I first encountered Robert Bosnak’s dreamwork technique at the CG Jung Institute in Boston and was later invited to a private dream group that gathered around a wood stove upstairs in his barn in the suburbs. from Boston. This group deeply explored the unconscious lives of the group members. Huddled in a small circle under the covers, we only knew each other by sharing our dreams. Here I learned more about archetypal symbolism. Universal symbols can contribute to the meaning of a dream, not always by translation, but by seeing the dream on the mythical level. Joseph Campbell once said in an interview, myths are the dreams of society.
Throughout all known history, archetypes repeat themselves, albeit in different ways. The archetypes are dynamic forces, identified for example, as The Divine Child, The Old Man or Wise Woman, The Feminine Devourer, The Hero, The Underworld, Trickster, Shadow, among others.
When we can look at our lives mythically, we can accept the most difficult passages as the continuum of inevitable change. The Dark Night of the Soul is equivalent to the Nigredo in alchemy, descent into the depths, and whether from pain or trauma, this stage is universal for the hero or heroine of many myths. When we see our particular pain as a rite of passage rather than a termination, then we have the courage to face the situation with the dragon or the witch (or the loss of the job or the lawyer), understanding and feeling what part of us is resisting. to growth.
In Bosnak’s private group we learned to apply more pressure to the boat by questioning the dreamer; we enter the discomfort of difficult images, seeing the psyche autonomously at work. One discovery was to see how the dream expanded under this “heat” and in the two-hour sessions we also talked about personal stories. All members were able to enter twilight consciousness under the pressure of intensive questioning.
Sometimes there were silences in which everyone had fallen into the image as if it were a black hole. Sometimes active imagination caused new images to appear. Going back to previous scenes after feeling an emotional release, we found that they had changed and quite often the monster was suppressed. Most of the detours a dreamer took turned out to be relevant, resonating in a new way. This exploration each week felt like a sacred ceremony. Even when we had sat for a long time with a grotesque image, a mass murderer, a river of worms, an explosive plane crash, sexual abuse, bloody wars, there was a deep sense of mystical participation in a ritual and the group came together. tightly.
Sometimes synchronous phenomena accompanied the work and we were disturbingly frightened. Once, the dream of an airplane summoned low-flying aircraft overhead. An insect dream produced a large horsefly in the room. Or noises would be produced at significant moments: the hum of the oven being turned on, a neighborhood siren or a barking dog, a coughing fit, a trio of sneezes that occur at precise moments when the pressure cooker contains related images.
There was also the contagion of laughter and tears, generally due to the unimaginable pain that the human psyche represses. Dreams are exaggerated, but the variety of orphans, rag dolls, deformed babies, tree stumps, vile reptiles, severed limbs, earthquakes and floods is not infrequently disconcerting, especially to the dreamer. From time to time the group dreamed in sync, animal dreams, diving dreams, eroticism. I remember a time when we traveled into space and hung there like the floating fetus from the movie “2001”. In the luxury of time devoted to a single dream, all nuances were followed.
We often left these meetings in a daze, smirking at each other in embarrassment when we finally opened our eyes. There was also a cautious respect for distance and an absolute understanding that the work was confidential. I felt privileged to be a part of this cult of dreams and I stayed with this group for four years and, together with my son, it became the most important thing in my life. We guide each other through questions about the atmosphere, time of day, colors, sounds, and sensory images. A dream I experienced there demonstrates the transformative aspects of the job. Here’s the dream:
I’m on a beach, the beach that I walk close to home every day. It’s night and I just got out of a party where there were a lot of males teasing and rejecting me. I arrive at the beach in a bad mood when a huge German Shepherd comes out of a rock and starts barking at me like he’s getting ready to attack. I am terrified. I grab a stick and shove it between his teeth, beginning to fight him for the stick. I think if I involve him in the game, he might see me as a friend. I throw the stick at him to look for it, and as he chases it, I lean against a rock. I seem to be able to relax, because I have made friends with the wolf. As I lean back, the rock begins to move and I realize that I am pulled up on the back of a horse, with a saddle. The horse is white and has wings; he scatters them and lifts me up with him as he ascends to heaven. I am amazed and amazed upon awakening.
The group spent a lot of time making me feel the instincts of the dog. The value of “archetypal amplification” is shown here when we realize that the dog is often a psychopomp guiding us through the underworld. Think of Anubis, the Egyptian dog-headed god. I was still in the lower realms with my negative male complex, struggling with my demons, so to speak, and yet all the freedom, the sky that the horse flies into, was important to me. Some members of the group laughed at the strange fairy tale ending to this dream: riding a Pegasus towards the stars!
When I amplified the archetypal meaning of Pegasus. I was surprised to learn that the winged horse was born from the blood that flowed from the beheading of the Medusa. If Medusa is the witch, the dark side of the feminine, the devouring bitch, nevertheless gives birth to the beautiful Pegasus who represents, without my knowing it, my favorite art form, poetry!
Later I came across the essay “Horses with wings” by the poet Denise Levertov. The father of Pegasus is Poseidon, the god of the sea – “… undifferentiated energy … a source of life but also of terror” (Levertov 125).
Levertov also informs us that “… Medusa’s legends place her as a manifestation of the terrible and all-consuming aspects of Mother Earth …” (126). Furthermore “The word Gorgon is related to gargling, gurgling and gargoyle: Medusa is called” a personified cry “(127). Pegasus was born from the neck of Medusa, an intermediate place between mental and physical capacities. In fact”. … it was not until the moment when Medusa’s blood, gushing from her neck, touched the ground that it became manifest “(129). Levertov associates Medusa’s face with” … snakes and claws, wings and scales … gorgonic features “which” correspond to the trembling magma of emotion “(133).
Emotion is often the catalyst for the poet’s creation. Levertov speaks of Pegasus as intuitive, as a metaphor for the poem rather than the poet “(134). I saw that my dream demonstrated how the material of the underworld could be transformed into something expressive.” To say that the poem, also as a poet, is an animal means that it has its own flesh and blood and is not a rare and insubstantial thing ”(134).
Pegasus, then, is poetry, born from a “fusion of opposites.” The image emerges at the point of greatest tension. “Pegasus strikes a stone with his helmet and releases a fountain … the source of poetic inspiration henceforth consecrated to the Muses” (129). Fly up, like my imagination is always reaching higher.
Levertov’s essay amplified my dream. The Pegasus symbol in its archetypal meaning was not something that I consciously knew. Although I had studied mythology and knew Pegasus in various myths, I did not know its meaning and had not related to him as a symbol of this peculiar hobby that I had of writing poems. In alchemy, the gold of the work that is done is transformed into lead, the “Nigredo”, the dark night of the soul. I was not yet riding Pegasus in my life, but I was sapping the soul and facing the music, or the dirge, if you will, of my own darkness. That we can turn our demons into diamonds was not a new idea for me, however, I had not seen it happen in concrete terms like these images presented.
My dream showed how the unconscious is not limited by time. It would be a few years before I published a book that transformed the loss into something external to me with its own authority. Apparently, he was fighting the dog.
The dream group became my religion, where I felt touched by spiritual energy. It was where I witnessed conjunctions resounding like a hall of mirrors, where I received communion both with the material and with the members of the group. During those years everything in my life deepened. I saw that dreams came from my everyday world and their hooks in my world of feelings grafted my nocturnal images.
Through active imaginative work, we make stories out of our memories in ways that cannot be proven to be true. Memory itself is imaginative in its selection, unique to each individual. As I told a dream and the stories that ran beneath it, only my imagination could produce psychological changes. In fact, we create our reality and that reality is relative. From this I learned how wrong we are in judging each other. I saw how dream work could open a person to the possibility of altering a worldview. We can choose to end our victimization by re-experiencing the feelings of the past and revising them in such a way that we are able to relish where the pain had been.
Levertov, Denise. “Horses with wings”. What is a poet? Ed. Hank Lazer. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1987. 124-134.