In a previous post, I discussed some dreams I experienced at mid-life; my transition from a rational, too-masculine thinking type to one who could feel the emotions designed to relate to a psychological reality. I mentioned dreams of a religious nature that supplemented the ones which were the focus of that post.
I would like to bring the religious ones into relation with those: to show how the unconscious attempts to reconcile deeper psychic facts with the more recent ones of Christian social development — and the modern truths of causal education. The three intertwine today, accentuating an emotional confusion which only compels us more certainly into an all-consuming collectivism.
The dream-series about dogs was interspersed with others which began to draw me to very old ideas. I’d moved into a “fixer-upper” and had some leaks repaired under the house. Afterward, I dreamed I was looking at the plumber’s bill. Below the list of repairs was a penciled illustration of Christ on the cross. I was struck by how beautifully it was drawn, and it occurred to me that I’d drawn it!
I was still in a rational mind-set, though; anti-religious — I couldn’t reconcile the contradictions of traditional belief intellectually. Even so, the dream described the spiritual nature of the psychic energy leaking out (wasted, unused) underneath consciousness: I had no real feeling-experience of the ideas the unconscious seized on to inform me where I was in life. I was being prepared emotionally for dreams which would further elaborate that initial theme: the image of a man struggling under the tension of opposites.
I soon experienced what I now call “the fall into the hands of the living God”: an emotional state so intense and frightening, I felt like I’d lost my mind; I held on tight. After a wrenching sleepless night, it took all my efforts to get through the next day. I went to bed that night exhausted from the mental tension. I was so overwhelmed, all I could think was to read the Bible! I — who was raised with it as a youngster yet compelled to dispute every word of it! “Somehow”, I found myself reading about Abraham and Sarah.
I put the Bible aside, wondering whether I would be able to sleep for the tension which still held me in its grip. As I lay there, preparing for another sleepless night, an image appeared in my mind’s eye: Arthur Ashe, the great tennis player, was playing tennis with a shadowy opponent! He was from Richmond, Va., my “hometown”. He’d died of AIDS from a tainted blood transfusion. A sudden wave of relief swept over me, the tension disappeared, and I fell asleep.
(Later reflection on the image yielded its ideas: tennis as a symbol of the back and forth exchange process with the unconscious, Ashe’s death from AIDS, a “sexually” transmitted “disease”: how I saw the “creative” process “afflicting” me; the blood transfusion, death, the transition of an old attitude and re-birth at mid-life — exactly what I was experiencing in the analogy!)
I recalled only one dream that night: a chimpanzee in a blue dress looked at me intently. “I’m Sarah.” it said. The dress was the same one a friend described a few years before, when he’d confessed to me that he wore it to bed with his wife. He’d struggled with that since he was five, too ashamed to tell anyone else. He was an engineer, a rational, thinking man whose male image had diverted vital feelings. They appeared feminine to him, just as the unconscious reflected it back through the lonely compulsion which bid him wear its image.
You remember Sarah, right? She was barren, couldn’t “conceive” (just like me). She was older, Abraham’s second wife (a reference to the second half of life). The Lord yet decreed she would have a child. I remembered the alchemical parable in which a “king had a baby in his brain.” His kingdom was dry and arid; to fructify it, the unconscious birthed a new image to re-direct his duties to it.
I related the chimpanzee’s primitive nature; I thought about Sarah and my friend’s blue dress (the color of the sky, of lofty patriarchal fantasies), the dogs who’d turned against me. It slowly dawned on me that these pictures were describing the age-old spiritual longing inside: the unconscious direction of my own soul, the psychic function meant to mediate what I thought I knew about myself but didn’t know: what my nature revealed outside an artificial collective viewpoint.
The image of Christ is not just a faded, antique form of imitation in which an undeveloped and over-compensating ego once convinced itself that it had already accomplished our deepest intuitions. It’s a profound historical model which today describes the psychic conflicts endured by one who turns inward and sacrifices his/her personal desires for something greater than itself.
Read the story of how intellect is drawn into an exchange process with the unconscious through the gradual development of symbolic thought.