Dreams help you to "Know Thyself"
Working with dreams can help you to understand your hidden fears and desires, work out relationships and cope with change. But is there a larger, more enduring reason why we seek to understand our dreams? I believe there is.
In seeking to understand our dreams, we are taking but one of many paths to understand our true Self. There are of course many paths that have the same goal – meditation, analysis, self reflection to name but a few. “Know Thyself” was inscribed at the temple of Delphi, where supplicants would go to seek divine guidance. At the ancient Egyptian Temple of Luxor, the phrase is inscribed “Man, know thyself … and thou shalt know the gods.” More recently, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his poem, “Gnothi Seauton” (‘Know Thyself’) on the theme of understanding what he believed was “god” or a divine presence in each of us.
By understanding your dreams, you can understand and “know thyself”: how you relate to the world, to other people, and ultimately even to the divine. Understanding dreams can help you to reach into that which is most sacred and profound within you.
The great ocean of the World Soul is part of us all, and we are part of it.
I use the metaphor of the Dream Well. Imagine in the desert, wilderness, or village – whatever place resonates most with you, a deep well. This is your well, where you go to draw up that liquid which is most essential to life, that which restores, rejuvenates and refreshes you. This water is the essence of your soul. When you dream, you draw water from this well. But where does this water come from? Deep beneath the ground, water flows in invisible streams, sometimes trickling in thin rivulets through rocks and minerals, other times opening into vast underground rivers. And though we only see our own well, many other wells exist, drawing from these same rivers and streams. This is our community, our culture and history. All wells draw from the same source. Jung referred to this as our Collective Unconscious. Our dreams allow us to access this information, this swirling, flowing stream of feelings, memories and ideas. This adds an extra layer to the simply personal meanings of dreams – the role you play in the wider community, what is going on around you as a neighbourhood, tribe, nation or religion.
But further than that, where do these rivers and streams go? What is the destination? We know the answer is of course, the sea. All rivers, unless unnaturally blocked, eventually reach the ocean. This is the World Soul. This is the shared experience of every living thing on earth, that which connects each of us to everything else. The great ocean of the World Soul is part of us all, and we are part of it.
When you dream, you may have an intensely personal experience, your dreams may be charged with fear, passion, desire, anger or vague uncertainty. You may dream of parents, lovers, children, friends or enemies. You may dream of houses, schools and work places. And all this is relevant, and can give great insight into your own personal life. But all dreams come from the same source, and have the same destination. All dreams can teach something larger than just how to get on better with your loved ones or how to overcome the anxiety of not performing well. All dreams are multi-layered, complex and rich with not just the the personal meaning, but the wider community meaning, and may even contain insights that have relevance to humanity, to the planet and to our ultimate purpose in being alive.
Why do we seek to understand our dreams? Because, at our core, we seek to understand our own existence, our own purpose. And as the ancients seem to have understood, to know our dreams, and our selves, is to know the divine.
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