“All consciousness separates; but in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all egohood. It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises, be it never so childish, grotesque, and immoral.” ~ C.G. Jung. “The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man” (1933/1934), CW 10, par. 304-5.
When we work with a dream our ego is the one doing the work. Our ego thinks it knows everything about us, but it doesn’t. It thinks it is the boss of the entire psyche, but it isn’t. It’s merely the boss of our conscious personality.
An ego is like a well-intentioned gardener who owns a plot of land. She is the boss of that land and gets to decide how to use it. She considers the climate, her personal preferences, the amount of energy she’s willing to put into her project, the space she wants to work on, what she wants to grow, and so on. She makes a plan, prepares the soil, buys and plants the seeds, fertilizes, waters, weeds, researches the best environmentally friendly options for pest control. The works hard to grow healthy plants and help her garden thrive.
Meanwhile, there are forces at work over which our gardener has little or no control. Some are social and economic like fluctuations in prices and wages, supply and demand, local policies, and so on. Some have to do with her health and the health of family and friends who need her help. Some have to do with the time and energy she has available to spend on her garden. These forces are hard to prepare for and work with.
The most ungovernable force of all is Nature. Some land is extremely difficult to work with. Maybe it’s on a steep slope, is full of rocks, lacks a source of water, or has uneven terrain or infertile soil. Then, of course, there’s the weather. Sometimes it rains too much. Sometimes it doesn’t rain enough. Some plants are destroyed by blights and bugs. Some freeze; some can’t take the heat. Then there’s hail, fire, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes….well, you get the picture.
“To me dreams are a part of nature, which harbors no intention to deceive, but expresses something as best it can, just as a plant grows or an animal seeks its food as best it can. These forms of life, too, have no wish to deceive our eyes, but we may deceive ourselves because our eyes are shortsighted. Or we hear amiss because our ears are rather deaf—but it is not our ears that wish to deceive us.” C.G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1962), pp. 161-62.
Dreams, emotions, and our physical and psychological inheritance (the land we have to work with), are also Nature. Like hurricanes, insects, dirt, and crocodiles, they simply are what they are and we cannot control them. Gardeners do not create the land or weather, and our egos do not create our bodies, psyches, or dreams.
The best our gardener can do is conduct enough research to know the land, understand the needs of specific plants, make backup plans, watch the weather reports, and respond appropriately. Likewise, the best our ego can do is gather information about what’s going on in the inner world of our psyche, accept the things we cannot change, and make wise choices about what we can. If we commit to understanding the inner forces that disrupt our plans, we can change with the circumstances and times and our garden can continue to thrive.
Our dreams, emotions, and bodies map the lay of the land of our soul. Moreover, they provide an ongoing commentary every night and every day about the unconscious forces that act upon us. If we choose to be intentional about tapping into this deep wisdom and stay connected to it, we can begin to free ourselves from negative influences that sap our energy and sabotage our hopes for a life well-lived. Making this choice and sticking to it marks a major transformation in the life of every individual.
Why would an ego want to go to all this trouble when it’s so much easier to neglect nature’s mysterious garden within us? For the same reason a gardener works to understand the land and watches the weather report. Because in the business of living, growing more self-aware and accepting our whole, natural selves is our ego’s job and the most auspicious way to grow into beauty and wholeness.
Art Credits: Michael Parkes, Midnight Garden
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.
How wonderful! The gardener is such a great metaphor (and possible archetype too?) that describes well a wise and compassionate approach to the tending of our psyches and dreams. I agree, the best gardeners are definitely those who do all the things you mention here in your post, most especially those who watch the weather and know their land. What I call “the poetic landscape of the soul” you have described, so clearly and so well. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And with that knowledge and wisdom in mind, I know I’ll collapse soon after all my high-spirited, exuberant energy following the release of “Soror Mystica” into the world, so am preparing for this (watching the weather) as I remember you speaking so movingly about the exhaustion you felt after birthing your latest book, “The Soul’s Twins” (knowing the land). So as I prepare to enter a time of lower energy to recuperate in, thankfully it’s still winter and I have a great library.
Love and light, Deborah
Thank you, Deborah. And congratulations again on the publication of “Soror Mystica”, your newest exploration into the poetic landscape of your soul! It should be on its way to me now and I look forward to enjoying its bountiful harvest!
Yes, I wasn’t quite prepared for the rapid weather change after the publication of “The Soul’s Twins.” It felt like it went from summer to winter in a heartbeat. It’s been a challenging time that has taken a while to get used to. But observing my inner climate, going deeper into the land, and trusting nature’s changes (plus doing a lot of reading!), have expanded my garden to the point that, in the words of my favorite song, it “feels like home to me”. May your time of rest and renewal bring you closer to your soul’s true home. Much love, Jeanie
Very tricky title, but by reading more, it becomes an excellent extensive explanation of our being: The Ego. It is really the most understandable declaration of ego I have ever read. Thank you, dear Jeane.
I have often thought about my ego; my gardener, because I think I have ignored her once and let my garden get withered!
As my brother Al and I left Iran, I decided to do my best for his success in writing. Therefore, I just forgot about my wishes and whatever I might want to do for myself (I had some talent as a musician and an actor on the stage) and tried to help him to write as he could only do that and nothing else. After he left this earth, I returned to myself and noticed that I had to find my ego again to cultivate my garden. It was a complex process, as it still is. It seems that she has become lazy! You know, I always think more about others than myself. Anyway, I love your description of ego.
Dear Aladin, your description of your process of trying to find your ego again and cultivate your garden after your brother left this earth resonates deeply. It’s a beautiful description of the experience of being intimately involved with Nature’s cycles of death and rebirth. Both are deeply challenging times when we have to come to terms with loss and find new ways to resurrect ourselves. And yes, the complexity of the experience can be confusing and painful and alarming. But seeing this as a completely natural and normal process which all of life undergoes, both within and without, is very comforting to me.
It’s obvious to me that you’re already quite good at watching the weather. I have no doubt that you will get better at knowing the land equally well as you forge a path to your unique garden that feels like home. Much love, Jeanie
Your words are encouraging me to find the balance on my path. Thank you, my lovely teacher. With a whole lot of love, Aladin.
What a wonderful analogy Jeanie thank you. Feed the psyche, pay it attention, water it, be loving to it, enrich the soil and be rewarded for the fruits it bears. Yes, there will be times that drought or flooding comes along, but knowing that this is part of life and being prepared to the best of one’s ability, will be a great help. Love, Susan.
Thank you, Susan. I knew that you, who love gardening and Jungian psychology—and are very good at both— would appreciate this analogy! I guess it’s the height of summer now where you live. I imagine your gardens, both inner and outer, are at their most beautiful. Love, Jeanie
In all the ways you mention, it’s a blessing to observe nature through the frame of one’s windows. A single tree can enchant.
It ‘s most wonderful to have a garden, offering this outer/inner dialogue of moods, played on by weather and seasons.
Most of my haiku are inspired by my little garden …
home to its creatures
and to my guardian angels
my garden perceives
how I rehearse its being
from morning to dawn
in return it grants blessings
to my existence
and to friends gathered here
it’s my ritual
to snip a branch here and there
and nurture the shapes
of beauty I envision
… we dream as one soul
“It‘s most wonderful to have a garden, offering this outer/inner dialogue of moods, played on by weather and seasons.” This lovely sentence is in itself a poem, Ashen. It immediately made me think of our summer place in the mountains where every window frames an inner/outer dialogue with Nature. We and She dream as one soul, indeed. Thank you for this moment of beauty in my day. Jeanie