Like the inscrutable Sphinx of ancient Egypt, dreams can seem frustratingly obtuse and cryptic, speaking an archaic, symbolic language. Judged against prevailing rational thought and the standard of normalcy, they present as unintelligible and primitive utterances of the unconscious mind, needing deciphering in the same way as an ancient text does.
Attitudes toward dream images reflect one's relationship to the inner world, ranging from outright denial of their validity and describing them as nonsensical and 'utter nonsense' to over-idealised acceptance as an all-meaningful source of truth. Whether ignored or embraced, it is almost certainly a truism that the unconscious (from where dreams originate) shows us the face we show it. Striving for a working relationship with the dream world therefore involves building a bridge between the two aspects of our psyche: the material upperworld consciousness and the psychic underworld consciousness.
In order to get a better grasp of dreams and their secret language, one must differentiate further these two realms of existence. Further, one must be prepared to enter the nightworld of dreams, and indeed all fantasy activity, in a spirit of respect. That is, wanting to befriend the dream, allowing it to speak for itself, rather than pursuing it with intellectual analysis and for personal gain.
Having elevated logic, rational thinking to such a superior position (transformed science into a god), and lost contact with the source and rhythm of our being, it is difficult to engage in a process that is at root a mystery. The loss of contact with the unconscious is experienced as a loss of meaning, but to recover it by the same means by which we lost it. The dream offers an opportunity for healing a split house within ourselves.
Dreams have been studied avidly for thousands of years, with all ancient civilisations and cultures having theories about their meaning and interpretation. The Egyptians and Babylonians, for instance, believed they carried vital messages from the Gods, imparting divine omens of danger or victory, whereas the ancient Chinese regarded them as experiences of the soul, which wandered during sleep.
The dream, according to the Swiss Psychologist C.G. Jung, is a hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul. It opens into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness, and which will remain so no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends.
The new millenium and the dawning of the Aquarian age has dawned. But despite the hopes of a spiritual renaissance, an upsurge of interest in self-awareness development and formulating a new vision of life, many people in the Western world continue to experience their daily lives as pedestrian, over-regulated, sterile and predictable, even fragmentary and soul-less. Increasing numbers of people enter therapy treatments, not suffering from clinically definable conditions, but out of a sense of emptiness and unfulfillment in their lives, desperately seeking relief from the effects of loss of faith and alienation. Modern social commentators highlight the growing disillusionment of the dogmatism of Christianity, the narrow materialism of science, and humanism's ego-centred style of consciousness as being responsible for this state of affairs. This hunger to find meaning and depth is particularly prevalent amongst those in the second half of life, an observation made by Jung as early as the 1930's.
Though it is not my intention to extrapolate on this theme one point nevertheless stands out clearly; We have lost touch with the imaginal world, the archetypal Gods, and the spirits of nature. No longer do we see the world as ensouled and animated, our modern vision having stultified our imaginations. We have become trapped in the materiality of our being, sold on consumerism, and reduced the rhythms and cycles of creation solely into a mechanistic formulae.