Recently I wrote about a dream from many years ago of a sacred garden where a puppy playfully grabbed my hand as if inviting me to follow him. Who was this puppy named Prince? What was he doing in my dream? Where did he want to take me? In those days I had only a vague inkling of what this sweet symbol had to do with me. But the sweetness has spread a hundred-fold since then and I thought you might be interested in knowing why.
Animals in dreams usually represent our physical, animal natures. In Jungian psychology dogs are often seen as psychopomps, i.e. spiritual initiators and guides who direct the transformation of souls. For example, in Greek mythology, Cerberus is the three-headed dog who guards the river Styx, the place of transition between the upper- and underworlds. Psychologically, the upper world symbolizes everything we know about ourselves and the underworld represents our unknown and undeveloped depths.
A major issue with spiritually oriented people like me is that we can become so infatuated with the abstract life of the mind that we tend to lose touch with our feelings and bodies. Have you ever been moved to tears by something and not known why? Our bodies send us emotional messages like this all the time, and dismissing them is like failing to open a letter from your most trusted friend. I used to ignore these spontaneous eruptions from the underworld but now I try to figure out what they’re trying to tell me. Are they about a sad loss? A painful betrayal? An unhealed wound? Or do they signify overflowing gratitude for the blessings of my life, like the freedom to be myself, a thoughtful gift from a grandchild, or a loving hug from a dear friend?
Anyway, during the Middle Ages, many wise people considered the body to be a physical manifestation of the soul. This idea is being revived today by people like Thomas Moore (Care of the Soul), and Deepak Chopra (Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul). The common theme in these books is the loss of soul that comes from neglecting the sacred life in our bodies. So for me, the puppy represents an inner soul guide whose appearance signaled my readiness to get better acquainted with my physical, instinctual, emotional truths.
That’s cool enough, but what about his name: Prince? Did that mean something too? Of course it did. Everything in our dreams has meaning for us. Consider this association for “prince” from The Herder Symbol Dictionary: “Psychoanalytically he can be understood as the representative of victorious ego powers.” This innocuous little puppy symbolizes a profound spiritual truth: The success of our journey is a function of our (our ego’s) willingness to acquire as much reverence for the unconscious life in our bodies as we have for the conscious life of the mind.
That this puppy was a Prince and not a fully adult Queen or King suggested I had a lot of growing up to do. But the fact that he was being fed by unconscious aspects of my psyche (the unknown people in the dream who gave him food) was enormously reassuring because it said parts of me were beginning to heed this wisdom so beautifully expressed by Jungian analyst, Dr. Cara Barker: “Take the time to feed what is hungry in your soul, and rest what is weary in your heart.” Today I realize that receiving Prince’s affirmation from the sacred depths was when I started falling back in love with my life.
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave