Connecting Dreams with Archetypal Symbols

Having worked with dreams since 1991, and having opened a dream-interpretation sub-forum at my Astro-Jhana Discussion Board, I am very familiar with one particular assertion:  The only interpretation that counts is that of the dreamer.

I get that a lot.

While I understand this sentiment – and even agree with it to a certain extent – I am also convinced that dream imagery has a direct correspondence with the symbols contained in the collective unconscious. These symbols have been recast over and over and over again in the world’s many mythological systems, and are well-represented in oracular traditions such as Astrology, Tarot, Gematria and the Kabbalah.

In a sense, our global mythological systems (which contain symbols that end up in oracular traditions) constitute a “dream language” that is shared below the surface of individual existence.

So, while profound healing and self-discovery are available through dreamwork that concentrates solely on the contents of the dreamer’s dream (or dream-series), I maintain that an entirely new level of connectedness awaits the dreamer who avails herself of collective symbology — and that this new level of connectedness represents an opportunity to amplify the benefits of dreamwork in immeasurable ways.

Here’s an example:

A 36-year-old person dreams that she is on top of a mountain, far above tree-line, looking down over a cloud-shrouded valley. There are rocks and snowfields nearby, as well as a pagoda-like shrine building. She walks toward the shrine building and notices that each step is more belabored than the last, and that the shrine building is growing in size. It seems to take hours for her to reach the steps of the shrine building, and when she finally lifts a foot onto the bottom stair, she sees that the building is now several stories high. Once both feet are on the bottom stair, she notices that the heaviness has disappeared and she nearly FLIES up to a deck and through a doorway into the building. The interior of the building opens into infinite space; she sees blackness and stars, and is now floating freely. She expects to be met by a spiritual master, but nothing happens for what seems like hours. Finally, she sees an infant swaddled in a white blanket floating toward her. She pulls it to her breast. The baby then transforms into the dreamer at another age – say, 25. The dreamer stares into the eyes of the younger version of herself…. then emerges crying into waking life.

Now, the dreamer will reflect on this dream and give rise to any number of personal associations.

She may feel a familiarity with the geographical location of the dream. She may connect with an unfulfilled longing having to do with the lack of a spiritual teacher – or she may derive pleasure and joy over the fact that her dream is addressing the issue of higher spiritual principles, and she may feel a certain anticipation of progress in these realms. In confronting younger versions of herself, she may give rise to nostalgic associations that may lead to regrets or to thanksgiving – who knows? The point is, the dreamer will have all sorts of thoughts and insights from a dream like this, and she will sense deep meaning behind the symbols that have been presented.  If she remembers, records and reflects on this dream, healing will take place somewhere inside of her.

As an archetypalist who practices astrology and Tarot, the symbols and images in this dream connect with a different level of association, and several insights pop into my mind. My assertion is that these more generalized associations have just as much to offer the dreamer as her own interpretation. Connecting one’s dreams to the collective experience of common symbols is a way of putting oneself in touch with the Divine in a direct and non-dogmatic way – so long as everyone understands that there is no “right” answer.

One insight that comes to mind regarding this dream is that, at age 36, the dreamer has begun her mid-life adjustment period, which involves powerful connections with the outer three planets — Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. In particular, she is going through a Pluto-square-Pluto aspect (Pluto corresponding with the archetype of the Dark Mother), which has the effect of “killing-off” parts of her life that no longer serve her karmic purpose for taking birth. Divorce is common during this aspect. Geographical relocation, career change and other such transformation is also common. Despite this dream showing the dreamer on top of a mountain (symbol of an alchemical ascent, which is a place of union and healing), the Pluto-square-Pluto aspect typically brings a sense of things falling apart, either internally or externally, such that familiar hand-holds on existence are yanked away, leaving one free-floating without guarantee of ever finding safety and security again. There may be a tendency to overcompensate as this person seeks to re-establish a comfort zone that no longer exists – or is in the midst of disintegrating.  The Dark Mother challenges us to embrace the seeming difficulties as reliable guidance, even as the dream itself challenges the dreamer to embrace and nourish herself.

Knowing this, I see this dream as a calling toward higher purpose in life – a calling for the dreamer to align with deeper meaning. The dream also suggests that she will not find ultimate spiritual satisfaction through external teachers or teachings, but through an honest and powerful – even confrontational – meeting with herself. SHE is her ultimate guru – the guru being a mythological image of spiritual wisdom and knowledge, a guide to ultimate Truth. Her higher self, in the form of a younger and more vibrant version of herself, is waiting and available to lead her to a more universal spiritual understanding. Approaching the shrine building, each step is heavier and heavier – this validates and honors the difficulty one encounters at the onset of the mid-life adjustment, when we “pay the piper” for choices made earlier in life, and are challenged to orient in a new direction that is aligned with our true essence. Emotional heaviness is a natural response to this challenge – and yet, when we finally surrender to a higher perspective, the drama of our life gives way to a lighter presence, and we are transported into a timeless dimension that offers something true and essential to our journey.

From this perspective, then, dreams are a medium of communication from the soul – and, in establishing a connection between individual dream images and their corresponding symbols in the collective unconscious, we allow the soul to expand our awareness beyond the drama of our individual existence. It is this connection between micro and macro that mysteriously brings healing and transformation to our life.

For healing and transformation to occur, is it necessary to bring in the symbols of mythology and oracular systems?

No. Profound healing emerges from the simple act of remembering and recording the slightest dream fragment, let alone entire dream series. The Dreambody responds to the attention we give to Her communications, rewarding us with a sense of alignment with our higher selves.

Do the symbols of mythology and oracular systems bring a deeper and wider dimension to the process of dreamworking?

Indeed they do. Anything we can do to connect ourselves with a more universal “take” on our individual experience is bound to lead to wisdom, which leads to healing, which leads to a renewed capacity to fulfill our essential purpose in life – which is to help others according to our own spiritual gifts, in whatever way we can.



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14 thoughts on “Connecting Dreams with Archetypal Symbols

  1. jhananda says:

    I enjoyed reading another of your very insightful articles. I agree, Michael, having myself worked with dreams since 1974, I have come to one particular assertion: The only interpretation that counts is that of the dreamer, but I also agree that dream imagery has a direct correspondence with the symbols contained in the collective unconscious. In fact I believe when we dream we are in the collective unconscious; and as we become lucid dreamers the collective unconscious ceases to be unconscious.

    I also agree that systems of the global mythologies contain symbols that are in the oracular traditions and constitute a “dream language” that is shared below the surface of individual existence, which is what the collective unconscious is all about. I have found, therefore that profound healing and self-discovery are available through dreamwork, but that dreamwork is especially enhanced with the skilled guidance of a counselor, such as yourself, who is well versed in the global mythic systems. Thus we should always be mindful of both the dreamer’s interpretation as well as be guided by someone well versed in the mythic systems of the collective unconscious.

  2. adreampuppet says:

    Excellent comment Jeffrey, as always.

    The lucidity piece is an interesting one to me. It’s good to know that you “believe when we dream we are in the collective unconscious,” and that “as we become lucid dreamers the collective unconscious ceases to be unconscious.” My psychotherapy mentor discouraged lucid dreaming, but I have always been happy to “wake up” during the dream state, so your explanation really resonates with me.

    This particular approach, as your insights illustrate, represents a “Middle Path” that honors the dreamer’s interpretation, even while admitting that our dreams are never so isolated as to escape our collective heritage. Everything we experience as individuals has a direct connection with the collective experience, and dreams are no different.

    With love,
    Michael

  3. Hawk Sr. says:

    Thanks, Mike. I will write by email to pursue this subject at a personal level.

  4. I remember hearing that one of Jung’s clients had a daughter who was maybe 12 years old. The father was interested as well as concerned because the dreams she was having were fantastic. So he brought his daughter to Jung for the dreams to be analyzed. She was having images of archangels and seeing things that she had never before experienced nor had any exposure to in any way in her life. Jung worked with the dreams of this girl and came to the understanding that she was in transition preparing to die. The dream analysis was accurate. The following year she died of an illness that hadn’t been diagnosed.
    So even though it is imperative that the dreamer resonate with what is being described, the archetypal images can be picked out by someone who is in tune with that and offer meaningful interpretations that move outside of the dreamers ordinary experience but in a way that is very powerful. That is why dream work can be so powerful.

  5. adreampuppet says:

    I knew that you, especially, would understand, Ajahn T.

    Don’t even get me started on Carl Jung! Or Joseph Campbell, Wilhelm Reich or any of those other cats — they helped move me from one set of beliefs into a world of uncertainty… and I prefer the uncertainty.

    On the other hand, the archetypes help us navigate the uncertainty with a level of intuitive recognition. After a while, this is as much so-called certainty as we need.

    Really, of course, what we need is to meditate…!

    Looking forward to meeting you soon, my friend.

    Warmly,
    Michael

  6. GaribAN says:

    Hello Michael,
    Many thanks for this interesting article. Dream Interpretation is a Knowledge from God. Prophet Muhammad PBUH used to comment on the dreams of his followers . In Qur’an , Prophet Joseph(Yusuf a.s) PBUH is one of those who has knowledge of dream interpretation. You can find some ayats in Qur’an Chapter 12/36-46 and some more in chapter 12.

    There are various types of dreams and interpretation takes an important role in the individual’s life. But the interpreter must be some one who has this knowledge and they should be commented in the nice way . Because the incident occuring in the dream may come out in the way it is interpreted in some cases. So it is no good to open your dream to every body, especially to the envious people who would wish to comment in your disadvantage. I give you personal experiences about this subject one day hopefully(inshaallah). Not every charlatan who knows a bit of card reading and astrology can tell you what these are. It is narrated that Ibn Sirin who had this knowledge in some instances, commented on the dream of various people seeing the similar objects in their dreams in opposite and various ways. The dreamer is also a key ofcourse. Islamic dream books are very rich in interpretation but my Teacher does not use them and He comments on my dreams and he says the person whose dream will be commented on should be known by the interpreter that is why using a book will not give you a very good interpretation. I read many dream books but they become shallow in terms of giving information to you on the path of TRUTH. They usually are more interested in psychological states of human being rather than learning knowledge related to the Divine System of GOD.

    There are various kinds of dreams and not them all are important for the dreamer walking on the path of TRUTH. I have recorded over 100 pages of my dreams over the past few years as much as I remembered and probably hundreds of them I did not record in my dream file . Because the dreams which are seen due to being effected by the social system you are living in , your fears, and events effecting you on daily basis may be reflected on your dreams. So the dreamer must filter them and understand which one is important for the path of GOD.

    A real teacher can help you by entering in to your dreams as well. This is very common in Tasawwuf . There are many examples like that.

    In Nafsanic dreams, the effects of your ego can be seen in your vision as your desires and weaknesses of your Nafs will be seen by taking the forms of various animals or things in various scenarios.

    In the book, Enclosed Gardent of Truth written by Hakim Sanai around 12th century, in a fes chapters, he gives some general guideliness of dream interpretation for the people walking on the path of ALLAH . I run in to it a few months ago and started to translate the whole book to Turkish. Here is the link: http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/egt/egt54.htm

    This website explains the importance of dreams by giving examples from Prophet Muhammad SAW’s period with islamic literature.

    http://www.deenislam.co.uk/dreams/dreams_in_islam_1.htm

    Before this writing gets longer, I will cut it short here.

    Allah knows best…
    With Salaam, Love and Our Prayers
    GaribAN
    http://www.muhammedinur.com/En

  7. jeanie pecats says:

    I have worked with dreams from an early age when I found my dreams were predictive.

    • adreampuppet says:

      Hi Jeanie — do you remember a particular predictive dream that you could share?

      • jeanie pecats says:

        Sure. The first I can recall was at age 5. There were plants growing beneath the kitchen window. They could have been anything as my family didn’t plant them, we had only just arrived in Australia. I dreamed there were bright blue flowers and the next morning, there they were. That was very simple of course. The biggest I recall was the prediction of a very big bridge being knocked down. That dream persisted for 6 weeks up until the event. The bridge known as the Tasman Bridge which connects the western and eastern shores of Hobart (capital of Tasmania) was hit by a ship. Many cars continued driving over, the drivers being unaware of the gaping break in the road. I saw all of this 6 weeks prior to the event. There have been so many others, too many to mention.

  8. adreampuppet says:

    My dream teacher, Charles Bebeau, used to say that predictive dreams belong to the realm of the Archetypes — which means that you are tapping into the collective consciousness at the level of mass meaning, mass experience and so forth. In that realm, time does not exist — or it exists in every direction all at once — and the dreamer sometimes connects with a universal “flow” that ends up manifesting in the waking world. Prophesy operates on the same principle — so, one may say that the mind of God opened up to you, and you were given a “gift” of future insight.

    When this happens to you, Jeanie, is there ever an accompanying sense of… responsibility?

  9. jeanie pecats says:

    I actually work as a professional Psychic and Tarot reader. I am also an empath which is a mixed blessing.
    I do often feel a sense of responsibility but one has to filter what people should or should not know for their greater good. Such decisions are very difficult at times. I do not like like having to make them but I must.

  10. adreampuppet says:

    Thanks for your replies, Jeanie. As an astrologer and Tarot reader myself, I find it best to hand the responsibility over to the “higher power” that manifests in these gifts — though we have to remain conscious of what that responsibility entails. It can be healthy… but it’s also a blessing to know that you’ve found your Calling and are living it….

  11. Phoenix says:

    I agree with you and good article. There is no preparation for advanced and middle dreaming, but for beginner dreaming its good for the knowledge to help one understand their dreams and work with them in a more self awareness and healing way. I am a dreamer (shaman) and have been training advanced dreaming for 17 years with dedicated apprentices, i teach an ancient practice that is forgotten and not understood anymore called ‘soul cloud’. P

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