Great Dreams That Guide Us
Great dreams usually only arise when we have tried our best to find out who we are, to cut through to the central YOU. This is a bit like the journey to the centre of the earth.
The journey to the centre of the world, your world, has been the aim of heroines and heroes of all cultures. Myths from all ages tell of the search for that precious something that the hero/ine risks all for. It might be the pearl of great price, the Golden Fleece, or the love of someone.
But you are the hero/ine of your own life. You brave great dangers, face monsters, pass through difficult initiations. Fundamental to the whole drama of the hero/ine is the emergence of your own identity from the depths of unconsciousness in the physical process of conception, through to developing self awareness as an adult. From the great ocean of collective culture, language, and society, you move toward the possible emergence of yourself as a mature individual. To do this you face death and rebirth several times when you metamorphose from baby to child; from child to adolescent; from adolescent to adult; from adult with youthful body to ageing body. It is such an incredible journey, so heroic, so impossible of achievement, so fraught with dangers and triumphs. It is the greatest story in the world. It is YOUR story. See Archetype of the Hero/ine
The adventure of your life faces you with challenges and threats to your survival not just physical survival but the survival of your soul. Look around you. How many people have given up their own will to alcohol, drugs, medications or a leader figure? How many people have pulled back from the challenge of deeply and creatively meeting their life? How many of those around you live in a tiny worldview of beliefs and opinions, unable to venture into any depth of personal experience?
To find your way through to a wider life you need courage. To survive the pitfalls, temptations, and dead ends of the journey you need all the survival skills you can gain. Opening the windows of your extended faculties is one of the greatest of survival aids and a doorway to creative expression. If you doubt that read the accounts left us by our forebears who lived amidst a much more dangerous physical world than ours. To find food in difficult times they looked to their wider awareness, their intuition, and visions. After all there were no newspapers or yellow pages to help them no police to fend off dangers. When there was sickness they sought help from within to understand the herbs and animals around them. What else was there? In facing the future, they prayed for guidance from their widest awareness to help them take the best pathway through the uncertainty of the years ahead. The ‘holy’ that they approached was not an abstract God living only as a concept or expressed in the dogma of religion. It was a sacred experience of Life itself and help in times of need. See Mountain Path; Using Your Intuition
Perhaps your dangers are not hungry predators or lack of food. But we still live in a jungle. There are still enormous dangers. Moving toward emotional and physical independence is possibly more difficult now than it has been in the past. Certain aspects of experience which are necessary to meet during personal growth were ready made in older cultures; this despite the fact our society apparently holds the ideal of independence more than past cultures.
In smaller communities, in groups with a stronger national, religious or family identification, there was less need to be independent in forming an identity and role for oneself. At times, one’s surname or tribal name alone was a ready made statement of who you were, your background, beliefs, caste, and what quality of person you might be. Whether one was enemy or friend, marriageable or taboo, was clearer. Decision making was easier because most groups had a more unified set of customs or religious practices; therefore, there was less pressure on individuals to make personal decisions. In fact, being different was not good form. Those who stuck their head up above the group often had it taken off. You were even helped to leave parents and move into a sense of kinship with a partner via initiation ceremonies and trials. Today, educational, professional and university qualifications are not quite the same thing. On the street, your name may mean nothing; there is no ready made role for you; social security or state aid may in fact develop in you a sense of being a second class citizen. Being out of work can even rob you of the identity and social acclaim gained through employment.
Today’s initiation into adulthood does not consist of recognition or ceremonies like bar/bat mitzvah or acceptance into womanhood by the tribe. It most likely occurs when you confront the impact of the world, its uncertainties, and then manage to carry on life with your head up. This courage might mean becoming aware of the forces of illness waiting in the wings for their chance on you; seeing how much of a nothing you are when viewed against the billions of other humans, and what competition exists in whatever your chosen direction; confronting your own internal world of fears, angers, pains and destructive habits; meeting the fact of death, fallibility and the infinity of your ignorance; recognising and accepting the variety of human beings, their experience, life or beliefs. See Individuation; Meeting yourself
You need all the help you can get
The universal themes appear again and again in both dreams and waking encounters with the unconscious. When these are experienced they are usually not seen simply as a static physical object, but are full of meaning, movement, and power. Common symbols met are in the form of a mandala, the crux ansata, various forms of the Shiva lingam, jewels, shining objects or animals, or the wheel of life such as shown in Buddhism and in Native American rituals.
Very often profound understanding flows through such symbols to the person meeting them. An example of this is as follows:
I looked over at a plain wall in the room. It was light green. To my amazement, a huge living and wondrous circle appeared on the wall. It was full of movement, everything dancing in time to music. At the very centre of the circle was emptiness, nothing, a void. Yet out of this nothingness all things emerged. There were plants, animals, people, hills, rivers, and mountains all coming to birth. They danced out in their own individual movement, yet each unknowingly was part of the whole wonderful and intricate dance which made a great pattern and movement in the body of the circle. All danced to the periphery and there turned and moved, still in their ballet, back to the centre. At that centre they plunged into its oblivion again. But at that very moment new life sprang from it to dance once more.
This experience has stayed with me over the years and continually enlightens me about the essence of life. We emerge from something that is beyond any form, yet is potentially everything. We dance our life, and without knowing it are part of the whole movement of creation, of life and death. Then we move back to our source, lose ourselves in it, only to be brought forth again in a new and unique form.
Grof noted that people experiencing such dynamic symbols, often learned whole systems of thought and insight from the experience. They felt them to be glorious living doorways to the cosmic mind. In one such meeting they would understand the whole structure and meaning of the system it depicted. It seems probable to me that some of the great symbolic systems such as astrology, the chakras and the I Ching were originally grasped from this type of visionary experience. See Archetype of the Night Journey; Grof’s Influence