing that enveloped you while there, building the bridge you are now learning to traverse.

The intuition, the non-verbal radar that connects you to the bigger picture where everything is related  – you now know it is not in you, but that you are in it, or are it and always have been, as is everyone else. And if you look for the relatedness between seemingly separated beings, things, ideas, you’ll see the necessity of each and every thing, place and time.

Photo credit: http://margopayne.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/worldviews-in-a-nutshell-two/