Ruling the Inner Chamber


Dreamwork has been my most rewarding and consistent spiritual practice for 22 years. You might not think of dreams as having anything to do with spirituality but they absolutely do. Carl Jung demonstrated this with exquisite beauty in his recently published The Red Book in which he recorded some of his most meaningful waking and sleeping dreams. Everything he did for the rest of his brilliant and productive life was based on the findings he recorded in that book, which represents three years of committed inner work. Ultimately, his conclusion about the value of this work was that to become who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.
Jung is not the first person to understand this, although he was one of the first Western medical professionals to study it for himself and write about it in a way that could be comprehended and accepted by the Western scientific mind. Indeed, many Asian traditions have taught this concept for thousands of years. Consider this quote by the Hindu professor Ravi Ravindra:
“The struggle to know who I am, in truth and in spirit, is the spiritual quest. The movement in myself from the mask to the face, from the personality to the person, from the performing actor to the ruler of the inner chamber, is the spiritual journey. To live, work, and suffer on this shore in faithfulness to the whispers from the other shore is spiritual life. To keep the flame of spiritual yearning alive is to be radically open to the present and to refuse to settle for comforting religious dogma, philosophic certainties, and social sanctions.”
Contrary to popular belief, authentic spirituality is not just a function of how many souls we save or how well we know scriptures or how hard we pray or how many rules we keep or what we believe or how often we attend our place of worship or how much money we donate to the poor. Likewise, spiritual maturity is not limited to a particular religion or set of beliefs. Rather, it is a function of our willingness to further the unfolding of our capacity for full living, endless loving, and authentic being.
We’re supposed to discover our true selves and connect with the sacred Mystery within. We’re supposed to learn how to accept and love ourselves because that’s how we learn to accept and love others. Every religion has spawned mature spirit persons whose mystical experiences and intuitions taught them that God indwells the soul. This means that our spiritual growth is not just a function of searching for God outside ourselves but also of honoring the “kingdom” within. (I could just as well have said “queendom” but it wouldn’t resonate as deeply as this more familiar term for sovereignty. I wish there were a gender-neutral word for the inner chamber that is not one-sidedly masculine, but honors both the masculine and feminine drives of every psyche. Any ideas?)
The search for self-knowledge is a path to spiritual maturity and dreams are invaluable tools on that path because they show us unsuspected aspects of our unconscious selves. These insights heal us and our relationships and bring spiritual meaning to our lives.  Why? Because knowing that we are known and loved by something with far more power than our puny ego, something sacred that lives within us and only wants the best for us, increases our sense of self-worth and helps us live with more forgiveness, integrity and compassion.  If  learning from our dreams how to rule our inner chamber is not a spiritual practice I don’t know what is!
What did you dream last night?

Join 5,851 other subscribers


0 Responses

    1. Hi Rob. Thanks for the kind words and for posting some of this on your excellent blog! Quite an honor! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying The Story of Q. I’m giving it as a gift to everyone I know who is seeking the kinds of insights it offers about spiritual matters.
      My best, Jeanie

  1. Hi Jeanie,
    I read your post before leaving for my retreat and this story came out. I’m hitting the hay for a grand night of dreaming, but I wanted to share this story first. Thank you for the insights and inspiration, and your devotion to your dreams.
    Once inside a time, a child descended the rainbow spiral and slipped into the life of a troubled young couple. The child floated in its embryonic wonder, dreaming of eternity, dreaming of worlds within worlds, dreaming of creating the universe, as her little body formed–clothing those dreams in flesh and bone.
    At long last she was born again and when she first focused her grey, oceanic eyes on her mother, she took the image of her mother, saw it form into a mask, and drop down onto her little face as lightly as a breeze. After a moment the mask took on the shape and contour her own face, and disappeared, leaving her seemingly unaffected. The same thing happened when she first saw her father. A mask lifted from his face, imprinted with his features, drifted down upon her face, and disappeared just below the surface.
    One day, years later, her father lost his temper for the hundredth time, something about money and bills, and the image of his face changed, distorted, and another mask lifted and wafted through the room until it landed on her face where, like the other masks, it took the shape and form of her face and then disappeared.
    One day her mother flew into a rage and slapped her around the room, because she had broken her cellphone, and the child took on the mask that lifted from her mother’s wild, anger-blinded face. Her tears acted like an extra strong adhesive as that mask stuck itself down to stay.
    Another day she was assaulted by an uncle in the basement of his house on Easter Sunday. His mask burned as it grafted to her face. As did the faces of everyone upstairs when she was finally able to move and go upstairs, in shock, somehow their gazes told her they all knew what a horrible, ugly person she had suddenly become. And they looked away but their masks hung in the room and followed her as if suspended on invisible strings, to where she sat rocking on the floor in front of the TV, her arms wrapped around her knees, like stunted wings.
    Still another day she was humiliated in front of the entire school when she forgot the words to the song she was singing at the Christmas assembly. It was quite a feat, but she managed to assimilate the masks of everyone staring at her; everyone who laughed and pointed their fingers.
    Over time and over years, she took on mask after mask from those around her—family, friends, teachers, even strangers.
    She would watch other children get praised for something they did or said and she took on their masks as well. She took on masks of bullies, victims, the wall flowers in the corner; heroes, heroines, pop stars, movie stars, and even imaginary people she made up in her mind. And with every mask she forgot who she was. Sure she knew the name her parents gave her; sure she knew things about herself. But her real name; her true identity, that became increasingly hidden under layers and layers of micro thin, but nonetheless nearly unbreakable masks.
    Until one day, in her late thirties, she broke down while looking in the mirror. She no longer knew who she was. She didn’t know what to do with her life. She didn’t have a purpose, a direction. She didn’t know anything except that she hated herself, that she felt ashamed with every step she took. And as she stood, hunched over the sink, sobbing into her hands, a raven slammed into the bathroom window with a horrible thud. Broken from her trance, she ran downstairs to see if the bird was still alive. Outside her door, flapping miserably, but looking a bit embarrassed, was the raven. Its eyes looked dazed, one of its wings was bent in a way it shouldn’t be, but otherwise it seemed OK. She bent down to see if there was something she could do when she fell backwards screaming because the raven, as a-matter-of-factly-as the rising sun said:
    “It was worth it.”
    After shaking her head and staring at the raven for quite some time, she stood up, trembling.
    “You heard me,” said the raven, “now pick me up and take me inside, I won’t bite.”
    The woman gingerly scooped the raven into her arms, surprised at the size and weight of this night-colored creature.
    “What do mean, it was worth it.”
    “I had to get your attention somehow. I didn’t mean to hit the window so hard, but at least it broke you out of your trance.”
    “You-you smacked into the window for me?”
    “Yes, a few more minutes and you’da been lost forever.”
    “In the swamps of pity. Once people get lost in there, they almost never make it out alive. But you’re OK now,” he said as she gently placed him on the couch.
    “What do you need,” she asked, “What can I do for you?”
    “I just need a few minutes to rest before I ask you to stick my wing back into its socket. It’s just a bit dislocated.”
    She cringed at the thought. “It’s the least I can do after you saved me from the swamps of self-pity.”
    “I suppose,” said the raven, “but first we need to work on you.”
    “Me? What do you mean?”
    “I was sent here to help you remember.”
    “Remember what?”
    “Who you really are.”
    “But I know who I…” and then she stopped remembering the mirror.
    “Right,” said the raven as he tried lifting his hurt wing. He winced.
    “What do I need to do?”
    “Remove the masks.”
    “What masks?”
    “The ones you’ve been collecting since before you were born.”
    “I don’t know what you mean.”
    “You do not know who you are,” said the raven. “You don’t recognize yourself. And the person you see in the mirror you hate. You do not like who you have become.
    “Yes,” she said starring at the floor.
    “It’s the masks,” he said.
    “I don’t remember wearing any masks.”
    “I believe you,” said the raven, “now please, let’s actually do this to my wing first, I’ll be able to concentrate better on you. Pull my wing gently from right here near the shoulder and lift it ever so slightly and then gently, gently, press it in and towards my body.”
    With a deep gulp she slowly did as he requested. He screeched sending her tumbling backwards.
    And then he was flapping around the room, strutting with great glee. “It worked!” he shouted, “Nicely done! So much better!” And for a few moments he preened his feathers starring at her with eyes the color of black blood.
    “Now,” he said, “let’s begin taking off the masks.”
    “But I…”
    “Just listen,” said the raven, “this is only the beginning, and there isn’t a finish line. This work is eternal. We are just going to make it so you at least remember your real name. That’s a great start. Most people don’t get to that point. Once you do that though, the other masks will lift off almost of their own power and you will become lighter and lighter, more you than ever.” And as he spoke, he guided her on a journey within herself, where she began lifting off the masks of the people in her life. As some of the masks were removed, she wept; with others she raged; with others she threw up into the trash can; with others she shook for hours. Mask by mask, she uncovered who she really was. She got in touch with her body, with some of the memories she had long ago hidden. She slowly began accepting herself as herself. She would look in the mirror and catch glimpses of the person she always wanted to be; the person she really was underneath all the masks. The person she loved.
    The raven stayed by her side for the rest of her life. And wonder of wonders, with every mask she removed, he shifted his shape. First he became a horse, then a black bear. Then he became an owl, and then a panther. And one day, after she had removed a particularly old and worn out mask, one that crimped her skin with its brittleness, she looked towards her shape-shifting friend, and he was an angel—winged, dark as night, and yet somehow radiant as the stars.
    “Now,” he said, “are you beginning to remember your real name?”
    “I think so,” she said, “but if I’m right, won’t that be the end? I mean you said there wasn’t a finish line, but if I remember my real name and who I really am, won’t that be it? Game over?”
    “Not at all,” said the angel smiling like a crescent moon, “it only means you can begin doing everything you always wanted to do. It only means you will begin looking at this unmasking work as a grace-filled, wonderful adventure and privilege. It simply means you will shine like you were meant to shine. It simply means those around you will begin to look at you with awe and reverence, for so few people know who they are, and when they get into the presence of someone who knows their real name, they will seek out your wisdom. So tell me,” he whispered as he stopped to look her in the eyes, “what is your real name?”
    And after a few moments of luminous chills coursing through her body, with tears of gratitude and joy streaming down her face, she said, “Freedom. My name is Freedom.”

  2. I’m working on not dismissing my dreams as the products of random mind farts. This is not easy, because much of my childhood I was told dreams didn’t mean anything. I’m rehabilitating my view of dreams. I’ve long been able to lucid dream, but now am hoping to use this skill to seek things out in dreams.
    Recording them is the hardest at present; I wake, sleepy and confused and then think….what the….? If I don’t start writing in the first few minutes, it’s lost.
    Wonderful post. I’d really love one day to have a copy of the Red Book, but everytime I’ve looked the price is exorbitant. I should write my own….

    1. Hi Viv,
      I’m glad to hear you’re trying to overcome your childhood conditioning against taking your dreams seriously. My thinking is that whatever feels important to a child (or adult for that matter) is important, regardless of what anyone else thinks. In my experience, every child starts out knowing its dreams are important; it’s only adults who dismiss them. Hence, the value of regaining a childhood perspective on one’s inner llife.
      Yes, remembering and recording dreams is the hardest thing, but it gets better with practice. I keep my dream journal and a pencil right next to my bed and jot down anything I remember even if I wake up in the middle of the night.
      You should absolutely write your own Red Book. Everyone should!! In fact, you and I are already doing some of that in our blogs — minus the really private stuff, of course. And that is as it should be.
      Love, Jeanie

  3. Thank you Viv, and Jean, for your excellent advice and wisdom…much appreciated~~
    Love, Deirdre

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts