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.