I spent the first half of my life in a mist, blind to all that is sacred. A spiritual seeker from the age of 17, my ideas about what was sacred came from other people. Only very rarely did I actually experience the sacred. But then I discovered the spiritual meaning in dreams and myths. Myths are symbolic cultural expressions of humanity’s relationship to the gods. While not necessarily true on the outside, myths are always true on the inside. Dreams are personal myths. Allowing ourselves to be led by mythos thinking helps us grow our spirits and recover our souls.
In A History of God, former nun Karen Armstrong says, “The only way we can conceive of God, who remains imperceptible to the senses and to logical proof, is by means of symbols, which it is the chief function of the imaginative mind to interpret.” And in The Holy Longing, Jungian analyst Connie Zweig writes, “In effect, the life of the imagination is the spiritual life.”
Three months after I began to practice dreamwork I was staying at the beach when I had dream #46. I called it “Temple in the Wilderness.”
I walk through woods on a path cut through the earth. I’m seeking a stream I know to be at the bottom. I find it where it spills into the sea and follow it to a mist-shrouded garden. In it are ruins of a Greek temple; one column remains upright. In awe, I kneel to examine some creamy-white flowers. Near the bottom of the plant is a pyramid-shaped arrangement of four glowing, waxy white horses facing the four directions. Surrounding them are blossoms so beautiful I can hardly take them in. A puppy named Prince playfully grabs my hand, inviting me to follow him. A young woman asks his name and is pleased to hear it. Two other people bring food for the puppy. After seeing a couple walking hand-in-hand through the distant mist I awaken.
I found this dream profoundly moving, which is how I knew it was important. I won’t go into my associations for the symbols of path, woods, stream, sea, garden, Greek temple, column, mist, kneeling, white flowers, glowing horses, the four directions, the puppy Prince who wants to guide me, the people who feed him, or the couple walking through the mist. But when I awoke I felt as if a cold, hard place in my heart was, at last, softening, melting down, and warming up.
The body remembers. To honor this feeling so I would never forget it I made a ritual that morning of walking down to the shore with an ice cube in my hand. Kneeling in the sand, I held it in the warm salty water until it melted. After that I deepened my study of symbolism and myths. Two years later I redesigned my dining room to remind me of the misty temple in the woods, and began working on a manuscript which became The Bridge to Wholeness. That first book about the inner life opens with an original myth that is a metaphor for my spiritual journey.
As author and spirit warrior William Horden wrote in response to my recent post, Living Art, “to those of us attuned to the one psyche, no one can fool us into thinking we are just indulging in our ‘imagination’. We have had a taste of the ever-new bubbling fountain of creation…from that point on, for the intoxicated soul thirsty for more of the gods’ nectar, there is only the creative act…the ‘making’ that reveals the artist within each of us.”
With each creative act we make to honor the truths bubbling up from our source we re-myth our lives. To live our own myth is the true sacredness awaiting us beyond the mist.
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
Jeanie — I saw Karen Armstrong at the Cathedral last year. What wisdom she has to share!
How lucky you are to live in a part of the country where you get to learn from such extraordinary people in such an exquisite setting! Thank you again for the rare opportunity this Monday to help you water the flowers in the chapels of the National Cathedral. For me it was an experience of a lifetime, and to think you get to do it every week!
You have touched upon the two of the most important areas in my inner life: imagination and dreams.
I’ve been experiencing Big Dreams at night since I was young – the memories of which are as much a part of my personal history as waking memories.
I believe that childhood is such a magical time primarily because we are so in touch with our imaginations. As I grew and life intervened, I lost touch with much that active imagery part of Self that feeds the soul.
I am currently reconnecting and valuing the ever-present stream of inner life going on just below the surface of everyday, outwardly focused life – beyond the mist, as you so aptly express it.
To do that requires time and space and honoring of natural cycles of the body, mind, and spirit…something western culture would do well to explore more fully for the sake of our collective mental health.
Our children cannot thrive without time and space to cultivate their imagination and personal myths, and are turning ever more to drugs and materialistic fixes where it is Spirit they seek.
Wow! Your post brought up a lot for me.
Thank you for all you do,
It is truly a gift to connect with a sister traveler. I, too, have been as influenced by my inner events, especially dreams, as outer ones. The cool thing is that learning to see through the mist is how we recapture the innocent mystery and joy of childhood, and it’s right there in front of our eyes, ready for anyone who wants to go there.
I’m so glad to hear you are reconnecting with the inner stream of life. For people like you and me, spreading this awareness in our writing is our gift to our children and children’s children and on down through the generations. I honestly can’t think of a more important contribution I could possibly make.
I’m wishing you more and more time and space in your life for your enriching and life-enhancing work. Please write any time to update me on your progress.
I will be glad to send you updates. Thank you so much for your warm encouragement!
Love and Mother’s Day hugs,