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Snakes in a dream: a good chance for self-assessment and finding what it means

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By Alex B

From a dream interpretation point of view, interpreting dreams containing snake visions is somewhat difficult to deal with because different cultures treat encountering snake with a variety of meanings and explanations. Dream interpretation therefore is represented by a broad spectrum of deciphering this dream vision: from terrifying promises of immediate threat to the symbols of wisdom and intellectual superiority of the dreamer. Dream meanings most commonly follow the history of folklore and storytelling nuances of particular cultures, as well as based on personal experiences recorded in dream interpretation literature sources.

Most people are afraid of snakes, so any symbol or vision related to snakes contains very powerful and self-destructive fear, pathological in a sense that even a simple image or notion of a snake in a conversation becomes threatening and negative to a great extent. For this group of individuals, dreams containing snakes represent ominous and ill-fated negatively charged premonitions. Dreaming about holding a snake can easily constitute the ultimate in frightening dreaming experiences, although other culture can have this dream interpreted as a sign of wisdom and ordered personal outlook on life and inherent ability to understand and accept the world around them.

For traditional cultures of North America and Asia, snakes most commonly represent wisdom and deep gratification with the world, which is probably based on observations of snakes’ ability to shed their skin, which is subconsciously coded into dreams as the dreamer’s potential for renewal, resolution of life-related problems and issues as well as striving for order and consistency towards things or events present in their life.

Le serpent de la tentation…

Le serpent de la tentation… (Photo credit: couscouschocolat)

For Judaic and Christian cultures, dreaming about a snake is a symbol of temptation and spiritual resistance in the process of achieving personal goals and aspirations. This notion is stemming from biblical stories and description when The Serpent (the snake), a representation of evil power leads to temptation of first human couple, Adam and Eve in the Eden garden. The symbol of snake in a dream in this context is an indication of a person or persons in the life of the dreamer whom they built unstable or far-from-ideal relationships with.

The Freudian theory also contains symbols of snakes, which are most commonly used by the classical psychotherapists and psychiatrists. In this theory, a snake is a phallic symbol, in many instances, this vision containing a snake represents fear and revolting feeling toward sexual acts of any kind.

Cultural disparities lead to a variety of dream interpretation outcomes and the resulting difficulty to provide a meaningful and reliable dream meaning answers to dreamers across the world. The obvious solution for a person who have had a snake dream is to look deeper into what his or her dream contained. What is your personal attitude towards snakes in real life? Do you feel frightened, intimidated or indifferent? What emotions do snake evoke in you when you see a snake: fright, astonishment or perhaps interest in learning more about them? Have you d a dream encountering a snake together with your friends, parents, strangers? What were surroundings in your dream when you had an encounter with a snake in your dream? Using these answers you will become able to isolate the precise dream keyword from the drop-down list in our database to find correct and meaningful interpretation for your snake dream.

tiger and snake, mosaic - size 40×90 cm

tiger and snake, mosaic – size 40×90 cm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people automatically connect the poisonous nature of snakes with the vision of a snake they experienced in their dream, so they tend to interpret such dream as death or illness portending event after they wake up and recall this dream. Other people associate snake dreams with deception or conspiracy because the common image of a snake is usually described as a hiding and virtually unnoticeable creature.

Archetypal meanings and dream interpretation variations provide a broad range of interpretation options available across cultural and national expanses. The ability of a dreamer to separate and generalize individual feelings and emotions toward snakes can mean success in finding the correct meaning of a dream which includes or is related to these unconscious symbolic visions.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/mysticism-articles/snakes-in-a-dream-a-good-chance-for-self-assessment-and-finding-what-it-means-6669575.html

About the Author

Looking for instant interpretation of your dreams? Try our Instant Dream Interpretation engine with thousands of descriptions of what your dreams may mean. Look up your dream instantly using our Instant Dream Look Up with extensive database of meticulously compiled descriptions based on trusted sources.


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Dreams about sex and sexual activities and how to interpret their meaning

Image by kedai-lelaki via Flickr

By Alex B

Dreams containing sex with all its elements and exciting details may seem as a fun and enjoyable story telling when you try to find the meaning of sex dreams. Many dream interpretation sites offer descriptions and interpretations which are promises of finding a sex partner, having flirtatious and uncomplicated sex life and your popularity when it comes to sex and pleasure seeking. The important difference with our approach to your sexual dreams is finding keywords for circumstances surrounding your particular sex dream visions and experiences.

A long-established approach in interpretation of dreams containing sexual activities has been in uncovering the sexual underpinnings and hidden meanings in what a sex dream was about. This has been practiced extensively by such famous psychologists as Sigmund Freud, Loff and Miller. However, when applied to finding an answer to what your specific dream containing sex may mean to you, can at times become a tedious and complicated search. There are apparent differences in how males and females dream (and react to dreams) based on psychological research and dream interpretation theory.

According to surveys, 12of male and 4of female dreams are related to sexual activities and experiences. This finding correlates with real-life tendencies among the two genders, men are more often preoccupied with sex-related behavioral patterns than women. According to the famous psychologist William Domhoff, (‘Finding Meaning in Dreams’), males exhibit 93response rate in engaging in sexual activities and 7of watching other perform sexual act, while women tend to have 68and 32of the corresponding response trends.

This finding proves that women, while sex-dreaming, tend to alienate themselves from participating in sexual activities, while men most definitely want to see themselves actively participating in this experience. This can also be explained by the fact, that men experience orgasmic relief during their sleep (especially younger males) than women. It can also point to the common taboo placed on women overall regarding their expression of sexual desires by society.

Another important factor related to analyzing sex-related dreams is in significance of images and symbols appearing in our sex-containing dreams. We intentionally hide our sexual desires and behavioral tendencies, especially when at a younger age, and our subconscious tries to make these feelings and emotions more visible and apparent to us. This is exactly what Freudian theory about has been tirelessly trying to propagate as applied to personality characteristics.

Sexual symbolism in Freud’s theory is a predominant component to explain motivations and desires that may be an outcome of a particular dream that a person had and wants to know what it could mean relative to their life. Dreams containing sex symbols are not necessarily the way to experience or be involved in physical sexual activities on subconscious level. These dreams can also be a reflection of how you treat other people around you and how others perceive you when you communicate with them. To find a perfect dream interpretation answer for your sex dreams is to identify the details and specifics hidden inside you sex-related dream.

Some sex-containing dreams are plainly romantic in nature. The scenarios for these kinds of dreams can vary, but the most common features are a very attractive sexual partner, mostly fantasy-based individuals, close to you or those unattainable kinds, but still the affection and desire to be with this person fully manifest themselves.

Other dreams containing sex are not as romantic and pleasant. These can include visions which the dreamer becomes very uncomfortable with, hurt by or worried about: rape, incest, loss of virginity and so on. These kinds of dreams need more detailed approach and usually require a survey answered by the person to isolate cause of this dream and analyze dream symbols in more detail, this feature will become available on our site shortly.

When you are trying to analyze you sex-related dream on your own, try to determine the true cause of discomfort or unpleasantness; who is the person you are engaged in a sexual contact with? Is it a friend, a colleague or some fictional personality? Is the act of having sex forced on you, is it consensual? Where did it take place? Was it a public place or in your own bed? Maybe the sexual partner in your dream reminds you of some of your friends or people you know?

Many sex-related dreams are manifestation of our ambiguous nature and indecisiveness when we long for things we cannot have in real life and by dreaming about these things we subconsciously express our dissatisfaction about our current situation. Dreams about sex an also tell us about the way we treat people around us, depending on circumstances we face in our everyday life.

Sex-related dreams can represent the beginning of self-discovery and uncovering hidden aspects of your psychological profile and pave the way to a better understanding of you traits and behavior you may exhibit without even knowing it.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/mysticism-articles/dreams-about-sex-and-sexual-activities-and-how-to-interpret-their-meaning-6669599.html

About the Author

Looking for instant interpretation of your dreams? Try our Instant Dream Interpretation engine with thousands of descriptions of what your dreams may mean. Look up your dream instantly using our Instant Dream Look Up with extensive database of meticulously compiled descriptions based on trusted sources.


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Ego, Archetype and Self: C. G. Jung and Modernity

The Temple of the Prim and a tribute to Carl Jung, who surely would have loved Second Life

The Temple of the Prim and a tribute to Carl Jung, who surely would have loved Second Life by Bettina Tizzy (aka Beverly Millson) via Flickr

This was written as a grad student at the University of Ottawa in 1993. Things have changed a lot since then. I tend to write simpler sentences and my beliefs have evolved. So I post this partly out of nostalgia, and partly for its sound presentation of Jung’s ideas.

When citing this essay please use one of the standard citation styles for online sources.

—MC

Elsewhere I have indicated that the work of C. G. Jung reveals his bent for constructing elaborate psychological theory on the basis of selective data. This charge was mingled with a somewhat reluctant admiration for the creation of a fictional system that seemed to surpass the usual, and I would add, artificial dictates of scientific rationalism. Like a political leader who after safely retiring exposes party corruption, Jung retrospectively concedes to being a myth maker in what was then, modern times.(1)

To continue from previous work, I will examine Jung’s concepts of ego, archetype and self to determine if the above charge of selectivity – not to preclude other potential difficulties – applies to these seminal components of his analytical model of the psyche.(2)

* * *

Jung speaks of ego as a highly continuous “complex of ideas which constitutes the centre of [one's] field of consciousness”(3) Ego is also referred to as the “point of reference”(4) of the psyche; its partly biological inheritance is offset by unconsciously acquired material.(5) Ego is not the entire psyche, but, according to Jung, it has a monumental role in the regulation and maintenance of psychic balance.(6) To illustrate precisely what is balanced by the ego, we must examine Jung’s constructs of archetype and self.

Archetype. It sounds impressive: definite, timeless, metaphysical; Jung made an astute choice by modifying this essentially Platonic idea, providing a certain scholarly credibility to work that was quite avant-garde for the medical science of the time. While Jung had not fully developed a definition of archetype for entry into Psychological Types (where we find most of his terms described), a survey of various statements he makes about archetypes renders their character fairly clear.

Jung’s mature thought demarcates the archetypal image from the archetype proper. As a sort of crystal-lattice structure inherent in all nature,(7) and thus a bio-culturally transmitted content of humanity’s collective unconscious,(8 ) the essence of the archetype is not amenable to representation.(9) Of the numerous archetypal structures, their diversity is represented by so many archetypal images and ideas,(10) and is individually experienced with the evocation of corresponding feeling values, these sometimes taking the form of ‘magical’ heightened awareness.

This ‘luminous,’ ‘spiritual’ aspect of archetypal experience may be either healing or destructive for the overall psyche, depending on its relation to the ego.(11) When made conscious by the ego, the archetypal image is positive; if not encapsulated by ego consciousness, it may be regressive.(12) Yet we have seen that Jung stresses the archetype, itself, to not be accessible to representation. Elsewhere he says that it cannot reach ego consciousness.(13) Granted Jung introduces the archetypal images and ideas, we must still ask: if the extra feeling value of the archetypal image or idea originates from the archetype, how is ego unaware of that archetypal source which it ‘feels’?

An additional function of the archetype is to organize images and ideas.

Archetypes, so far as we can observe and experience them at all, manifest themselves only through their ability to organize images and ideas, and this will always be an unconscious process which cannot be detected until afterward.(14)

From this it seems that the archetypal images and ideas are productions of the hidden, secret aspect of the archetypes. Now according to Jung, the self – our final concept to be illustrated – is itself an archetype.(15) And here Jung seems to say that the self can be anything. If an archetype, then it has an unmanifest, invisible aspect that cannot be grasped. That is, part of our own self must be inaccessible to ourselves. But that is not all. The self is alternately described as the “sum total of conscious and unconscious contents,”(16) a “complexio oppositorium,”(17) and as the “psychic totality of the individual.”(18 ) I do not object to Jung describing the self as illimitable, I do object, however, to his use of the term individual. Individuals cannot all be infinite. There must be some mark of difference among them. And Jung seems to agree with me: he himself says that the unconscious part of the self “cannot be distinguished from that of another individual.”(19)

Lets untangle this mess, and in so doing, try to be fair to Jung. It seems the problem lies in his notion of self as a “psychic totality.” For Jung really offers a two-tiered model of the psyche. The conscious part is individual, the unconscious collective aspect is impersonal. Jung would have done better to dismiss the “totality” component of his definition of self. As he did not, however, “self” is ambiguous and indistinct from a strictly theoretical standpoint. Why call it self if indeed it is everyone?

As I am not one to admire muddled, confused systems, Jung’s primary mentor Freud might suggest that unduly punitive washroom socialization resulted in my fixation at the latter’s ‘anal stage’ of psychosexual development.(20) Such a psychoanalytic interpretation may not have been entirely dismissed by Jung. Part of his self includes the personal unconscious, yet for Jung and quite unlike Freud, the personal unconscious is “more or less superficial;”(21) and Jung would not necessarily have given a psychosexual etiology(22) to an obsession with order. In fact, Jung would most likely view the above paragraph as a temporary intrusion of the “trickster” archetype – a mildly evil, sometimes positive archetype – into my ego consciousness. Recall that as mediator that strives for psychic integrity (see top to endnote 12), ego must balance good and evil,(23) these polarities producing a tension that for Jung is a universal law.(24) So we see two differing analyses – Freudian and Jungian – which perhaps points more to the role of investigation and interpretation of a situation than to the supremacy of either model.(25) But perhaps not. It is possible that one system explains events better than another. And if in our uncertainty we choose to define theory as an approach to an ever-changing, relative ‘reality,’ as do anti-theorists Paul Feyerabend(26) and Jean Baudrillard,(see endnote 25) we cannot escape the fact that even anti-theory is a type of theory.

Jung calls all this intellectual diaphaneity ‘rationalistic twaddle’ and claims, as do his adherents, that the value of his system lies in its practical application. While academic analysis implicity and expressly states one should not dispense with critical reflection, Jung also does not advocate the abandonment of critique. As Naomi Goldenberg points out:

According to Jungian lore, Carl Jung once said he was glad to be Jung and not a “Jungian.” As Jung he could be a thinker who tested ideas and modified theories to fit maturing insights and experiences. As a Jungian he would be pressured into defending dogma and clutching to ideas which had outlived their utility.(27)

* * *

With the basic explication of ego, archetype and self complete, I will now offer a more intensive appraisal, recalling that to be critical is to assess the positive and negative aspects of a given truth-claim. For the last half of the paper I will reverse the order and first look at self, then archetype, and lastly, ego.

Jung says the self as archetype is represented by the mandala, a sanskrit term meaning ‘circle.'(28 ) Part of the self, as noted, cannot be represented. This “psychoid” aspect is “identical in all individuals.”(29) The act of representing the self, such as in the visual mandala, brings order to chaos(30) as the tension of opposites is, if not permanently, at least to some degree reconciled.(31) Because the mandala (self) may imprison or protect the individual (ego),(32) it is like the archetypal mother–it absorbs or nurtures. Thus the mandala is also said to parallel the mother archetype.(33)

But Jung takes the mandala out of context. For mandala is an eastern construct specifically designed to both represent and aid in the abolition of the ego. Mandala refers to that beyond ego; it does not include ego as suggested by Jung. For instance, Lama Anagarika Govinda notes that the Tibetan ‘Mandala of Highest Bliss’ is “a vehicle of an all-embracing, imperishable wholeness, in which the limits of individual egohood do not exist any more.”(34) Likewise, W. Y. Evans-Wentz says the ‘Mandala of Liberation’ entails a “gradual dispersion of the psychic or mental atoms of the…thought body.”(35) Prior to Buddhism, the Hindu mandala refers to each of the ten books of the Rig Veda, which collectively are designed to return one to an undifferentiated original state that apparently existed prior to such dualisms as life/death, real/unreal, good/evil and, I should add, self/ego.(36) As a symbol of self and its relation to ego, Jung could have equated mandala with the absorbing, yet not the nurturing aspect of his mother archetype. This self-mother-mandala triad provides an excellent example of unwarranted and selective cross-referencing within the exposition of Jung’s theory.

Previously I have argued that Jung confuses the asian atman with his definition of libido.(37) To complicate matters, Jung seems to equate atman with his concept of self.(38 ) Thus perhaps not in the way Jung constructs quaternities, we may draw from his work our own analogical foursome: self-mother-mandala-libido. What else will he add to the list?

Archetypes, as I have noted, have two faces. One face is forever turned away, essentially supramundane and inaccessible to women and men; the other expresses various healing and destructive images and ideas into mundane psychological reality. But archetypes need not take a human or animal form. For cohesiveness, we will look at Jung’s views on Ufos, specifically on flying saucers, for in their circular shape they may be likened to the mandala symbol. In this connection we should note that for Jung flying saucers were the quintessential Ufos(39) and something of a pop phenomenon in the 1950’s: the pre-Star Wars/Star Trek era of modernity in which Jung’s writings on the subject are located.(40)

In flying saucers, then, we have an archetype that Jung says, by virtue of its shape, is analogous to the mandala,(41) and by implication, the self.(42) Belief in, or dreams of the saucers, like any archetypal formation, represents a double-edged desire for individuation(43) in combination with a fear for personal destruction: Alien inhabitants of the saucer could be benevolent, benign or malicious. Likewise, the journey to mandalic totality (to use Jung’s selective interpretation) has potential danger in that immense and equally tumultuous psychic forces may be unleashed from the collective unconscious, which if not successfully integrated by consciousness, could lead to psychic ruin–recall the absorbing, also referred to as the ‘devouring’ mother archetype as the negative instance of the self.

If one, however, believed or dreamed of extraterrestrials as being neither helpful nor harmful, this for Jung would indicate a state of psychic stagnation–no loss nor advancement within the individuation process. And a belief or dream of pleasant aliens would suggest that one’s ‘yonder shore’ of the collective unconscious is about to guide the ego toward a new, more comprehensive ontology. I noted above that critique should be balanced, and here indeed we find a good example of Jung’s impressive ability to adapt his theoretical structures to the symbols and social imagination of his time. Not to imply that Jung is merely vying for popularity and personal recognition. His work is too thorough, thoughtful, and serious to be so summarily dismissed. But as suggested elsewhere, he also knew the professional legitimacy of his writing necessitated scrupulous selectivity; he thus displays great acumen for creating schematic ‘meaning’ out of a massive and diverse body of data, even if that data is liberally corralled into his analytic theory.(44)

This leads us to the problem of agency, identity and ego. Ego is said to emerge from the self; its relation to self is one of “moved to the mover.”(45) Although it may be subsumed by the archetypes, as in inflation, ego is also the real limit of the person.(46) Ego is not to be confused with the self; although Jung claims ‘ordinary’ persons, in ignorance, take ego as the entire psychological being. Not so for Jung. When ego is unaware of, or attempts to deny the self’s existence, the ‘sleeping giant’ of the unconscious(47) self may grumble mightily at any time. The result: psychic catastrophe.(48 ) That is, ego becomes assimilated by the self–a situation praised in eastern religious and cultural ideals, but not endorsed within the scientific materialism of western modernity.

Thus as mentioned at the outset, ego plays a tremendous role in Jung’s vision of the psyche. By balancing inner and outer realities, it serves to regulate both collective unconscious and collective conscious forces(49) (and implicitly, moral opposites of good and evil residing in the psyche and expressed in the sentiments and acts of external reality). Ego is, therefore, busy. So busy that Jung sees it as the high achievement of western humanity. Unlike the so-called ‘primitives,’ the egos of modern individuals are more differentiated and less luminous than those of their, as Jung would have it, cruder ancestors.(50)

Concerning luminosity and ego, two points should be made. First, Jung says even modern persons have egos surrounded by a “multitude of little luminosities.”(51) Their unconscious provides various shades and textures to ego consciousness. And considering everyone is variously configured as such, each possessing different ‘lights’ from the unconscious, we must ask how Jung is able to make sweeping statements regarding the ‘normal’ ego constitution of western women and men. To propose for the sake of argument two stereotypes, does an artist necessarily see and experience in the same manner as an astrophysicist? Jung would say no, of course.(52) While he humbly acknowledges being a lay-person and doctor who happens to be very well read, at times his lack of academic training (and rigour) shows. By analogy, Albert Einstein admits to being poor at math, and Jung’s achievement was perhaps made possible by the fact that he was not confined by corridors of acceptable thought. But in spite of this, certain unacceptable margins of vagueness and redundancy may be discerned in his writing.

Another issue to be raised concerning luminosity and ego is in their application to Jung’s so-called ‘primitives.’ Jung visited Africa and India, so unlike ethnocentrics such as Emile Durkheim – who never travelled to places written about – we would suspect him to be in a better position to understand the inhabitants of foreign societies. But right from the outset Jung envisions such ‘native cultures’ as possessing the stereotypical attributes of ‘primitive man,’ and while he shows some appreciation for indigenous cosmologies,(53) and even made some attempts to learn local languages prior to departures, he nevertheless seems to wear, as it were, his safari hat throughout his adventures into lands exotica. I mean to say, he never let his European side slip–perhaps because he truly showed tendencies towards racism.(54) Possibly Jung’s comments on the luminous primitive ego reflect in part his own fantasy world: a projection of Jung’s psychic contents to others.(55)

* * *

To conclude, in reviewing ego, archetype and self, it seems my suspicions have been further confirmed. Jung’s analogic method displays an almost artistic collage of seemingly related concepts; upon close and careful examination, however, we have seen that mandala is not taken in situ, but rather as Jung – consciously or unconsciously – chooses to portray it. Regarding Ufos, Jung provides a detailed psychological exposition after professing ignorance as to their actuality.(56) While he mentions (in passing) that exclusively psychological relationships to Ufos as archetypal images would not dismiss the possibility of genuine Ufos,(57) he nonetheless proceeds to systematically squelch any tinge of ambiguity as to the latter’s authenticity with an apparent certainty that makes us wonder: is Jung the open-minded investigator he claims to be, searching for knowledge on the basis of empirically demonstrable facts, or is he one of the truly great doctrinaires of modernity, holding fast to new dogma of his own design?

In all likelihood, he is probably both; and that, in Jung’s own fashion, would be consistent with the ‘unity of opposites’ motif postulated within his system. Whether such theoretical coherence arrived with or without ethical consequence remains open to various avenues of debate.(58 )

Endnotes

1) See my unpublished paper for the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, “Plumbing the Depths: Carl Jung, Freud and Hinduism.”

2) Until the entirety of Jung’s work is studied, forwarded conclusions must be tentative. This critique is based mostly on C. G. Jung, The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vols. 1-11.

3) C. G. Jung, Psychological Types in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 6, 425.

4) C. G. Jung, Mandala Symbolism from The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 9/1 par. 717.

5) C. G. Jung, “Analytical Psychology and Education,” The Collected Works of C. G. Jung Vol. 17, par. 169, cited in Daryl Sharp, Jung Lexicon: A Primer of Terms and Concepts (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1991: 49).

6) Jung, Mandala Symbolism, par. 563.

7) C. G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 8, 210.

8 ) C. G. Jung, Psychology and Religion in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 11, 50.

9) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 214. Jung seems to overlook the fact that the words he writes are a type of representation.

10) Ibid, 214.

11) Ibid, 205.

12) C. G. Jung, Civilization in Transition in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 10, 237.

13) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 213.

14) Ibid, 231.

15) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 156.

16) Ibid, 82.

17) Here Jung refers to dialectical opposites of, for instance, good and evil, masculine and feminine, hatred and love. Ibid, 443.

18 ) Ibid, 156.

19) Ibid, 277.

20) As in my previous paper, “Plumbing the Depths,” time restraints necessitate reference to Freud via secondary sources. In this case: Lectures on Psychoanalysis for undergraduate course conducted by Dr. Donald Carveth, 1981-1982, York University, Toronto.

21) C. G. Jung, Four Archetypes from The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 9/1 par. 3; Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 291.

22) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 349-350.

23) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 219.

24) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 197.

25) As an extreme anti-theorist, Jean Baudrillard comments that good theory should lose its own meaning when “pushed to its conclusion” at the “limits of the text.” Jean Baudrillard, Forget Foucault/Forget Baudrillard (New York: Semiotext( ), 1987: 38 ).

26) See, for example, Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (London: Humanities Press, 1975).

27) Naomi R. Goldenberg, “Reply to Barbara Chesser’s Comment on ‘A Feminist Critique of Jung,'” Signs (Spring 1978): 724.

28 ) Jung, Mandala Symbolism, par. 713.

29) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 436.

30) Jung, Mandala Symbolism, par. 645.

31) Ibid, par. 637.

32) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 95-96.

33) Jung, Four Archetypes, par. 156.

34) Lama Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (New Delhi: B.I. Publications PVT Ltd., 1960: 166-171).

35) W. Y. Evans-Wentz ed., The Tibetan Book of the Dead, trans. Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960: 126, footnotes 1-3).

36) Troy Wilson Organ, Hinduism: Its Historical Development (London: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1974: 59, 76-77, 80).

37) Clark, “Plumbing the Depths,” 10.

38 ) C. G. Jung, Aion in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 9/2, 144, 194, 222.

39) Jung briefly notes that he cannot determine the falsity or truthfulness of numerous Ufo accounts. See Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 309.

40) Star Wars and Star Trek introduced variously shaped interstellar crafts to the popular imagination.

41) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 325.

42) William McGuire & R. F. C. Hull eds., C. G. Jung Speaking, Bollingen Series XCVII (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977: 414).

43) Jung’s concept that refers to the goal of psychic totality, differentiation and socio-environmental confluence. See Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 258-259.

44) See Clark, “Plumbing the Depths,” 8-10.

45) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 259.

46) Ibid, 470.

47) Which is nonetheless conscious of itself.

48 ) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 9, 24.

49) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 217-218.

50) Ibid, 189.

51) Ibid, 190.

52) In later work I will elaborate on Jung’s 4 by 2 model of the psyche, consisting of thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition, as well as introversion and extroversion.

53) Especially with the Pueblo Indians. See Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 211; and C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, revised, ed. Aniela Jaffé, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1961: 250).

54) For example, he believes individuals of all the colonies of England are “slightly inferior,” and that “there are facts to support this view” (in America, this being the psychological influence of the “lax, “childlike” and “inferior” blacks). Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 46-47, 121, 507-509).

55) We are indebted to Freud for the mechanism of projection; Jung also recognizes the primacy of projection and notes that archetypes are usually expressed through this process. Dr. Donald Carveth, Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1981-1982, York University, Toronto; See also, C. G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 7, 95.

56) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 309.

57) He utilizes the concept of ‘synchronicity’ to account for this. Ibid, 313. Unfortunately it is beyond the scope of this paper to do justice to this pivotal component of Jung’s schema.

58 ) Jung’s theoretical extrapolations reveal not only racist, but strong sexist tendencies. While apparently progressive, saying women should be regarded on the basis of “merit not gender,” Jung also exemplifies the expected ‘men are men, women are “girls”‘ mentality of his day. Jung, The Collected Works, Vol.7, 25; and Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 286. Concerning his sexist views on rape, and for other examples of extreme sex-role stereotyping, see Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 9/2, 15-17; and Jung, The Collected Works Vol. 10, 117-119. On marriage, he claims i) all women desire children and ii) are attracted only to one man while married men are naturally attracted to many women; at the same time, however, iii) women aim to “loosen” the marriage structure. Ibid, 101 (i), 42 (ii), 132 (iii). Jung also assumes all lesbians are interested and/or active in gender/political issues by categorizing lesbian love as a stimulus for women to organize for increased social empowerment. Ibid, 99. Lastly, Jung’s professional practice entailed having sex with at least two of his female clients. Naomi Goldenberg, “Looking at Jung Looking at Himself,” Soundings, 73/2-3 (Summer/Fall 1990): 395.

Copyright © Michael W. Clark, Ph.D. All rights reserved.


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Angels – secret agents of the heart

fallen angel: Bùi Linh Ngân

fallen angel by Bùi Linh Ngân via Flickr

I need a sign, to let me know you’re here

Calling All Angels, Train

The idea of angels as mediators between God and mankind is widespread. Angels aren’t confined to seminary schools. They’re in the movies, pop music, self-help books, video games, and just about anything else that will sell.

But most people don’t see angels as the stuff of myth and legend. About 66-78% of North Americans believe in angels. And 10-29% believe they’ve encountered an angel or heard of someone who has.

Okay, all very interesting. But as the ancient Greek philosopher Plato once put it, a given belief isn’t necessarily a true belief. And in today’s world where religious belief can lead to insidious human rights crimes, it’s important to step back and rationally assess our convictions.1

The power of love

At one extreme, materialist thinkers try to squash spirituality by reducing angels to cultural projections. Ludwig Feuerbach and Sigmund Freud say angels are fantasy formations, and images of angels portray nothing more than subjective experiences and desires.

In 1966, two American sociologists, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, became academic hotshots by saying that reality is a “social construction.” Like much of sociology, Berger and Luckman put a new spin on an old idea—in this case, conceptualism. Postmoderns quickly followed suit, designating just about everything under the sun as a social construction.

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Fair use/dealing rationale.

The early postmoderns emphasized the role of power in the social construction of reality. But they had little to say about the nature of power, itself—whether, for instance, power contains moral and spiritual elements. Postmoderns also focus on language and its connection with power. Accordingly, the French postmodern thinker, Michel Foucault,talks about “discourses of power.”

But what does this have to do with angels?

Well, postmoderns make some astute observations, but they usually overlook the power of love.  Also, they also don’t really see how heavenly love might help to shape our lives and the world around us.

Normally, we associate the word power with billionaires, movie stars, politicians or maybe motorbikes and muscle cars. But as an adjective, the word powerful can also apply to love.

The word angel derives from the Greek angelos, meaning “messenger.” But angels aren’t just messengers like the friendly neighborhood letter carrier. Angels are said to mediate heavenly grace, which in essence is love. And being God’s love, this mediated grace is more powerful than anything in the known universe.

Peter Berger, himself, came to study the supernatural side of angels in his book, A Rumor of Angels (1969). This book is no dry, reductive sociological treatise. It’s a sincere, open-minded investigation into the possibility that spiritual belief doesn’t merely arise from materially oppressed or deranged minds.

Assumption of the Virgin, by Francesco Bottici...

Assumption of the Virgin, by Francesco Botticini, 1475-77 National Gallery, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theologically speaking

Western religions tend to see angels as pure and humble servants created by God. But theologians have debated the finer points of angels for centuries. In The Celestial Hierarchy Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite (or Pseudo Dionysius, c. 500 CE) speaks of three choirs of angels. According to his model, each choir embraces three angelic tiers. The lowest choir of Angels, Archangels, Principalities, along with the middle choir of Dominions, Virtues and Powers, are in contact with humanity. The highest choir consisting of Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones sings an eternal hymn of praise to God.

St. Thomas Aquinas‘ (c.1225-1274 CE) Summa Theologica supports Pseudo Dionysius’ idea of an angelic hierarchy. Aquinas also believes that fallen, evil angels (demons) have their own ranking system, with the lower being subservient to the higher demons. The belief in evil angels is also found in the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Ávila, who wrote, “In the end my good angel prevailed over my evil one.”

The popular American evangelist Billy Graham writes about angels. And in contemporary Catholicism, angels are described as spiritual beings without physical bodies. Catholicism teaches that angels

  • Were created by God from nothing
  • Possess freewill
  • Have a higher standing than mankind
  • “Have been present from creation and through the history of salvation.”2

On guardian angels, St. Ambrose says:

Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.3

But, again, not only theologians talk about heavenly messengers. Stars like Patsy Cline, Annie Lennox, Jane Siberry, Hank Williams Sr. and David Bowie depict beings of Divine Love whose raison d’être is to guide and protect.

angel wings by CowGummy via Flickr

Fallen angels

Hardly exemplifying humble servants of God, fallen angels are usually portrayed as nasty and narcissistic. And Satan, once God’s brightest angel, allegedly manifests as an “angel of light.”4

This could partially explain those who are mislead by astral and demonic beings posing as God or God’s angels. They’re literally “blinded by the light.” But is it a phoney light? And how would we be able to tell the difference if a beautiful angel came to us, full of warmth and promises of love.

St. Matthew, the Desert Fathers, St. Ignatius of Loyola and many other spiritual writers suggest that good angels can be discerned from their evil counterparts by observing the fruit of their works.

Evil angels, they say, try to degrade, depress, deceive, confuse, titillate and flatter. Alleged holy men and women promoting themselves as ‘perfected incarnations’ likely fall into this vanity trap. Egomania and self-aggrandizement run rampant among false prophets.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them (Matthew: 15-20).

And in a more contemporary vein:

Luke, you don’t know the power of the Dark Side (Darth Vader)

Not a few people claim to possess spiritual powers (siddhis) and fantastic psi abilities. Some indicate that they “know it all” or, at least, “know better” than everyone else. While many of these folks may be decent and well-meaning at heart, they often blind themselves to the fact that interior perceptions can be flat wrong.

Teresa of Ávila

“In the end my good angel prevailed over my evil one.” Teresa of Ávila (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sincere seekers try to recognize, admit, and correct intuitive mistakes whenever possible. But the sham seeker won’t acknowledge (or, perhaps, just admit) mistakes and continues on a path of deception, allowing the ugly weeds of lies to choke out the beautiful flowers of the soul.

Perhaps a sure way to spot a person informed by fallen angels is to look for those callous, cowardly souls who grasp at power as a means to manipulate the psychologically weak and vulnerable.

To complicate matters, it appears that the predictions of fallen angels may contain partial truths. Demonic influences, experts say, want to disturb and oppress the gullible through a calculating mix of truth and falsehood. And their predictions are said to be ultimately geared toward exploitation and tearing down the good.

Accordingly, William Blake (1757-1827) wrote that spiritual powers devoid of sincere, humane practice are “thieves and rebels.”And both St. Augustine (354-430 CE) and St. Aquinas agree that evil angels, although fallen, possess a keen otherworldly intelligence. As agents of Lucifer, their thoughts apparently operate on a higher level.

St. Paul writes:

Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the cosmic powers of this present darkness,
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.6

And St. Aquinas echoes St. Paul’s belief that perceptive individuals can blow the cover of people who allow intelligent demonic beings into their lives.

Those who are spiritual discern all things.7

Aquinas, in fact, borrows from the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) when suggesting that

The virtuous man is the rule and measure of all human acts.8

English: Bias (Greek: Βίας ο Πριηνεὺς, 6th cen...

Bias (Greek: Βίας ο Πριηνεὺς, 6th century BCE), the son of Teutamus and a citizen of Priene was a Greek philosopher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Final word

The above focuses on Christian angelology, but the belief in heavenly and hellish agents is embedded in most world religions. From the ancient Egyptian Hermes, the Chinese shên, the Greek Iris, the Zoroastrian amesha spentas, the Hindu devas and asuras, and the Jewish elohim, the idea that mankind lives within a larger cosmic battleground of good and evil forces is nothing new.

While it might not be fashionable to talk about good and bad angels, this doesn’t stop many people from believing in them.

True, representations of spiritual beings like angels are most likely colored by personal and cultural biases, but it seems possible that angels do exist. In any kind of study it’s often hard to draw the line between subjective bias and clear perception. And the study of angels is no exception.


1. Some New Age thinkers say that anything we believe is real. But it’s doubtful that 1,000 different individuals could all be, for instance, sole reincarnations of Julius Caesar, Napoleon or Cleopatra.

2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, New York: Doubleday 1995, p. 96.

3. Ibid., p. 98.

4. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

5. (a) William Blake, cited in Clark, Stephen. “Where have all the Angels Gone?” Religious Studies 28: 221-234, p. 228 (b) Widely respected in Medieval Europe, the legal writer and scholar Jean Bodin believed that Satan and his minions could nullify the pain that so-called witches – and their demon possessed young daughters – would naturally experience from “Godly” torture. For this and many other truly horrific ideas camouflaged by perverse reasoning, see Jean Bodin, On the Demon-Mania of Witches, trans. Randy A. Scott, Toronto: Victoria University, University of Toronto, 1995 [1580].

6. Ephesians 6:12.

7. 1 Corinthians 2:15.

8. Aristotle cited in Pegis, Anton C. Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas Vol. 1, New York: Random House, 1945, p. 1016. This, of course, reflects the sexism of the time.

Angels –  secret agents of the heart  © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.


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Some reflections on Carl Gustav Jung

Vision by Cornelia Kopp via Flickr

I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will… win the battle — C. G. Jung

I’ve been thinking about the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) for about three decades. Quite a few biographies have been written about Jung. Some writers are keen on recon-structing his early childhood, family influences, and so on. But as I grow older I’m becoming less interested in Jung’s personal life. I know enough of the backdrop – outlandish parties, extramarital infidelities, kissing up to the Nazi bureaucracy – to keep everything in context.

I’m more interested in Jung’s intellectual legacy. So when I talk about Jung its usually to introduce some of my own ideas about psychology, spirituality, and the journey to everlasting life.

Once a close friend and colleague of Sigmund Freud, in the early days of his remarkable career Jung found in Freud something of a kindly father figure. The elder Jew regarded the younger gentile as his star pupil among several luminaries in the emerging school of psychoanalysis. As a non-Jew, Jung was in a better position to help spread Freud’s psychoanalytic movement within a central Europe marked by anti-Semitism. But the two intellectual titans split in 1914 over a number of personal and professional differences, most notably, Jung’s rejection of Freud’s increasingly dogmatic insistence on the primacy of the libido.

What the critics say

Jung, himself, has been criticized on many counts. Conservative Christians see him as a dangerous, demonic threat, citing select quotations of his work which apparently support their arguments while ignoring, as extremists usually do, those aspects which would refute them.1 Despite this conservative backlash, Jungian ideas continue to be taken seriously in popular Catholic literature, just as some of Luther’s ideas are said to agree with core Catholic teaching. Meanwhile, parapsychologists and spiritualists, usually scorned by traditional Christians, often say that Jung’s theory is limiting.2

Until recently, the major figures in Western cultural studies and rationalism largely ignored Jung in favor of Freud. Freud’s emphasis on sexuality, sublimation and the idea of the phallus resonated with neo-Marxist and postmodern interests.

As for those who took the time to actually read Jung, his work was often dismissed as a kind of fuzzy mysticism riddled with modernist stereotypes and elements of racism. Accordingly, a body of historical reconstruction emerged, claiming that Jung kowtowed to Hitler and the Nazi Party.3

Philosophers of logic tend to wince at the very thought of Jung. Most philosophers say that his arguments contain far too many assumptions to merit any kind of serious consideration. Not only philosophers, but many in religious studies say that Jung’s analogical use of mythological and religious ideas is weak because his data is removed from historical contexts. In disconnecting religious ideas from their originally intended meanings, Jung has been heavily criticized for distorting data to make it fit his own theory.4 Moreover, feminist and women’s studies analyses suggest that his views are sexist.5

Alchemical Images Courtesy The Alchemy Web Site

Another way to understand Jung’s work looks at the big picture. By appreciating his lasting contribution to the history of ideas, value is found not so much in Jung’s theoretical particulars but rather, in his spirit of innovation and genuine concern to synthesize depth psychology, empirical observation and rationality. Writing about Jung, Naomi Goldenberg says that Jung apparently was happy to be “Jung and not a Jungian.” As a Jungian one might slavishly follow the Grand Master without thinking for him or herself. But Jung, himself, was free to revise his theories according to his ongoing thoughts and observations.6

Among Jung’s wide ranging interests, his work on projection, the shadow, inflation, symbols, numinosity, synchronicity and the collective unconscious seem most useful.7 Not unlike Gandhi who said “be the change you want to see in the world,” Jung advocated self-knowledge as an essential component for personal and societal transformation. To make this happen, Jung believed that we had actively master the unconscious. For Jung, no amount of abstract talk without doing the real work of inner change would have any kind of lasting effect on outer change.

Jung also believed that a failure to control the powerful impulses of the unconscious could result in a kind of Dorian Gray scenario where the unconscious gradually comes to control the individual and society as a whole.

The collective unconscious: Is Freud so different?

Freud and Jung’s views about the unconscious differ, but not so much as most believe. Some pop psychologists and New Age gurus quickly dismiss Freud’s ideas, unaware that his model of the unconscious contains collective elements. They prefer Jung’s notion of the archetypes, which borrows from ideas previously found in anthropology, sociology, philosophy, religion and theology (the term archetype is actually traceable to St. Augustine, 354-430 CE).

Jung describes the archetype as a component of mankind’s psychological substratum—the collective unconscious. Freud similarly spoke of phylogenetic “schemata” and “prototypes.” And borrowing from ancient Greek and Jewish literature, Freud also devised the “Oedipus complex,” a “primal father” and likened the shadowy contents of the unconscious to archaeological ruins.

In addition, late in his career Freud revised his libido theory to include the general ideas of eros (life instinct) and thanatos (death instinct). Because Freud maintained that the fundamental aspects of the unconscious are universal, aspects of his theory of the self, like Jung’s, point to a collective unconscious.8 And not only that. Freud himself said that Jung introduced nothing new with the idea of the collective unconscious, for the “content of the unconscious is collective anyhow.”9

Küsnacht

C. G. Jung at Küsnacht

Archetypes and the Unconscious

But Jung and Freud differ in that Jung’s archetypal theory elaborates on the unconscious to a greater degree than Freud’s rather basic schema of id, ego and superego.10 Jung’s archetypes, however, have themselves been criticized as ambiguous, simplistic constructs. On the charge of ambiguity, Jungians reply that archetypes are necessarily mysterious since they consist of matter/energy and a wide range of numinous potentials. Grounded in human experience, the archetypes transcend our conventional understanding of space and time. They are categories which to some extent explode contemporary assumptions about categories.

The archetypes point to essential mysteries or, in Jung’s way of speaking, they invite and sometimes demand an extraordinary encounter with the numinous. As for the apparent simplicity of the archetypes, Jungians reply that the archetypes, proper, are relatively few but their cultural expression as archetypal images are limitless.

Depth psychologist James Hillman notes that the archetypes are just another construct and should not be taken as realities in themselves. This may surprise some but Jung, himself, knew full well that his apparently ‘scientific’ work was just another myth that he believed was more appropriate for moderns times. The pseudoscientific nature of Jung’s work did not deter him. He believed his new myth was necessary. And his growing popularity seems to confirm that belief.11

Along these lines, Jung said the master archetype is that of the self, which directly or indirectly involves all lesser archetypes. As we journey through certain stages in life, the self strives to unify apparent contradictions. For Jung this process of becoming whole, called individuation, involves a multidimensional union of opposites and by implication, the experience of synchronicity and numinosity. And these two ideas of synchronicity and numinosity arguably raised Western psychology to a new plateau only hinted at by researchers such as Abraham Maslow, Alfred Alder and William James.12

Like his old mentor Freud, Jung sought to devise a fresh, meaningful map of the psyche. He sincerely tried to integrate the personal, social and spiritual dimensions of the self. A brilliant innovator, Jung anticipated the limitations that would inevitably compromise his working model. But despite these limitations, his ideas still inspire half a century after his passing.

Notes

1 Fundamentalist Christian attacks against Jung seem to abstractly echo a frightening past of Inquisitions and the torture of so-called witches, a kind of mindset where it’s easier to demonize people on the basis of incomplete data instead of carefully assessing what they have to say. See, for instance, Marsha West’s: Carl Jung: Psychologist or Sorcerer?. Jung himself says that as a practicing psychiatrist he never tried to change his clients’ religious beliefs if they were happy with them. He did critique Christian churches, but his critique was intended to help those receiving no spiritual comfort within those traditions. And his critiques were not one-sided diatribes. For instance, the Protestant Jung commended the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950 because he felt that it solidified an important feminine element within Christian belief and practice. And because Catholicism now highlights the importance of freedom of religious belief, Catholic pogroms against those interested in Jung’s model arguably come from those Catholics unable to appreciate the fullness of Catholic thought.

2 Ram Dass, for instance, said in The Only Dance There Is that Jung is afraid to go beyond identifying with the role of the famous psychologist. Dass says Jung fears taking the next step into mysticism.

3 The best example being Maidenbaum and Martin’s Lingering Shadows: Jungians, Freudians, and anti-Semitism.

4 See my papers Integration and the Orient and Ego, Archetype and Self.

5 Naomi Goldenberg, “Looking at Jung Looking at Himself,” Soundings, 73/2-3 (Summer/Fall 1990).

6 Ibid. Several recent Jungians claim to explore the psyche in the spirit of Jung, not being bound by any kind of Jungian dogma. To what extent they succeed arguably varies from theorist to theorist.

7 These concepts are accurately defined in Daryl Sharp’s Jung Lexicon.

8 Michael V. Adams illustrates this point in The Cambridge Companion to Jung, (ed.) Polly Young-Eisendrath and Terence Dawson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 101.

9 Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, p. 209, cited in R. J. Lifton with Eric Olson (eds.), Explorations in Psychohistory: The Wellfleet Papers, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1974 p. 90.

10 Some of Jung’s archetypes are listed here.

11 Some old school Jungians, being tied to their tidy Jungian teachings, are unwilling to further develop Jung’s concepts or, perhaps, see them in the postmodern sense of the “three C’s,” where context and connotation are taken as an important part of content.

12 More recently, Stanislav Grof and a handful of others have built on Jung’s thought with a holotropic model of the self.

Some reflections on Carl Gustav Jung Copyright © Michael Clark.


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The meanings of myth

By Michael Clark

The word myth has a lot of different meanings, depending on who’s speaking. Myths can be ordinary (like a popular idea), sublime and heavenly or, possibly, something horrible and scary.

Perhaps all contemporary usages share the idea that myth points to something beyond the scientific method. But in reality it’s not quite that simple. Many postmodern thinkers critique science as a modern myth. And scholars like the Indologist, Wendy Doniger, say that most myths contain an inner structure and rationality.

To further complicate things, the pioneering mythographer Sir James. G. Frazer believed that, underneath their colorful imagery, myths are a kind of protoscience.

Literary and artistic types tend to see myth as an artform. But others say that myth is more sacred than the arts because at different points in history myth connects with ritual. To counter that notion, others observe that ritual, itself, doesn’t guarantee the presence of the sacred. And the definition of ritual, itself, is also open to debate. Could getting together with your pals every Wednesday night to watch your favorite Sci-Fi TV show be considered a ritual? This isn’t too far-fetched. Not a few academics see Star Trek as a religion or, perhaps, a mythology. Another point to consider here is that many artists see their practice as a kind of spiritual discipline. So who can really say that myth is more sacred than art?

Myths and Fairy Tales

According to professor T. Henighan,1 the Freudian child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim says that myth:

  • Contains particular heroes with unique names
  • Tells of heroes that are ‘larger than life’
  • Involves majestic and ‘spiritual’ divine beings
  • Relates an often tragic and pessimistic story2
  • Reveals conflict between the superego (i.e. internalized social conscience) and id (i.e. instinctual drives of love and death that seek gratification)
  • Sets unrealistic demands that normal human beings can never fully achieve

Whereas fairy tales are a type of folk tale in which:

  • The names of heroes and heroines are absent or ordinary3
  • Supernatural but not divine beings are mentioned
  • Positive outcomes are the norm
  • Childhood and adolescence figure prominently
  • The actual content (i.e. Oedipal material) is obscured through elaborate symbolism

This, of course, is just one point of view. Specialists hardly agree as to whether myths and folk tales are basically the same or different. Moreover, some contend that myth precedes the folk tale, others, the reverse.

True and False Stories

In Myth and Reality Mircea Eliade maintains that “societies in which myth is—or was until very recently—’living,'” distinguish true from false stories.4

Eliade gives examples from two American Indian groups, the Pawne and the Cherokee. And from Africa he cites the Herero and the inhabitants of Togo. As any good sociologist or anthropologist will observe, however, Eliade seems to naively take existing ethnological research at face value. He says these cultures believe their myths are true stories, while folk tales apparently are seen as morally instructive but false stories.

However, he rightly notes that mythic stories were not universally accepted as truth in ancient societies where different beliefs and philosophical schools competed for legitimacy.5 Eliade is not referring, for example, to ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian myths.

But the idea that all members of a given “living” society privately regard hegemonic myths as true stories is open to question. It would be unwise to assume that mythic beliefs are universally accepted in any culture or, for that matter, subculture. As with the ancient world, external displays of acceptance – among both leaders and community members – very likely could be feigned out of prudence or political expedience.6

Hard to Define

As to a defintion of myth, Eliade says:

It would be hard to find a definition of myth that would be acceptable to all scholars and at the same time intelligible to nonspecialists. Then, too, is it even possible to find one definition that will cover all the types and functions of myths in all traditional and archaic societies? Myth is an extremely complex cultural reality, which can be approached and interpreted from various and complementary viewpoints.7

While there’s no unanimous agreement as to the meaning of myth, this multiplicity speaks to its richness and importance. The following point form list summarizes some of the leading and interrelated theories on mythology. It’s far from exhaustive but hopefully illustrates, among other things, the contemporary relevance of myth.

Psychological

  • Conceals our instinctual and repressed unconscious desires and tendencies (Sigmund Freud)
  • Reveals our “personal infantile history,” particularly with regard to the creators and followers of hero myths (Otto Rank)
  • Reflects transpersonal, elementary ideas (Adolf Bastien) or a collective unconscious revealing through mythic images a deeper meaning in life (Carl Jung)
  • Provides imaginal signposts along an inner and outer journey, helping heroic individuals gain enhanced wisdom (Carl Jung, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell)
  • Mythic thinking may be a survival mechanism for painful ritual abuse but in the negative unresolved instance, mythic thinking may culminate in sociopathic behavior-e.g. the ethical insanity of a Hitler (Chrystine Oksana)

Sociological

  • Codifies, legitimizes and strengthens dominant beliefs, practices and relationships based on power in a given society (Antonio Gramsci, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault)
  • Fosters social cohesion, functioning, development or chaos (Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton, Emile Durkheim);
  • Contributes to egoism, altruism, alienation and anomie (Emile Durkheim)

Cultural

  • Reading myths affords aesthetic charm to the, at times, “stale, flat and unprofitable” task of living (C. S. Lewis, [quotation: William Shakespeare])
  • Provides religious or heroic legends that the audience knows are fictional (Robert Graves)
  • Helps us to meaningfully interpret and transform our world (Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung)

Anthropological

  • A non-scientific attempt to explain natural phenomena (E. B. Tylor)
  • Archaic source of oral stories, history and cultural identity (Micea Eliade, Clifford Geertz)
  • The second stage in mankind’s evolutionary sequence of symbolical, mythical and logical modes of thought (J. J. Bachofen)
  • Directs individuals through important stages of life, in many cultures marked by solemn or sacred “rites of passage” (Karl Kerenyi, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell)
  • Provides communal meaning about ancestors and the afterlife (Carl Jung)
  • Myth is best understood as the sum total of its variants and is a tool that can help solve cultural problems, paradoxes and contradictions (Claude Lévi-Strauss)
  • Offers a grid defined by its own rules of construction. This grid doesn’t explain the meaning of myth in itself but creates a “matrix of intelligibility” which facilitates understanding of the world by revealing structural laws of human thought, communication, interaction and behavior (Claude Lévi-Strauss)
  • Legitimizes beliefs in magic, which for so-called primitives is a kind of protoscience that may be used for practical purposes, such as regulating the harvest (Sir James. G. Frazer)
  • Magic is recognized a kind of myth by so-called primitives, used symbolically to relieve natural anxiety and express their hopes for positive outcomes–e.g. while hunting or fishing in dangerous places (Bronislaw Malinowski)

Historical

  • Provides information about historical conditions, especially about those with the power to create myths (John Noss)

Political

  • May be used as global propaganda (e.g. Marxist Theory of History) and for political agendas–e.g. glorifying oneself and demonizing opponents, as in election-time TV ads (Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, Roland Barthes)

Ethical

  • Outlines right and wrong, and inevitable punishments and rewards for dishonorable and praiseworthy acts (Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell)

Pedagogical

  • Teaches individuals how to conform and advance in society, especially in archaic cultures (Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell)

Cosmological

  • Provides a working “map” of the conceivable universe (S. H. Hooke)
  • Relates to a Creation of the World and the subsequent interaction of gods, goddesses, semi-divine beings, human beings, animals, vegetation and the geographical landscape (Donna Rosenberg)

Magical

  • A story designed to evoke magical powers (Jane Harrison)

Spiritual

  • Symbolizes and possibly leads to an awareness of dimensions and beings beyond the mundane world (Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung)
  • Mythic rites and rituals bring forth a ‘sacred history’ within the context of human life (Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell)

Philosophical and Theological

  • Myth arises from incorrect insights, that is, intuitions about ultimate reality (or specific situations) which have not been questioned nor empirically investigated “until no further relevant questions arise” (Bernard Lonergan)
  • A symbolic means of expression through which mankind attempts to answer existential questions-i.e. achieve self-understanding in a world where the transcendental is often seen as immanent (Rudolf Bultmann)

Transformational

  • Recent figures like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Carl Jung, Melanie Klein, Joseph Campbell, Mary Daly and Barbara Walker implicitly or explicitly say that their own modern myths (i.e. theories about myth and related cosmologies) contribute to the betterment of self and society

Economic and Entertainment

  • Film, music, videos, literature, TV, advertising, video games and most other forms of popular culture belong here (and in some of the above categories). To mention a few: Kyle XY, X-Men, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Matrix, BattleStar Galactica, Stargate Atlantis, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, The Incredible Hulk, Xena the Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the TV Hercules, KISS, Marilyn Manson, Michael Jackson, HALO 3, Super Mario, Avatar (the movie)

Notes

1. Tom Henighan. ITV lecture for English 18.208 (Myth and Symbol) televised at Carleton University, Ottawa: January 29, 1998.

2. This is debatable, particularly with regard to Hindu myth.

3. Cinderella might seem an exception but as ‘Microglyphic’ pointed out at the former Askme.com, she’s renamed as such by her step-sisters. See, for instance the Brothers Grimm variant of the tale.

4. Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row, 1963, pp. 8-10.

5. (a) Anaximander (611-547 BCE) and Xenophanes (570-480 BCE) for instance, directly challenged the anthropomorhpic gods of ancient Greece. And doubts most likely existed among the historically invisible (the vast majority of people who were never famous enough for the history books). Also, in ancient Egypt crudely made statues apparently mocked Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, likely carved by dissenters.
(b) Military conquerors and occupying powers also influenced local myths in the ancient world. Conquerors would sometimes replace indigenous myths with their own. Other times they would import myths yet tolerate those of the subjugated. Military victors also synthesized their own myths with those of the defeated populations, as in India and Rome.

6. (a) John Noss in Man’s Religions (1957: 45-96) outlines some of the political and socially stratified aspects of pagan worship in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
(b) A contemporary example might be found within the Roman Catholic Church, where penalties can be harsh for disobedience among the clergy and also among wayward believers (e.g. women ordained as priests).

7. Eliade, Myth and Reality, p. 5.

The meanings of myth © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.


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Deciphering dreams – different perspectives

Dreaming Girls Head by Elfleda via Flickr

No one really knows exactly what dreams are or where they come from. People who see our world through a materialistic lens usually say that dreams are a random product of memory, based on the brain’s acquisition and interpretation of sensory input. Others say that dreams help to release physio-logical, sensory and psychological data that we pick up through waking and sleeping hours.

Followers of Sigmund Freud, who was an atheist for much of his life, try to decipher the meaning of dreams according to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. For Freudians, understanding is all about deciphering the dreamer’s real and imagined world through the often baffling language of dreams.

Carl Jung, who was once Freud’s brightest student, arguably takes a more comprehensive approach. Jungians try to decode dreams by looking at the biological, psychological, cultural, transpersonal, and spiritual aspects of the self, also taking into account the dreamer’s total life situation.

A Quick Look at Dream Theory

Human beings have interpreted dreams for centuries. The ancient Greeks practiced so-called dream incubation to try to cure illnesses often associated with a deity’s displeasure. The afflicted would enter a sacred chamber, allowing visionary or incubated dreams to guide them towards health. This ancient practice was based on the belief that angry deities made people unwell but divine mercy could heal them.

Joseph of the Bible’s Old Testament became a powerful figure in Egypt because he was a gifted dream interpreter. But dream interpretation was by no means unique to the ancient Israelites. Most ancient cultures studied dreams to prophesize, predict, assist and inspire.

The early Christian Tertullian (155-230 CE) believed that dreams came from God, Satan, or were produced by the individual soul in connection with nature. And the early Roman writer Macrobius (395-423 CE) was one of the first dream theorists to look seriously at nightmares.

In medieval times the cruel and paranoid side of humanity was, perhaps, most prevalent with the Christian Inquisitions, irrational witch hunts and the burning of heretics. And dream theory within the Church reflected that disturbing paranoia.

By the 16th and 17th centuries Father Gracian, St. Theresa’s confessor, wrote that “it is a sin to believe in dreams.”¹ Gracian and other notables of the day placed much emphasis on Satan, linking the devil to the sexual content of dreams.

A few centuries later, Freud said that dream analysis is the “royal road” to the unconscious, making a distinction between the manifest and latent content of dreams. The manifest content is the dream remembered by the conscious mind, usually a condensed, displaced or symbolic version of the latent content. The latent content consists of the dreamer’s unconscious feelings, perceptions and desires, to be deciphered through psychoanalysis.

Freud believed that upsetting and sleep-disturbing latent content is psychologically censored, just as a newspaper editor censors articles that would be too disruptive if published. Freud also felt that environmental stimuli, such as traffic sounds outside the dreamer’s window, could influence the manifest content.

Alfred Adler once belonged to Freud’s inner circle but eventually broke with Freud over professional differences. Adler argued that Freud placed too much emphasis on sex. Adler also regarded conscious intent as equally, if not more, important than unconscious impulses.

Adler believed that dreams help to identify and overcome daytime problems. Life wasn’t about accepting “normal human unhappiness,” as Freud once put it. Alder saw life as an opportunity to overcome unrealistic feelings of inferiority and superiority. Through a process of self-improvement individuals gain an increased sense of mastery and, so it follows, happiness.

Like Adler, Freud’s prodigy Jung once followed but ultimately spoke out against Freudian theory. When Jung couldn’t toe the line any longer, he openly questioned Freud’s ideas, suggesting they were reductive and unscientific. This caused a permanent rift in their once very close relationship.

Jung went on to outline two main types of dreams, unpretentiously called big dreams and little dreams. Big dreams contain archetypal material originating from the collective unconscious. They may be visionary, involve grand themes (such as the mythic journey of the hero) and usually compel the dreamer to make significant life changes. Little dreams are more of the Freudian sort. They involve the personal unconscious and upper layers of the collective unconscious (such as the archetype of the shadow), and point to the need for smaller psychological adjustments instead of dramatic life changes.

The Gestalt theorist Fritz Perls believed that every aspect of the dream points toward some unconscious aspect of the dreamer’s total personality.

Contemporary parapsychologists take things a step further by saying that dreams may be predictive and involve the spirit world.

Jung also believed in the paranormal aspects of dreams but was careful to integrate the physiological, psychological and spiritual dimensions as he understood them.

How Can Dreams Help?

Upstairs at BMV Books, Toronto by MC

Dogmatic materialists and skeptics aside, most people agree that the primary purpose of dreams is to integrate unconscious and conscious attitudes, this hopefully leading to a better, more realistic approach to life.

The following builds on several leading perspectives and includes some original ideas of my own.² These categories aren’t watertight nor exhaustive. But hopefully they’ll illustrate some of the value and complexity of dream interpretation.

Compensation

Compensation is when the (unconscious) dreaming self attempts to restore or achieve balance within the (conscious) daytime attitude. A daytime racist, for instance, might dream of an enchanted encounter with someone of another color. Or a daytime bully who victimizes gays and lesbians might dream about an enjoyable same sex liaison.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the dreamer should act out their dream content in daily life. Rather, the dream merely opens doors to new possibilities, encouraging a more comprehensive, less judgmental worldview.

Wish-fulfillment

An example of wish-fulfillment would be when someone wants a romantic getaway vacation to the Barbados but can’t afford the time or perhaps money to get there. If the desire and need for this kind of diversion are strong enough, chances are they’ll dream about it.

The same applies to lonely people in search of a soul mate. They may never find them during the day. But their dreams can be rich and satisfying to the point where it’s upsetting to awake. On this, the Japanese poet Ohtomo Yakamochi wrote:

[These] meetings in dreams,
How sad they are!
When, waking up startled
One gropes about,–
And there is no contact to the hand.

—From the Manyo Shu, compiled 760 CE

Purging

In a purging dream, one gets rid of their negative feelings for another person or situation. Typically, someone will dream of screaming and shouting (maybe even cursing) at someone else whom they consciously or unconsciously resent during the daytime. On waking they feel better.

Residual

Residual dreams illustrate leftover conscious or unconscious feelings from daytime. They can involve the purging of negative emotions (as above) but also celebrating positive feelings.

Getting in touch | Seeing where it hurts

Here we dream about people or situations that have or still do upset us in daytime reality. We don’t wake up feeling better. In fact, we usually wake up feeling hurt. But this helps us to learn about and feel our hidden pain in order to better deal with it.

This type of dream differs from purging and residual dreams because on waking we may still be upset, even shaken. But this can be therapeutic. For to not know ourselves is usually a recipe for disaster. In psychoanalytic terms, this is a kind of abreaction.

Abreaction is a release and re-experiencing of painful or traumatic events or emotions. In many dreams it is obvious that the process underlying dreams is attempting to trigger an abreaction.³

Feeling Tone

The content of feeling tone dreams are generally forgotten but on waking the dream instills an emotional climate appropriate for the day.† The waking self is emotionally prepared to “get up and go.” An example would be a traveler who wakes up in a foreign country, eager to explore various architectural landmarks.

Feeling tone dreams can also be more subtle. A typically grouchy person, for example, might wake up feeling more favorably disposed toward his or her family and friends.

Problem Solving

Problem solving dreams provide solutions to vexing issues and practical problems encountered by the waking self. The answer may be cloaked in symbolism but usually some kind of direct statement is given in the dream.

A lost ring, for instance, might be located through a dream in which a voice simply says, “look under the mat.” This might seem trite but it points to the idea that, in many instances, the dreaming self is more knowledgeable than the waking.

Transformational

These are similar to wish-fulfillment (see above), but transformational dreams signify general motifs or trends as opposed to specific objects of desire. For instance, we dream of flying around the neighborhood or to distant countries. The weightlessness is sheer joy. This could symbolize “taking off” in life, socially or professionally.

Creative and Inspirational

Creative and Inspirational dreams contain specific content that a person may apply to their daytime work. Music composers, for instance, sometimes dream about melodies and arrangements. And history records not a few inventors who dreamed of devices and innovations before manufacturing them.

Nightmares

Nightmares are generally viewed as warning dreams. The nightmare is trying to jolt us into recognizing and readjusting an inappropriate conscious attitude or situation. A recurring nightmare points toward something in ourselves (or in life) that urgently needs change.

Visionary

Here we have wonderful or perhaps horrific dreams of things to come—that is, the future of humanity. It seems that visionary dreams and their interpretation are almost always colored by personal and cultural filters. Some visionaries recognize this, while others tend to habitually mistake their vague predictions for precise ones. If left unchecked, the misguided visionary might go insane in some rare instances. But usually they just go on fooling themselves and anyone gullible enough to follow their half-baked predictions.

Precognitive

Precognitive dreams are similar to visionary dreams but not as momentous. Here one simply dreams of something which, in fact, occurs later in waking reality. These could come about by (a) God letting the person know what will happen (b) the person sensing things through time (which as we now know, is a relative construct) or (c) a combination of (a) and (b), that is, God allowing a person to sort of psychologically “time travel,” as it were.† This latter view upsets some traditional theologians who just can’t get their head around the idea that space-time is not linear.

Controlled

Also called conscious or lucid dreaming, controlled dreaming is a controversial technique based on shamanic traditions where one actively creates or has a conscious effect on the dream content. Some control their dreams for pleasure. Others strive to improve conditions in the everyday world, this based on the belief (and perhaps observation) that dreaming and waking realities are intimately (if mysteriously) connected.

Empathetic

Here the dreamer experiences another person’s problems, concerns or situation. During the empathetic dream the dreamer fully believes that he or she is confronted with issues that, in actuality, pertain to somebody else.† An extreme example would be a law abiding person dreaming they are a desperate criminal, always worried that he or she will get caught by the authorities.

The value of this type of dream is that the dreamer, upon waking, gains insight and can be sympathetic to the plight of others without actually doing the bad thing.† Of course, a similar effect can come through the arts (Elton John’s “Have Mercy on the Criminal” song comes to mind). But the impact of an empathetic dream is more powerful and immediate, making the innocent dreamer feel he or she really understands what it’s like to be a desperate crook.

Although empathetic dreams differ from intercession dreams (below), the empathetic dream can be an explanatory companion to intercession dreams—i.e. the dreamer better understands why they must spend time in contemplative or vocal prayer for another person.†

No surprise then, that the empathetic dream is especially valuable for contemplative saints (or saints in the making) who apparently take the sins (or karma) for others less able to understand and, therefore, appreciate the subtler points of religious experience.†

Intercession

Intercession is a theological term. It points to the idea that souls mediate God’s graces to one another. In the context of dreaming, intercession may or may not take place in real time. That is, one may dream of and intercede for a bad situation that could take place in the future. In the dream state the dreamer mediates graces to another soul so as to engender healing or to encourage that person to avoid making a bad choice.†

This kind of dreaming exhibits aspects of precognitive and controlled dreaming. But it differs in the sense that, within the context of the dream, one prays in a contemplative way for another person.† As with daytime intercessory prayers, the ultimate source of healing and positive redirection is God, not the dreamer.

It’s conceivable that intercession dreams are effective in real time and, given the relativity of space-time, also with past events. Here, dreamers would intercede in a positive way, for example, for victims of past wars and other atrocities.†

Intercession dreams may also be related to Empathetic Dreams (see above).†

Paranormal

The terms paranormal and normal seem somewhat arbitrary. They’re perhaps more reflections of the status quo than absolute categories, so they’re used here mostly for convenience.

With paranormal dreams, believers claim the psyche accesses information normally restricted by conscious and unconscious attitudes and also by the selective attention that is required for daytime activities. These dreams range from contacting the dead, traveling through time, and taking astral journeys to faraway countries, distant galaxies, exotic realms and other alleged dimensions. They can also involve communing with aliens and perceiving other people’s thoughts, emotions and inclinations.

While some report seeing or, perhaps, contacting themselves in past lives (i.e. reincarnation) during a dream, it’s important to realize that this is not necessarily fact. As a rule of thumb, paranormal dreams must be carefully interpreted and assessed. To take paranormal dreams at face value without informed analysis seems unwise because there’s no guarantee that the dream information is trustworthy or interpreted correctly.†

Hellish

Hellish dreams are different from usual nightmares. On waking the dreamer feels as if they have had an actual glimpse or personally experienced an actual hell. The experience is far more profound than a mere frightening series of events, characteristic of most nightmares. Hellish dreams arguably aren’t just imaginal representations but, rather, ontological encounters occurring during the sleep state. This is about the very real feeling of being damned and tormented for all time.

Due to the immediacy and intensity of the hellish experience, on waking the dreamer usually feels they’ve received a dire warning to change some attitude or behavior for the better.

Heavenly and Blissful

Many spiritually minded folk don’t like to differentiate the heavenly from astral realms (along with their respective numinous qualities). But one could reply that these people, for whatever reasons, just haven’t matured enough in their spiritual formation to understand and appreciate the difference.† By way of analogy, try telling a 3 year-old the difference between pi, infinity, and the speed of light—or, for that matter, between whiskey, vodka and wine. In both cases, the child just isn’t there yet to get it. And so it may be with many adults, who for all intents and purposes, seem more like kids (or maybe teens) when it comes to understanding matters spiritual.†

By way of contrast, many say on the basis of personal experience that heaven is of an entirely different order and beauty than the astral realms or the energy of the cosmos.

At any rate, in this kind of dream one experiences heavenly realms and all the contentment, love, grace and profound peace that accompany them. And heavenly bliss is often distinguished from the following “lesser” paths of natural and aesthetic beauty, vital pleasures (e.g. sex and eating), endorphin and adrenaline rushes, alcoholic merriment, drug-induced altered states, and forms of intuitive or extroverted pseudo-spirituality characterized by immaturity, egoism and an absence of genuine love.

To what degree heavenly bliss might coexist with other, lesser pleasures remains a matter open to debate. But even if heavenly graces did coexist with lesser pleasures, we can still discern the different components of a given experience.† By way of analogy, water may be combined with coffee, sugar and cream but these various elements remain different.

This notion of a hierarchy of pleasures, from vulgar to heavenly, isn’t terribly new. The idea appears in ancient Indian and Greek philosophies. As noted above, Tertullian wrote that some dreams are an ecstatic, purely spiritual experience, in contrast to those generated by the soul and nature.

More recently, the Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo had much to say about different levels of spiritual experience. Aurobindo also warned against the deceptive influences of astral realms. However, Aurobindo didn’t have too much to say about dreams per se because for him, sleep was something to be overcome. Aurobindo claims he eventually overcame “The Sleep,” as he put it, replacing sleep and dreaming with the preferable state of meditation.

Final Word

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of dreams is their tendency to synthesize a great deal of information. Assuming that one has a feel for dream interpretation, it seems that past, present and future possibilities as well as feelings, attitudes and suggestions for improvement are combined in a brief production often reminiscent of an Oscar winning movie. Because most “dream movies” exhibit such a high degree of intellectual and artistic excellence, it seems improbable that the dreamer is the sole creator and director. Indeed, most of us could never hope to write a novel or screenplay containing the wisdom and brilliance of dreams.

This synthetic aspect of dreams suggests that some unknown agency beyond the body, brain and soul is at least partly responsible for dream production. And all we have to do is sleep!


¹Father Gracian cited in Robert L. Van de Castle, Our Dreaming Mind. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994, p. 83.

² My own ideas are indicated with the † symbol.

³ Tony Crisp http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/abreaction/

Further Reading

Castaneda, Carlos. The Art of Dreaming. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. Nobody knows whether Castaneda was writing fiction, fact or some combination of the two. But he does a good job illustrating a shamanistic perspective through his account of Don Juan.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Penguin Freud Library Volume 4. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1976.

Hall, James A. Jungian Dream Interpretation: A Handbook of Theory and Practice. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1983.

Jung, C. G. Dreams, trans. R. F. C. Hull. Princeton, New Jersey: Bollingen Series XX Princeton University Press, 1954. This is a good collection of Jung’s work on dreams from different sources.

Lewis, James, R. The Dream Encyclopedia. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1995. This isn’t just another “10,000 Dreams Interpreted” type book. It contains referenced and insightful comments throughout.

Pliskin, Marcia. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Interpreting Your Dreams. New York: Alpha Books, 1999. Don’t be biased against the fact that this is an Idiots Guide. It’s a good introduction.

Telesco, Patricia. The Language of Dreams. Freedom, California: The Crossing Press, 1997. I found Part One of this book, ‘A Time to Dream,’ most useful.

Van de Castle, Robert L. Our Dreaming Mind. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994. An excellent survey and resource book for further study by Dr. Van de Castle.

Some Interesting Dream Quotes » http://www.quotegarden.com/dreams.html

Disclaimer: This article does not possess any kind of medical, legal or religious authority. Those with physical, mental or spiritual health issues are advised to consult an appropriate and licensed professional.

“Deciphering dreams – different perspectives” © Michael W. Clark, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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