Dream Genealogy, Iona Miller
In James Hillman’s ‘acorn theory’ of soul we already hold the potential for unique possibilities inside ourselves, much as an acorn holds the pattern for an oak tree. It shows in our calling and life’s work when fully actualized.
“All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination? In the ordinary course of things, fantasy does not go astray; it is too deep for that, and too closely bound up with the tap-root of human and animal instinct. . . . The creative activity of the imagination frees man from his bondage to the ‘nothing but’ and liberates him in the spirit of play. As Schiller says, man is completely human only when he is playing.”
–C.G. Jung, CW 16, §98
Psychic and Personal Rootedness
It may seem strange at first to think that collective dreams could have any relevance to ourselves. We have cut ourselves off from the past to such an extent that it is difficult to realize that the experiences of remote people can still have meaning for us. Yet it is so.
Unconsciously we still think like our distant ancestors, and to understand this is to deepen our experience, and open up new possibilities. We remain connected through the language of dreams. It is not a supernatural power of some, but a phenomenon recognized from the dawn of mankind. Turning the inside out, we bring it through the senses.
While some dreams may be compensatory (balancing our conscious viewpoint), ancestral dream content often appears as not substantially different from conscious functioning. There is no need for defense or surrender to the dream material. We might dream of cemeteries, family records, ancestors themselves, or any other variety that informs our genealogical quest.
As Jung suggests, “There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self.” (MDR, Pgs. 196-197)
Even more than blood, we are bonded by respect and joy in each other’s lives as true family. We may wonder about our ancestors who lived closely attuned to the land, and what were their lives like Who were the indigenous Celts and Anglo Saxons, or our other more archaic progenitors?
Although we may never truly know our indigenous ancestors’ ceremonies and rituals, we may be able to remember aspects of them and their world through dreaming. Even dreams about genealogy sometimes lead to real discoveries. Recurring dreams are even more compelling. Significant, impactful or highly-memorable dreams can be bizarre or beautiful. Some dreams have a life-long effect on us.
Dreaming with the ancestors is perhaps more accurate than dreaming about them. ‘Dreaming with’ we may explore the power of dreams to recover deep ancestral, cultural, planetary, and cosmic memory. Hillman argued dreams tell us where are are not what to do. The dream is a descent into the underworld. Dreams saturate our consciousness with the mysterious customs of the dark and impenetrable underworld.
Somewhere within the total personality, there appears to be a continuing integrative force, a homeostasis or self-regulating function. Even when we feel overwhelmed by experience, some part of our mind still seems to observe, evaluate, comment, and even attempt to integrate this otherwise hidden material with the knowledge of conscious life.
This may disappear for brief periods, but most of the time it is clearly at work. No one knows what type of ‘thinking’ this is. It appears different both from ‘reality thinking’ and ‘autistic thinking,’ from the patterns of conscious thought and the imagery of fantasy a kind of bridge between two types of mental process. It can appear symbolically as distinctly ‘Other.’
Jung’s concept of wholeness, linked with the Self. Such compensatory dreams connect with is best seen in the collected dreams by an individual undertaking their own personal journey to self acceptance and integration. Through an overview of dreams gained in this way, the two aspects of compensation become much more clearly drawn.
The dream work, aimed at meeting the neglected or hurt parts of oneself, opens the way to more pronounced compensation — the gaps in our experience. Following our dreams means following our uncertainty. Root metaphor dreams may arise in times of crisis and help us adapt and help one another.
Dreams teach by revelation, but there is no reason to objectify that. There is no work to it, no interpretation, no theorizing. We are each simply unrepeatable and utterly inexhaustible entities, whose mystery cannot be objectified or reduced to any single interpretation.
The process of compensation also links with patterns of love and strength actually lived by others. They are then patterns remaining in the collective experience of humanity that can be accessed. When we touch these powerful racial memories we may clothe them in the image of our cultural hero or savior. The power we find is a release of our own potential emerging from our core self, our own innate potential. This emerges from our unconscious clothed in whatever imagery or ideas we can accept or allow, as do dreams.
Dreams are the underworld. Imagination and the psyche are two key components of the underworld, a dreamland of souls where the human mind retreats and interacts with other psyches present.
The ‘nekyia’ is a night sea journey, a descent into the underworld or into the belly of a sea monster, and a meeting with the dead. It is a myth which occurs in many cultures in different forms and symbolizes the struggle towards spiritual or psychological revelation and transformation.
In a Fortune article, Lawrence Lessing describes recent sleep research: ‘…recent evidence shows that there may well be a second, lower level of dreaming extending down even into deep sleep, consisting largely of abstract thoughts or isolated symbols, much harder to recall than the generally vivid, active imagery of rapid-eye-movement dreaming.’
“But why on earth,” you may ask, “should it be necessary for man to achieve, by hook or by crook, a higher level of consciousness? This is truly the crucial question, and I do not find the answer easy. Instead… I can only make a confession of faith: I believe that, after thousands and millions of years, someone had to realize that this wonderful world of mountains and oceans, suns and moons, galaxies and nebulae, plants and animals, exists. From a low hill in the Athi plains of East Africa I once watched the vast herds of wild animals grazing in soundless stillness, as they had done from time immemorial, touched only by the breath of the primeval world. I felt then as if I were the first man, the first creature, to know that all this is. The entire world round me was still in its primeval state; it did not know that it was. And then, in that one moment in which I came to know, the world sprang into being; without that moment it would never have been. All Nature seeks this goal and finds it fulfilled in man, but only in the most highly developed and most fully conscious man.” (CW 9i, §177)