Friday, October 3, 2008

From First, From Within
A column dedicated to exploring the role of dreams voices and visions in the integral yoga.

By Douglas McElheny

In past installments of From First, From Within I have stated very generally and tentatively the two purposes that I feel dreams serve in our lives. Those two purposes are knowledge and guidance. The question is though, how do we make use of that knowledge and guidance? To start answering that question let me first state that, from what I have seen, dreams of the type that show your inner workings are normally applicable to the next day. Given this, it should be possible when the dreams are sufficiently clear to use them as an aid to our sadhana on a day to day basis. To show how this can be done I will relate two dreams with prominent archetypal symbols which not only give knowledge but also a course of action. Then I will describe how I followed these courses of action and what the results were.

Now some readers might be unfamiliar with what I mean by the word ‘archetype’. So before I begin let’s take a look at a some passages from Medhananda’s books on ancient Egypt which give good insight into the nature of archetypes or, as the Egyptians called them, the neteru:

Our archetypes, which are the subject of this book,
are not the imaginary and glorified entities
of some higher world.
They are vibratory constituents of the soul,
energy quanta, the psychodynamics of all living beings 1

They are self-aware master patterns, cosmic functions,
principles and forces, modes of functioning in us. 2

Called in Egypt ‘neteru’ and later in religions ‘angels’ or ‘gods’ and imagined outside of ourselves they are possibilities, capacities, and potentialities which man must discover and develop if he wants to be really himself and live in peace with himself. 3

Let’s take a look at our first dream:

In the dream I am Luke Skywalker and I am fighting with Darth Vader. My weapon however is a wooden sword and not a lightsaber. Then there is a dream shift and I become the observer. As the observer I know that Luke was defeated by Darth Vader. Chewbacca however is now there and he is challenging Darth Vader to a fight. Darth Vader accepts the challenge and is confident that he will win easily since Chewbacca isn’t a Jedi. Chewbacca, however, is the one who wins easily and gives Darth Vader a thorough beating in the process.

Then the scene completely changes and I am watching a battle in space. I see a rebel fighter (either a Y-Wing or a B-Wing, I don’t remember which) make a suicide run and crash into a Star Destroyer. The attack causes major damage to the Star Destroyer and even though it isn’t destroyed, it is now powerless and adrift.

Though there’s a lot in this dream, the basic movement is quite simple and straightforward. It shows (from two different angles) a defeat of the hostile forces, a throwing off of their influence. The thing that’s quite interesting about this dream though is the fact that it is Chewbacca and not Luke Skywalker who is able to defeat Darth Vader.

The morning after having the dream I was contemplating it from an archetypal standpoint and asking myself what capacity or potentiality could be symbolized in the form of Chewbacca. A number of things came to mind. Chewbacca is a hero for one thing. He’s also very brave and strong as well as ferocious in battle. The thing however that struck me the most about Chewbacca at that moment is his unflinching loyalty to his friends, particularly to Han Solo to whom he owes a life debt. Now at the time I had this dream I was reading Medhananda’s book The Ancient Egyptian Senet Game. In his description of the Senet Game Medhanand
a tells us that:

The game of archetypes,

known in ancient Egypt as the Senet Game,

presents itself as a game board
with three rows of ten cases–
each case the kingdom, or playfield, or the House
of one of our psychological powers or archetypes
with whom we are invited to play,
and ultimately to identify,

because it is a fundamental component of ourselves.
To foster that movement of identification we may also
approach each House as a mirror, and ask the question:
Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me, who am I? 4

With this idea kicking around in my head, I decided that I would ‘play’ with Chewbacca that day. In other words, I would attempt to consciously align myself with the archetype he represented in order to throw off the hostile influence represented by Darth Vader. Since I had to start somewhere I decided to do so with the idea of the faithful friend, but I kept my mind open to the possibility of learning more about Chewbacca as the day proceeded.

On that particular day I had nothing that was absolutely necessary to do. Given that, I would have preferred to stay home and do some reading, but in the spirit of being the faithful friend I decided to devote my morning to serving myself and others. I had promised a village woman I knew that I would take her to get a pair of glasses so I headed to her house first. She wasn’t home, so I left and headed for Nehru street and that’s where the magic began.

What I mean by ‘magic’ is the wonder and gratitude I felt as things unfolded like clockwork from that point on. Things happened in such a way that I knew I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing and there was a feeling of being in synch with the universe. There was also the sense of the presence of the Divine and the feeling that my hand was being held by the Mother. Anyone who has had this experience will know what I am talking about, but for those who haven’t I will try to capture that magic as I describe the events that transpired. That’s not a simple task since there is a very subjective element in the matter as well as the fact that the whole thing could be written off as ‘coincidence’, but I will try.

My first stop on Nehru street was a fabric store where I intended to be a friend to myself and get some fabric for some new pants. Anybody who’s gone to Nehru street at around 11:00 am knows how hard it is to get a parking space. On that day however I found one quite easily, and as soon as I saw it I had this strong sense that it was meant for me. After parking there I felt a strong movement of gratitude and within that gratitude the sense of the Divine taking care of me. The feeling grew when I saw that directly across the street was a fabric store. It seemed pretty obvious to me that this was where the Divine wanted me to purchase the fabric so that’s where I bought it.

My next stop was Jaya Emporium where I had to buy some velcro for a friend. It was quite a bit farther down Nehru street so I got back on my moped and still feeling the wonder and the presence I headed in that direction. I had a strong suspicion I wouldn’t have any trouble getting another parking space and sure enough I found one just a few meters away from the entrance to Jaya Emporium.

After buying the velcro, my final act of friendship was to head to VAK bookshop where I intended to buy a copy of the Savitri Concordance for Donny.5 When I got there, I saw VAK was having a sidewalk sale so I decided to see what was available. You can imagine my delight and amazement when I found two copies of the Savitri Concordance on sale for 50% off. I thought that I should get the other copy for David, but I wondered if that was being a bit selfish. So I asked the Mother to give me a sign that I should buy the book for him, and then I opened it. The first thing I saw was the guide word at the top right hand corner of the page which was ‘helps’. I took this to mean that the book would be a help to David so I bought both copies.

Later, after returning home, I was thinking about the morning’s events and I realized I had been on the right track with the idea of Chewbacca as the faithful friend. I saw too that the second part of the dream with its act of self-sacrifice was showing my own act of self-sacrifice which was to go out and do things for others instead of relaxing at home. And what is more characteristic of friendship than self-sacrifice?

It also seemed pretty clear to me that by following my intuition and leaving the house, I had put myself in resonance with both the inner psychological movement and the outer active movement that were in accordance with Divine Will for me on that particular morning. If that is true then this would explain why most of the morning worked out so beautifully and harmoniously. I imagine though that such a resonance could very well manifest as a day of adversity and obstruction where the feeling of the divine presence is nowhere to be found. It would all depend on one’s personal needs at that moment. Here’s a quote from the Mother that I feel verifies my feelings on the matter:

a divine movement cannot be measured by apparent signs–it is a certain kind of vibration that indicates its presence–external tests are of no avail, since even what is in appearance a failure may be in fact a divine achievement 6

In this case though a beautiful and harmonious experience was what I needed on that particular morning in order to learn what I needed to learn and to make the progress I needed to make.

Moving on, I imagine many readers have no doubt taken note of the fact that I have yet to speak about being Luke Skywalker and fighting Darth Vader with a wooden sword. The truth is I was so focused on the Chewbacca part of the dream that I didn’t spend any time thinking about Luke and his wooden sword until I began writing this article. Now Luke is of course a symbol of the hero archetype, but what could the wooden sword symbolize? I have to admit I was stumped so I asked Donny what he thought about it. He said that in his experience wood is often a symbol for the vital. Now this is just pure speculation, but perhaps the wooden sword shows the course of action I almost followed that morning which was to stay at home and read. Now I would have been reading valuable and consciousness expanding works, the kinds of things that sharpen one’s sword of discrimination, but I still would have been following a vital preference. Looking at things from that perspective one could argue that the uplifting of consciousness I would have gotten from the reading would not have been what I needed on that morning for my sadhana. As a consequence I might have found myself in a real struggle with the suggestions of the hostile forces. Like I said, this is just speculation on my part, but it is a thought provoking possibility.

During our discussion of the wooden sword Donny drew my attention to something else worth noting. He pointed out that Chewbacca with his big heart and beast like appearance is a symbol for the higher vital. That made sense to me because the movement of friendship expressed itself in me in a higher vital way. Given that, I would guess that this particular archetype was either of a higher vital variety or (if it was of a higher origin) it manifested its action through the higher vital. I suppose if we gave it a name like the Mother gave names to flowers we could call Chewbacca (in this case and in the context of this dream) Selfless Friendship in the Higher Vital.

Moving on, let’s take a look at dream number two.

When the dream begins I see Captain America discussing something with the X-Man Jean Grey.

Then the scene changes to the inside of a factory. On a table I can see this very strange looking thing like a body bag and I can hear people snooping around outside. Then I am Captain America and I am inside the bag. I open it up and let myself out. I am looking around for Jean Grey but she is not there. Then I see some enemies and I try to shoot them with a gun I have but it doesn’t seem to have any effect. So I charge one of them and then I see my brother Rick is there. I’m wondering why he doesn’t help, but then he reveals that he is on their side. I become angry because I realize that he has betrayed me and I try to stab him with a screwdriver a few times. I can only get him in the arms though. I can’t hit him anywhere on the torso.

So I decide to retreat and I run out of the factory. I decide the best thing to do would be to just fly away. So I take off in flight and fly for a little while. Then I come back down to earth and fly though a dark and ugly forest. After passing through the forest I find myself in a suburban neighborhood. I want to go back to my house but I am a bit wary about doing so. I am worried that if my enemies know my address they might be there waiting for me. At the same time I am concerned about a female friend who I know is waiting there for me. I am concerned that they might have gone there to capture her.

In this dream the basic movement is quite clear. It shows a struggle with the hostile forces and something in myself represented by my brother Rick. In this case though, there is no quick and decisive victory as there is in the Chewbacca dream. There is a period of flight where I am free of the hostile influence, but upon returning to the ground the threat is once again present.

That morning when I woke up the vital almost immediately starting acting up. This went on for an hour or so. Then I found myself with a quiet moment to contemplate my dream and I could see the difficulties I was having reflected in its content. The bad guys were of course the hostiles and my brother seems to me (in this case) to represent a sibling rivalry complex I have. As a child and a teenager it would make me furious that my brother could do some things better than I could and I wanted to be as good at or better than him at everything. This irrational complex still manifests in my close relationships and on that day it was the thorn that was pricking the vital.

Since Captain America was obviously my course of action I turned my attention to him. Here we see an obvious symbol for the hero archetype, the power for victory in the inner battle. But why did my subliminal choose Captain America as opposed to another hero?

Captain America is brave and courageous and of course patriotic. He is also a man who follows his principles and his beliefs about what is right and true. In other words, Captain America is very sattwic. So it seemed to me that my best course of action was to be as sattwic as possible.

In this case, I have to confess that there were no spectacular or synchronic outer events that complemented this course of action. I did find it effective though for throwing out the negative emotions and thoughts. Whenever I would catch myself being taken away by the turmoil of the vital I would stop and ask myself, “Would Captain America act this way?” By doing that I was able to derail the vital movement for a short time. It was quite persistent though and it kept knocking at the door. But after a couple of hours of following this practice the vital movement stopped knocking and I was clear for the most of the day. When evening came, it started knocking again for a short time, but it didn’t have the strength it had possessed in the morning. Using my Captain America technique I was able to stay on top of it and throw it out before it could really get its hooks into me.

From this example, it’s easy to see the utility of an exercise like this for throwing off negative influences. It gave my mind something to focus on as well as a psychological movement to practice, one that was tailored specifically to my needs on that day. Here we can see the benefit of getting to know these types of dreams. They can give us a kind of mini-yoga to put into practice for our sadhana needs at a given moment.

So that’s all I have to say about Captain America, but I have yet to address the presence of Jean Grey and also the meaning of the female friend I am so concerned about at the end of the dream. I’ll start with Jean Grey.

Jean Grey like most super heroes has a code name. Hers is the Phoenix. So she’s an obvious symbol of the “psychological capacity for resurrection.” 7 The reason I am bringing this is up is because I feel it relates to an experience I had on the day of the dream.

At one point in the day while I was sitting in my chair I had a thought occur to me that concerned spiritual liberation. The gist of the thought was that I was on the path to spiritual liberation and that I would reach that goal. Whether it happened in this life or another was of secondary importance. The eventual victory was sure and that’s what counted. Now this is a thought I have had many times before, but this time it was accompanied by a very strong sense of knowing that was more on the level of feeling than thought. It was a kind of knowing that eliminated all doubt from the mind and all anxiety from the vital, even if only for a short time. Now I may be wrong but I feel this kind of knowing is a quite common experience and I imagine that many people could recognize what I am describing. But just because it is common doesn’t mean it is of a small significance. According to the Mother these types of experiences are quite important. She tell us:

People often have all of a sudden an illumination of consciousness, an inner indication, an unusual perception. But when they are not turned exclusively towards the desire to have experiences, they don’t attach much importance to it. Sometimes they don’t even attach enough importance. The indication came, showed them something, but they were not even aware of it. Yet it is not these things which give you the impression that you are living in a wonderful world. These things are quite normal. Suddenly an opening in the mind, a light that comes, one understands something which he did not before. You take that for a very natural phenomenon. But it is a spiritual experience–or the clear seeing of a situation, the understanding of what is happening in oneself, of the state one is in, an indication of the exact progress one ought to make, of the thing that’s to be corrected. This too is an experience and an experience that comes from within; it is an indication given to you by the psychic, People take this also as quite a natural fact. They do not attach any importance to it. 8

Now, if I’m on the right track here, then the questions arises as to how this experience is connected to the phoenix force. Well, on one level I think that’s because at that moment my sense of identity was slightly shifted from the perishable surface self to my eternal and immortal reality. But in addition, the experience itself was quite cleansing and rejuvenating. It had the effect of a renewal. The effect on the outer being was short lived to be sure, but perhaps it had more lasting effects on deeper parts of the being. Anyway I think the reader can see my logic in viewing this experience as a rebirth of sorts.

Coming into the home stretch we have one symbol to go: the female friend. It’s hard to say anything for sure about her since she is never seen. Could she be a reference to Jean Grey/Phoenix? Maybe, but I’m more inclined to think that she represents my vital which the hostiles wanted to put back under their influence. But like I said it’s hard to know for sure.

With that we have reached the conclusion of our latest foray into the realm of dreams, voices, and visions. I hope you have found my examples this month to be clear and instructive. The subject of dreams and their utility in our day to day sadhana is an exciting and valuable avenue of research and I hope to say more on it in the future, maybe as soon as next month. See you then.

Notes and References
1. Medhananda, Archetypes of Liberation, Identity Research Institute, Pondicherry, 2006, p. 17.
2. Medhananda, The Way of Horus, Identity Research Institute, Pondicherry, 2006, p. 46.
3. Medhananda, Archetypes of Liberation, Identity Research Institute, Pondicherry, 2006, p. 9.
4. Medhananda, The Ancient Egyptian Senet Game, Identity Research Institute, Pondicherry, 2006, p. 15.
5. The reader should be aware that in the column I often make reference to my fellow Chipmunk Press collaborators Donny Duke and David Watson.
6. The Mother, Questions and Answers 1929-1931, Collected Works of the Mother Volume 3 Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1977, p. 171.
7. Medhananda, The Ancient Egyptian Senet Game, Identity Research Institute, Pondicherry, 2006, p. 170.
8. The Mother, Questions and Answers 1954, Collected Works of the Mother Volume 6 Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1979, p. 352-353.

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