1. The mandala (feeling)
I have been reading the works of Carl Jung and he uses useful shorthand for identifying types of people. He categorizes people in terms of whether they are thinking or feeling, extraverted or introverted, etc. I have decided to choose four different dreams and then to relate to different areas of my experience. This first dream is chosen to represent the feeling component of my psyche. In this dream I am trying to grab a goat by the horns as it aggressively moves about on an apartment hardwood floor.
As I was trying to stop the goat I mused on the phrase ‘grabbing the bull by the horns’. I manage to hold the goat for a while but he gets loose and smashes a square chess board set within a circle. It breaks into four pieces and I am told explicitly that each of the four parts represent a different part of myself. The smallest piece -a mere shard or fragment is me, (in the truest sense), – and the three larger pieces represent my mother, my father and my younger brother.
The first thing that attracts my attention here is the symbol of the quaternity within in the circle. The idea of squaring the circle could be taken as the archetype of wholeness. When Jung entered a difficult period in his life when he withdrew from his teaching position and painted lots of mandalas because he found they relaxed him.
He realized that all of the designs he drew despite their wandering paths always worked there way back to the centre or to individuation. The chess symbolism in my dream adds another element to the mandala symbolism. The chess board corresponds to the ‘classical’ type of Vastu-mandala, a diagram that makes up the basic layout of a temple or a city.
It is curious that my brain would choose a chess board to represent the square within the circle. It is almost as though I could have picked no better symbolism. The chess board is laden with cyclical symbolism. One website discusses the symbolism as follows: –
The cyclical symbolism of the chess-board resides in the fact the it expresses the unfolding of space according to the quaternary and octonary of the of the principal directions (4 x 4 x 4 =8 x 8), and that it synthesizes, in crystalline form, the two great complementary cycles of sun and moon: the duodenary of the zodiac and the 28 lunar mansions; furthermore, the number 64, the sum of the squares of the chess board, is a submultiple of the fundamental cyclic number 25920, which measures the precession of the equinoxes. We have seen that each phase of a cycle, ‘fixed’ in the scheme of 8 x 8 squares, is ruled by a heavenly body and at the same time symbolizes a divine aspect, personified by a deva. It is thus that this mandala symbolizes at one and the same time the visible cosmos, the world of the spirit and the Divinity in its multiple aspects.
Granted I have been reading a lot about Jung’s mandalas but I am really quite pleased at this inspired selection of the chess board. The chess board imagery is what I have chosen to represent myself in my quest for individuation. It represents for me the curious interplay between fate and free will/choice that plays out in people’s lives. There is choice and freedom in terms of where one can move. The further the game progresses, however, the narrower the range of choices becomes.
The second image in this dream that attracts my attention is the goat that smashes my chessboard mandala apart. When I googled the symbolism of the goat I discovered something that interested me – goats are not actually indiscriminate eaters. What is viewed as over consumption is actually a form of sensory perception. The goat tries a little bit of everything and then decides what it likes. This makes it a very interesting as a dream image. It seems to suggest to me that a varied psychological taste testing actually produces more refined psychology.
The goat also symbolizes the notion of curiosity and independence. The mixture of the bull imagery with the goat imagery puts two contradictory images together. The bull which is quick to anger is set against the patient goat. This can be seen carried over into the birth signs. The Capricorn is the organized and systematic planner whereas the Taurus is fiery and passionate.
When I allowed myself to freely associate around the imagery of the goat I made a very interesting connection. I remembered playing a role playing game. One in which there were many sided dice and we created our own universe. I remembered that I had set myself up in the game as the leader of a goatherd mafia/ social movement agitating for reform in somewhere resembling Greece. It occurred to me that my friend had chosen as his character a goat. This goat didn’t talk but rather bit my thigh when it disapproved of what I was doing. This goat, Babaloo, saw fit to act as my conscience and constantly bothered me when I was trying to carry out necessary ruthless decisions.
This phrase ‘grabbing the bull by the horns’ encapsulates a different idea. In my case it deals with the notion of confronting a problem head on. It raises (for me) the idea of nipping something in the bud within a group situation. It is interesting because for me it places the idea of guilt and the rightness of action (the goat) close to the idea handling a group’s perceptions by quickly dealing with group disapproval rather than ignoring it (the bull). This might suggest that the rightness of an action is conflated, in my mind, with whatever the prevailing currents in the group at that particular point in time.
The recrudescence (Thanks for the word Krishna!) of the image of the goat in my dream could suggest that this sense of misguided guilt and constant examination of behaviour involves a breaking down of the self. The heavy moralistic introspection may bring me further from individuation. Another possible way of reading the dream is that this idiosyncratic (and largely unnecessary) process of moral reasoning could be the thing that frees the shard of myself (that is the most me part of me) from the whole.
The last element of this dream that I will examine here is the song ‘tainted love’ by Soft Cell. As one would imagine from the title the song deals with love that is in some way ‘tainted’. It talks about the abnegation of the self and the personality in the lyric – ‘And I’ve lost my light for I toss and turn – I can’t sleep at night.’ It talks of when love transforms into something altogether different and attraction turns into repulsion. ‘Once I ran to you, now I’ll run from you…’ I can readily understand the imagery evoked by these lyrics and how it relates to me.
I find it interesting that I am recently drawn to another song which seems to evoke opposing imagery; the Radiohead song ‘Fitter Happier’. Rather than utter trauma the lyrics speak instead of a growing numbness and poignancy. A robotic voice hits us with line after line. At the same time we hear sad piano chords and the voices and activity of another room. It is as though we are lost within ourselves as we hear the following fragments: – ‘Happier, more productive, not drinking to much…’‘sleeping well, no bad dreams, no paranoia’, ‘Will frequently check credit – moral, bank, hole in wall’, ‘favours for favours, fond but not in love’, ‘pragmatism not idealism’, ‘will not cry in public’, ‘still kisses with saliva’, and ‘no longer empty and frantic’. Yes, the song speaks of goals achieved but at what cost. The inability to feel or experience life.
2. Festival (Sensation)
The second dream I have chosen is taken to represent the sensation part of my experience. My dream journal records the dream as follows:-
I have the recurring train trope that I get on a train and it his dark and I am alone. The train is both going the wrong direction and I am missing stops. Then I get off and there is a massive black jeep with tinted windows and huge tires and rims and another set of tires in the boot waiting to take me to whatever destination and drive across all of continental Europe for/ with me. I am at a festival. Everything is purple and green. People are morphing. I am on cobble locked streets. There is a robot person being sawed in half and given a radio for a head. I am in a court room. I am seeing faces in a crowd. I am hearing a loud noise that accompanies time slips. People are being hanged from a forklift that is wedged in a tower. I see a crèche. There is a giant apple that is rotting in a box. I see purple snails on a bicycle, etc.
The jeep that subverts the public transport trope is from the HBO show ‘the wire’. The jeep I associate with Avon Barksdale driving around and playing Franti’s ‘rock the nation’ while showing up all of the cops who are tailing him. It is an image that I take to represent aggression and hyper masculinity. It represents the ultimate in control when placed against the image of the train going both of the wrong ways at the same time. Another friend joked that the jeep represented the death drive and then added that his friend took everything to represent the death drive. There could be something to that death drive idea as it does seems that a lot of my metaphors end in death or failure.
It is as though I compulsively include ‘the fall’ within every image that I select. When I choose the ‘one ring to rule them all’ I conveniently forget that the ring was destroyed in Mount Doom. In choosing am image of a strong Gustavo Fring from the television show breaking bad I omit the fact that his face his blown off at the end of he fourth series.
If we return to the dream there is the image of a snail on a bicycle. The snail is purple in keeping with the trippy nature of the dream. In the symbolism of Christianity the snail is a lazy or sinful person. The snail also represents self-sufficiency because it carries its house with it. The snail is the perfect inclusion in a dream selected for sensation.
The entire body of the snail is a sensory apparatus too’. One website makes the further point that this is ‘symbolic of experiencing reality via uncommon sensory perception.’ It is very interesting because the snail, being the epitome of the exploratory creature, suggests that there are different ways of perceiving and sensing the world. There is a comparison to be made between the goat and the snail as both being sensory and exploratory beings. Another element of the snail imagery that I am drawn to, for the purposes of this dream, would be the snail’s ability to hide itself within its shell or to reveal itself.
The imagery of the tower and the forklift from which people are being hanged is one of the more disturbing images presented in this dream. If we follow the imagery of hanging to the tarot deck we find the hanging man. He represents the suspension of action and the willing victim. He represents somebody who has given up something to achieve something greater. The willing martyr is a sense of the meaning of this card. The word for ‘matryr’ comes from a Greek word meaning witness. It suggests (for me) the false idea that the person who is suffering is the person who is somehow the best witness. It suggests to me that their version is in some way the most objective version.
The tower imagery in the dream then can similarly be brought back to the tarot deck in the form of ‘The tower’. I have said before that the death card is the tower for pussies. The tower card represents the whole destruction of the framework of the ego. The personality comes crashing down and all illusions are displaced with explosive force. This dream tower creates other associations. The dream tower seems to be like a religious tower or some sort of bell tower. In fact it reminds me of the tower on the island of Poveglia near/in Venice. Poveglia is now closed to locals and tourists but it contained plague fields where plague victims and bodies were left and buried. It also at one point contained a mental institution. The old bell tower on the island was converted into a lighthouse after the destruction of the old church of San Vitale.
In terms of the tower imagery it goes even further with another legend that surrounds the island. A building was built in 1922 and the legend goes that it was used as a mental hospital and a doctor tortured and butchered many of the patients before going ‘mad’ and jumping to his death from the bell tower. Another version has the doctor as surviving the fall but being strangled to death by a mist that came up from the ground.
All of this imagery and the connection to the island also causes me to draw an association between my dream and the plague doctor masks worn by some ghost television show people who visited the island. The television programme was laughable and at the time I watched it I joked that one of the crew knocking over camera equipment in his own excitement was taken as evidence of paranormal activity. The important thing for our purposes here though is the plague mask which for some reason arrests my attention. Perhaps because it is fucking terrifying.
The bird mask with the beak was worn by plague doctors along with a heavy coat. The mask contained lavender and other things that were burnt but I was also curious what the bird mask was all about.
The forklift is another powerful connection for me to an episode of accused which is a Jimmy McGovern show. In that show the son of two parents starts temping in a local factory. The son dies in a forklift accident. The factory initially comes across as very helpful and considerate but then tries to cover things up and deny responsibility. The mother sets the factory on fire and is arrested for arson. The mother is found not guilty by the jury even though it is clear that she set fire to the contract. I suppose it is an example of the law being tempered by compassion and appreciation of humanity beyond the legalese.
3. Lucid neighbourhood (Extraversion)
The third dream I have chosen I have identified as being connected to my levels of extraversion and introversion. This dream or dream series is part of a lucid dream series and starts of with my house and eventually involves venturing up a neighbour’s driveway. In the first of these dreams I am too uncomfortable with the reality of the dream and change my mind half way up the neighbour’s drive and return to the street. In this first dream I judge that it s socially unacceptable to walk up this driveway and this dream could actually be real life in which case it would be highly unusual for me to walk up my neighbour’s drive for no apparent reason.
In a second lucid dream I realize that I have dealt with this type of scenario before and I just go into my neighbour’s house. This decision to make my way up the drive because I am only in a dream gives me a lease of life and extraversion that carried over into my waking life. This is why I relate these dreams to my extraversion or introversion.
When I enter this house I am faced with a mirror in one of the front rooms and I see myself waving like the air ripples above a flame. I have an orange aura. I venture up the stairs in the house and there is my sleeping neighbour in a room that looks as though it is at the top of a throne room. There are more mirrors along the walls. Suddenly I am transported into a barn and I ask my brain to provide some symbolism for me. In response the dream creates the sounds of a bell that should be present but isn’t. I look around and see a pot with a sunflower in it.
The barn is dark but the sunflower, as with the sun, is a symbol of vitality and the enjoyment and appreciation of life. I associate the barn with barn in 12 high noon where the final shoot out takes place. That film was a damning indictment of the people of a town who were really good at rationalising there way out of having to do the courageous and in some senses foolhardy thing. At the end of that film Gary Cooper throws his sheriff badge in the street in disgust at the town. As far as he is concerned there is nobody in the town fit to wear the badge. At the start of the film Gary Cooper’s character married Grace Kelly’s character and he was no longer the sheriff but he risked his marriage and his life to adhere to his code. Even though he was no longer the sheriff and it could be easily argued that it was no longer his problem.
When I was hearing the sounds of the bell I was running the phrase and book title ‘For whom the bell tolls’ through my mind. I looked up the book ‘For whom the bell tolls’ and it seems to be full of the imagery of sacrifice. Perhaps the absence of the bell indicates the lack of sacrifice. Bells are also used to call people to prayer and to signify important ceremonies or events. There also seems to be a connection here between the imagery of bell tower in the imagery of the Poveglia tower in the earlier dream.
Bells are also interesting because they announce rights of passage in people’s life. They also can be used on ships and boats to indicate one’s position through thick fog. The use of a bell in my dream without its actual physical presence could indicate the coming of a rite of passage or a change without the outward appearance of change. Also if the bell is used to warn of other vessels but it does not actually exist here again we have contradictory images. The bell is to warn others of danger but at the same time it does not warn because it does not exist.
In the first lucid dream of this type I am exploring my house and I go out into the back garden and am faced with a cliff overlooking a sheer drop into the sea. One website discusses the edge of the cliff where the earth meets both sea and sky as being the meeting of the unconscious/ femininity (in the form of the sea) and consciousness/ masculinity (in the form of the sky). The same website suggests that what this might symbolize is a critical point in my life where it is time to make a decision. It further suggests that the decision may be one concerning the polarity of masculine or feminine components of my psyche. Another interpretation suggested on the web site is that the cliff may signify the ‘end of the road’ meaning that I have come as far as I can in a particular endeavour or lifestyle.
Interestingly the site also suggests the idea that what might be required at such an impasse is a leap of faith. It is interesting because in that same first dream when I tried to leave the house through the front the visual component of the dream disappeared and I was in darkness. I had to follow the aural component of the dream in order to cause the visual to return. Here again I see the walk by faith and not by sight alone. When the visual component did return I wandered the streets and saw big orthodox churches or red brick churches. I am not too up on my orthodox Christianity. The interest I have an Orthodox Christianity seems to involve the making of icons. The feature of icons that interest me is that they are images of the divine but they are only images, symbols or icons they are not what they are actually representing.
Returning to the dream, however, we return to the church/ churches. I googled the symbolism of churches and was excited to see that it was suggested that the symbolism of churches was actually quite easy to understand. It says that churches:-
link to some moment the day before when you totally believed something which was later proved wrong. But at the time you absolutely ‘believed’ this. But churches can also link to your sense of commitment and belief regarding important issues and parts of your life.
This image seems particularly apposite for me because people have accused me of having a new philosophy or ideology every week and I actually agree with them. Perhaps the difference is that I don’t think of this as necessarily being a bad thing. I like to think of myself as being ‘consistently inconsistent’ and I like to think of there being a logic that underpins the irrationality. I would also like to coin the phrase ‘irrational inquiry’ if it has not already been coined which I suspect it has. Everything good has already been invented. In any event I draw your attention to the meandering paths on Jung’s mandala and the goat that eats around to decide what to eat. They always work there way back to the centre.
As I said to my friend my method is unashamedly crazy and there is another mode of experiencing the world that is not open to his brand of rigorous examination.
4. Coffins (Thinking)
The fourth dream I have selected I have chosen to relate to the thinking part of myself. It is a dream that involves a videogame world inhabited by the undead. The picture above relates to one of my associations to the coffin which is featuring more and more in my dreams. The picture is an after and before depiction of the Chase family vault in Barbados but more of that later. First of all I would like to describe this dreamscape in more detail. The dreamscape is redolent of the classic videogames for the PS1 – Medievil.
I googled this game which I had played in my youth but I don’t know if I knew the whole plot. The plot starts with a flashback to the 13th Century to the fictional English Kingdom of Gallowmere. You play as the reanimated skeleton of Sir Daniel Fortesque. (He has my name and also a youtube clip mentions the name of my brother –Tim –as ‘canny Tim’. He is the hero of Gallowmere. He died fighting the evil Zarok but his side won the battle. It turns out his reputation was built on a lie though he actually took an arrow to the eye and died at the start of the battle. It seems that the idea of appearances or reputations being deceiving is something my brain wants to connect with this dream.
The appearance of a coffin in this dream and in another dream suggests the idea of death and thoughts of death obviously. However, it also suggests the womb and protection. In German the word for box is a vulgar word for a woman’s private parts and so there is a further connection there. The coffin could also be taken to represent the death of some material in my life or burying certain materials. Though the second coffin contains some sort of undead creature which I am anxious might rise up and break the coffin. In the first coffin dream the coffin was atop supports in the middle of a street with people sleeping in chairs during siesta. The having or a Siesta in the street in the middle of the day and generally living more outdoors is something I associate with sleeping and vitality. Sleeping, however, is closer to death and could be taken to represent death. Perhaps I want to draw the connection between life and death here. In that same dream I come across sand dunes which I read as relating to protection from the wind and protection generally. I might be drawing a connection between life and danger and death and comfortable living.
The coffin I also associate, as I mentioned earlier, with the chase family vault. The vault was supposed to have been sealed with the coffins arranged in a very ordered fashion. When it was opened again the coffins were in disarray. I remember reading about this in a book about the supernatural and mysteries at about age 11 when I was in holiday in Spain. I was terrified by that book but I had to keep reading. There was another account of how when a photo was taken of a dead woman in a parlour (being prepared for funeral?) her eyes were open in the photograph despite being closed in reality. At that time in Spain I was with a childhood friend with whom I have since fallen out of contact. Actually we have met up since but as with many of my childhood friends we seem to be on completely different pages. It is at the centre of an unusual web of complex images that we find ourselves. The image of people coming back to life is presented on the one hand (the eyes open in the photograph, the coffins disturbed in the vault). On the other hand I tie it in my mind to a friendship that has died and the more blatant death imagery of coffins and undead creatures.
In the second dream with the undead dreamscape I am also searching for a hammer in a wooden box. It is perhaps a murder weapon but I am not sure. The hammer symbolizes blunt and brute force decisions. It is a symbol of force and dominance. That I am looking for a hammer in my dream might suggest that in terms of my thinking I am looking for a set of more crude or direct approaches to situations but am unable or find it difficult to find them.
There is also a supernatural giant spider that has a bloated white main body. It rises from the ground but it reminds me of the giant pop and fresh man in the film Ghost Busters. It rises up from the ground as though it is spawning or resurrecting. One website looks at the imagery of the spider as follows:-
Just as the spider weaves a web, so too must we weave our own lives. The spider symbol meaning here serves as a reminder that our choices construct our lives. When the spider appears to us, it is a message to be mindful of the choices we are making – How are my choices affecting my life? , How can my choices improve my life? And how are my choices affecting others in my life? Not only do Spiders and their webs draw attention to our life choices, they also give us an overview of how we can manipulate our thinking in order to construct the life we wish to live.