End Of World
Certainties that the world was ending have been experienced by humans since the beginnings of their history. It is still a theme that frequently appears in dreams and in the way many people live their life today. Many sects have predicted precise dates for the end of the world. All of them so far have been victims of their own fears and hopes.
Looked at from the point of view that dream images represent our own life and feelings in some way, the end of the world, and the fears that go with it, depict the powerful and threatening inner and outer changes that accompany major transitions. The transition from childhood to adolescence for instance is the end of the world that existed for the whole lifetime of the individual up until that point. Such points of transition occur several times in the life of anyone who dares to grow and adapt. Menopause for women, the leaving home of children, the loss of a job, retirement, can all be represented by the end of the world – or a world.
Social changes also bring enormous stress and the ending of a way of life to many individuals. Supposing an individual had grown up in a welfare system and had, as many do, spent their entire life being supported by social welfare, never working. If the social welfare finished, it would be the end of the world for that individual.
So inward and exterior changes can produce the feeling or dream of our world ending. This can usually be met and passed through, although it does require a sort of death, a letting go of old traits and responses built in connection with the old way of life. This can produce anxiety. A new personality, one suited to present needs or situation can gradually emerge – be born – if we can pass through the anxiety and meet the experiences of the new world we are living in.
Several religions lived with the conviction that unless certain rites were performed with zeal, the end of the world would occur. The end was only delayed by the efforts of the devout. Peoples living in the uncertainty of seasonal changes and unreliable harvests, may have expressed their deep fears and hopes through such rituals and beliefs. Underlying such beliefs was the frequent idea that the gods or God had frequently destroyed the world in the past, to cleanse it of error. Such destructions had always been followed with a new world. Therefore rebirth always followed destruction.
In the New Testament Peter reports Christ as saying -
The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up’ (2 Peter 3.10)
The parable of the separation of the goats and the sheep, the wheat from the tares, also suggests an ending and a time of change or judgement. Considering that the early Christians were sure the end of the world was to happen in their own times, we can be certain it does not refer to the actual physical world, or that perhaps it depicts a constant fear that lives in humans concerning death or social insecurity. Research carried out by Ostow and Mortimer into the dreams and fantasies of schizophrenics suggests that the apocalyptic theme is common to the illness, and is almost exactly a reflection of the theme found in some religious teachings.
That people still frequently dream this theme show it is still a significant issue. Strangely enough, sometimes the dreams are not threatening, or there is a great deal of beauty involved. These are examples of the religious theme that at the end of the world there will be resurrection and a wonderful new life. Ostow and Mortimer see these as a hope that radical healing or change can come from an external and perhaps miraculous source, rather than from personal growth. These dreams are obviously not about anxiety, but show a feeling of wonder and pleasure at the dramatic changes. In both cases God, or a power other than that of the dreamer is included in the dream. We can see this as a realisation of the dreamers that the changes are beneficent, and arise from activities wider than the individual influence of the individual. See: First example under alien, and the example below.
Example: It was the end of the world. I was at work when we received the first signs; my computer suddenly showed beautiful pictures – but in the usual computer colour – all green. I said, ‘Oh God, if only we had colour!’ and immediately the pictures started flowing through the screen in beautiful breathtaking colours. I could hardly bear to leave their beauty. Then I was climbing down a steep hill. Arriving at the foot I found rippling sparkling water. I stopped and looked around and found everything incredibly beautiful – the green fields and the pebbles in the water, the soft fresh air; then I looked up and the sky was a glorious picture, the sun so warm and the clouds fluffy and soft and pretty. I felt at peace and so happy, and thanked God with all my heart for giving us so much beauty. Mrs. R. E.
In trying to make sense of end of the world dreams at a personal level, this account from a man in his fifties helps to clarify what happens in connection with such dreams.
Example: About three years ago I experienced a number of dreams about catastrophic events such as earthquakes and the destruction of cities. In such dreams I was trying to find my way through the dangers. For instance in one dream I was walking up a hill in rocky country. Looking to my right I could see that a huge river of earth and boulders was flowing. I realised it was due to earthquakes and earth changes, and although I didn’t feel frightened, I did feel I must keep an eye on what was happening.
During that period I also went through a powerful death experience. I wanted to die. It wasn’t that I felt suicidal, but the sources of satisfaction and pleasure in my life had dried up, leaving me feeling there was little to live for. This led to a real inner awareness of dying, and I realised this was really what religion was referring to in talking about dying and being reborn. It was difficult at the time to know exactly what this was about in terms of my normal life, but through the passage of time I have a clearer view of it, although it is still emerging. So I can be fairly sure that the changes and the sense of dying arose out of my having reached my middle fifties. At that time my children had all left home, and my sexual relationship with my wife was almost non-existent. I had never realised it before, but those two things had given me most of my satisfaction in life, my reason for living. Without them I felt empty of any motive to live as I couldn’t find things that were anywhere near as fulfilling.
Around that time too, after I had actually felt a real sense of having died, I managed to make some big changes in my life. I moved with my wife from a house we had lived in for 17 years. In leaving it I also stepped out of roles that had provided me with a livelihood, social contact, and feelings of social value. This was difficult to do as I had a lot of dependent feelings about the house and the income involved.
The change was sometimes very painful, but overall the changes led me to feel more independent than I had ever been previously. In essence I would say I have gradually learned not to be so dependent on others – my wife and children – for my own feeling of well-being. And although the dreams and the death experience happened nearly three yeas ago, I believe I am still going through the process. I had thought at the time of the death that the birth would follow quickly. This doesn’t seem to be part of my own experience. It is a long process. So if someone who was going through such a process asked me how to meet it, I would say that you have to learn some measure of trust in ones own capability to emerge as a new person. Or one must have a view of life as being more than ones small concerns and inclinations, and that one is learning to integrate what is MORE than oneself. Nigel A.
Example: I looked to my right through the doors of the large room and saw strange alien type creatures. I felt a bit anxious. They were like skinless creatures. Now I was walking out of the town. It felt like the end of the world, or the end of society. I was walking through lots of churches standing on a hillside, surrounded by grass. They were of all types, strongly built but empty now. I walked past a married couple who were walking up the hill too. As I passed I heard them say something about a shepherd. Looking up the hill I saw the sheep, then The Shepherd. A beautiful aura of many colours surrounded The Shepherd. I looked and felt joy and exuberance rise in me, and I ran to the couple saying it was THE SHEPHERD. Peter M.
What is it that is ending in my life, or that I fear is ending?
Do the events of the dream give me further insights into what I feel or fear?
What events or relationship situations in my life suggest radical change?