Seeing Through the Mist


I spent the first half of my life in a mist, blind to all that is truly sacred. A spiritual seeker from the age of 17, I had plenty of ideas about what was sacred, but they came from other people. Only very rarely did I actually experience the sacred for myself. Then I discovered the symbolic meaning in dreams and myths.

Myths are cultural expressions of humanity’s relationship to the gods. While not necessarily literally true on the outside, myths are always true on the inside because they address the truths of the soul. Dreams are personal myths. Imaginatively exploring the symbols and themes of our dreams to gain insights into our personal issues, then seeing how they are addressed and resolved in cultural myths, can help 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 regular 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 end of the path. 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.

This dream fascinated me so I worked through the plot by exploring my associations for the symbols: 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 somewhere, the people who feed him, and the couple walking through the mist.  Then I explored cultural and archetypal associations for the symbols I wanted more information about.

The final result was a mythical narrative with an underlying theme of compassion and love. Deeply moved, I felt as if a cold, hard place in my heart was 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 beach 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, resigned from my job, and began writing 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 has said, “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.”

This is holy work. With each creative act we make to honor the truths bubbling up from our source, we re-myth our lives and enter the sacred realm that has always awaited us beyond the mist.

Image credit:  Google Free Images

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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0 Responses

  1. Superbly written Jean, words of deep knowledge, relatable for all. To delve deeper I not only record to reflect on my dreams but write poems of them too, more archetypal dreamwork. Thank you so much for imparting and sharing these deep insights and wisdom. Holy work indeed!

    1. Thank you Deborah, As you know from your own work, writing poetry is a brilliant and enormously effective way to work imaginatively not just with your dreams but with your inner life in general! Especially if you love to write. Poetry not only connects you to what feels sacred to you, but it helps you process your symbols imaginatively and hone your creative expression to a fine and subtle point.The results can be deeply rewarding to the artistic soul. I suspect many a poet has an active dream life.

  2. “to honour the truths bubbling up from our source…”
    I dreamt that I should place the Ogham letters of my name on top of each other to create a symbol that would define me. This came totally out of the blue, I hadn’t had anything to do with the Ogham alphabet. Very strange, but on trying to find an online meaning for my dream, I came across a reference to Robert Graves ‘The White Goddess.” I feel I should I pursue this connection. Sophia has made her presence known this past week.
    Thank you for the wisdom in all of your posts.

    1. Thank you, maskednative. What a fascinating dream. I understand the characters of the Ogham alphabet are related to trees: ash, pine, hazelnut, oak…..each of which is rich with symbolic meaning. For example, I think the hazelnut is related to Queen Maeve? It would be so neat if you could remember the characters in your dream. Are you of Irish or Welsh heritage? If so, this could be especially meaningful to you. Even if not, actually. It’s also interesting that you should mention The White Goddess. I haven’t read it but just yesterday I read a quote about it in a letter from a friend. I think I need to pursue this connection too!

      1. Dear Jean, I hope you don’t mind me calling you by your name, thank you for your interesting reply to my dream.
        Regarding the relationship to trees, in Norse mythology, the world tree Yggdrasil is an Ash tree, I discovered this while writing a children’s story, placing an Ash tree in the centre of the theme before I knew it’s relation to Yggdrasil, and apparently a protector of children, (the story is a work in progress, almost there).
        My dream of the Ogham letters seemed not related to anything I was thinking or doing at the time, and unfortunately, I don’t have any recollection of any characters present, just the waking memory of placing the symbols one on top of the other to discover myself. Perhaps this was just to lead me in my waking life, to find the connection between The White Goddess, by Robert Graves, and Sophia, and that it has touched your life too, seems significant.
        My Father was Welsh, my Mother Irish, the celtic roots showing above ground, reconnecting with Mother Earth.

        1. Please do call me Jean. Or Jeanie… I used to teach Children’s Literature. We ran across Yggdrasil many times in our study of traditional literature. Perhaps your dream was just as you say: to encourage you to find the meaningful connections in your inner life, including your marvelously rich Celtic heritage! Perhaps those roots are where your creativity lies….

  3. That is quite a dream, Jeannie. Mine seem mundane in comparison: a group vacation, deciding to take a side cruise to see places not on the regular tour, only to board the ship and find our names not on the list despite our having paid for the cruise, so no place to sleep or change clothes and lots of frustration. Yes, I know no dream is “mundane” and this one is highly charged, but no temple pillars or misty groves, no glowing flowers or miniature white horses facing the four direction, nothing so brilliantly archetypal. Wonderful to spend some wonderful hours together last night. Always a rich pleasure.

  4. Hi, Diane. I’m chuckling because I woke up with a “frustration” dream similar to yours this morning. I had a lovely black-maned horse and was trying to tack it up so my grandchildren could ride it, but first the stirrups fell off and I couldn’t get them back on, then a necessary piece of the tack broke, then a tall kind and mysterious man came by and checked the cinch to make sure the saddle was snug enough, but all this was to no avail because the children had to leave, a lot of people came milling around, I couldn’t find my horse and was searching everywhere for it, including at the stable of the horse guard where some black-helmeted soldiers were tacking up their beautiful horses with apparent ease while I was having such a struggle, etc.
    I woke up feeling cranky and frustrated, then began to read these comments waiting for me. Now the frustration is slowly melting away. I hadn’t noticed the horsey connection between this morning’s dream and this post until now, so this illustrates another benefit of working imaginatively with our inner life. Sharing my creations in the form of these posts brings wonderful synchronicities like this one and the mention of the White Goddess in the last comment, and these, plus the people like you who write such affirming things, continually remind me of my connection to all that is. And so the holy work continues….
    I loved seeing you last night too.
    Blessings, Jeanie

  5. Wonder full expression of imagery. I love when writers have the ability to tell a story that draws me in sufficient enough to leave my image of what your story is. Thanks!!!

    1. Thank you so much. What you say I did for you with this story is something I don’t always manage to do in my writing. But paying attention to my dream imagery has been of enormous help! The images are there; I just have to remember to pay attention and tap into them. I appreciate your comment!

  6. Jean, thank you. Your reflections on the role of imagination combined with a ritual that involves body and intention are such important reminders for me today.

  7. Be careful with overindulging in beautiful pictures of the inner world. As Winnicott has elegantly put it, creativity takes place in the transitional space between the inner/subjective and outer/objective worlds. Therefore, ultimately the two will need to come together.
    As we start our journey into authenticity, it’s quite common to soften the harsh reality of outer world and indulge in the vastness of the inner world, but at some point, we want to give ourselves the option to gradually come back to dealing with the reality. In that stage, we may want to be more respectful to the inner images and keep them sacred and very private.

    1. I agree with this advice, which I’ve also heard from Jungian analysts, although I’ve never actually known someone who lost touch with reality because of too much attachment to a beautiful inner image. Perhaps this belongs in the category of ‘mental illness’? The need to escape goes both ways—some want to avoid outer reality, others, inner. Keeping a foot in both worlds is necessary for balanced growth into mature consciousness. Writing, ritual, research, and teaching have interacted with my subjective world in that transitional space during the 26 years I’ve been doing inner work. I’ve also been lucky to have had a close, active family and an extroverted husband to keep me firmly grounded. I think loving relationships are key to weaving our outer and inner lives together into a whole piece. Thank you for writing.

  8. Thank you Jeanie for this powerful post. A reminder to each and all of us to pay attention to the dream world – of which we are the author – and it’s messages which serve to enrich our sacred lives.

    1. Thank you, Susan. Yes, we—not our ego selves, but our Self—are indeed the authors of our dreams. I sometimes think of dreams as the only teachers who know our whole selves well enough to have the power to change our ego selves from being self-centered into being centered in the Self.

  9. There in those mists and woodland walk, I imagine Artemis welcoming you to your inner wild unconscious self. I’ve associated this Goddess with you before and here She is again. Thank you for sharing your sacred inner work. I would be lost without the wisdom of my dreams.

    1. Yes. Artemis meets me in those woods. She’s not as present here in town and I miss her, though there are trees and some water. Just no real solitude when I’m around them. I’d be lost without my dreams too. They’ve saved me from being a bitter woman who lived a meaningless life. What a terrible disappointment and shame that would have been.

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