This image above brings a few thoughts to mind – ‘as above so below’ – as in the reflection of the trunks of the trees and their branches and leaves in the stream. Perhaps the water is still for the moment and a little bit clogged from the fallen leaves. I am not sure if the water is stagnant or flowing, fresh or stale, spring or salt water. Have the trees been stripped of their leaves because of a storm? I am not sure how deep the water is. It is restful in its way. I like pondering on it. Sunlight is filtering through – and perhaps I can discern a ripple or two.
So it is with dreams -
It has happened to me a few times e.g. that as I was about to introduce two people to each other who I knew reasonably well, the name of one (or both) escaped me at that precise moment of introduction, even though I may been chatting to them previously and separately.
What happened here? I know what happened – that I knew their names but at that moment their names slipped into the unconscious. Or a thought that I had that was important to me in some way, cannot be recalled by me no matter how hard I try to access it. It is there somewhere in my unconscious and all I have to do is to retrieve it. I know it’s there.
I like what Marie Louise von Franz says about the unconscious.
‘The unconscious is all that which we know is psychically real but is not conscious. It’s a borderline concept, a negative concept. We use the negative concept in order not to have a prejudice.
‘…We prefer the word unconscious because it says nothing. It says only that it is not conscious, and this leaves it as a mystery. We don’t know what it is. We only know that there are psychic phenomena which manifest through dreams or through involuntary gestures or speech mistakes or hallucinations or fantasies which are not conscious.’*
Sigmund Freud was the first to coin the psychological phrase ‘dreams are the royal road to the unconscious’. This is like saying that we can know light only if we know dark. It is by way of the depths that we can reach the heights. Can we perhaps say that dreams are the royal road to consciousness? - on the understanding that it is only by becoming familiar with the unconscious that we can become more conscious?
C.G. Jung’s definition of the psyche includes both conscious and unconscious processes. Consciousness is like an island emerging from a vast expanse of sea of unconsciousness. At any one time we are aware of only a small part of this totality. Awareness is variable and although ‘...consciousness can potentially encompass the totality of the psyche, in practice it moves within a very circumscribed area or field due to its association with the ego’. (Faber and Saayman). ** The ego forms the central core of consciousness and needs to be firmly grounded therein. It is analogous to the beam of the torch which illuminates the darkness of night.
The unconscious is not inactive. Like our conscious mind, the unconscious inter alia …‘is ceaselessly engaged in grouping and re-grouping its contents’. *** (Jung Vol 7). This indicates that there is a purpose and aim in the workings of the unconscious. Experiences that were once conscious and have become repressed or forgotten constitute the personal unconscious. This is essentially the repository of memories and is relatively accessible to consciousness, and dreams will initially, predominantly tap into this level of being.
But it is the bigger, deeper, greater reservoir of unconsciousness that we must somehow try to access. This is what Jung termed the collective unconscious. It lies ‘at a deeper level and is further removed from consciousness than the personal unconscious. The ‘big’ or ‘meaningful’ dreams come from this deeper level’. **** (Jung: On the Nature of Dreams).
Through the dream, we venture down into the depths to consciously reclaim some of he fertile ground of the unconscious.
The characters in the dream that we dislike the most give us valuable clues as to what we reject in ourselves. It is quite possible that many of the characters in our dream may be people who we like and admire. We also need to ask what of their qualities do we own that we do not admit?
One’s ego needs to be strong and have firm foundations to undergo the task of knowing one’s self better, and thereby also having an understanding of others. This is an important consideration. How can we pass judgement on any one thing or person when we do not know our own selves? Which means knowing our dark side as well.
Nothing is arbitrary.
* The Way of the Dream. Conversations on Jungian Dream Interpretation. Marie-Louise von Franz, Fraser Boa. Shambhala, Boston & London 1994
**Jung in Modern Perspective edited by Renos Papadopolous and Graham S Saayman. Wildwood House Ltd. 1984
***C.G. Jung: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology CW (Vol 7) translated by R.F.C. Hull. Meridian Books NY, 1956
****C.G. Jung: On the Nature of DReams in C.G. Jung, Collected Works Vol 8 2nd edition, Princeton University Press, 1972