Religious themes are common in dreams. This dream shows a kind of epic spiritual battle. Dreams featuring images of God or Jesus are tapping into deep, transpersonal themes. Something of supreme value is at stake.
Following is the transcript of the dream discussed in Episode 221 — Daimon: Demon or Destiny?
A dreamer is a 39-year-old male who works as a psychologist and here’s his dream.
I am sitting in the front row of an academic lecture in a large auditorium. I can see my father sitting way back in the last row. A speaker is introduced, he begins to perform miraculous feats. For example, although he is an older man in his 60s, he successfully bench presses over 500 pounds on stage. Next, he begins to levitate. While flying through the air, he proclaims that he is Jesus. He demands that everyone in the audience pray to Him in worship. I do not pray to him. He goes around to each audience member and requests a prayer, all obey. When he appears in front of me, he demands a prayer. I hold up two sticks in the shape of a cross and denounce him. I state angrily that Christ protects me, and that this old man is not God. At this point, I noticed that my father in the back row is the only other person in the building, not praying to the fraud.
As context he adds, “the dream occurred at approximately the two-year anniversary of losing my business. At this time, I was still trying to rebuild myself professionally after this loss.”
The main feelings are “fear and anger, followed by love once I saw my father not praying.”
This is a really, really interesting dream. One of the things that comes up referentially is Jung’s idea of the mana personality and that some people seem to be configured according to Jung, to have a relationship to the collective unconscious in such a way that they have a mediumistic channel to what’s emerging, and are able to give voice to that in a way that other people feel compelled to affirm. Such manner personalities can develop a tremendous amount of status.
A frightening example of that was Adolf Hitler, which of course, is a grotesque, frightening image but in much lesser ways, there are all kinds of modern charismatics. We might question, why is that person so compelling or why does what they’re saying seem to have so much influence on most people? So, I don’t know whether the dream is about his own capacity for this mana personality dynamic, or whether it’s a commentary on other forces or people that are around him, because we didn’t have a lot of context that was given. Just going back to dream theory, most analysts feel that the dream is commenting on something that was stirred up in the last one to three days prior to the dream, that the psyche is working something out. So, lacking that really immediate context, I’m left in a more conceptual realm.
Yes, I agree with you, Joseph. We don’t have a lot of context to ground this. I think you’re onto something there with the mana personality and I would just build on that, by saying that it also seems to have something to do with masculinity, and obviously, the father. So, all of the important characters in the dream are male. We’re missing any feminine characters and the man on stage is performing these feats. At least the first one — bench pressing — is generally something that men do. Of course, there are women bodybuilders as well, but building up that that kind of strength, this is an area that we might typically associate with the masculine and so there’s something about this tremendous, masculine capacity, that is really extraordinary. I mean, he starts to levitate! I agree with you. I wonder, is this speaking about maybe something that’s in the father complex or is it an aspect of his own psyche, the capacity to become, let’s say, inflated. Perhaps he’s very potent but also can become somewhat inflated. We don’t know how he lost his business. But in any case, he seems to take the right attitude toward it at the end. Would you all agree with that?
Yes, and I thought too, about how this dream is very much in the realm of the masculine. There’s our dream ego, who is male, the father, the speaker, and then the invocation of Jesus Christ. And then there is the pretender, the inflated image. What I’m wondering about is where and how this drama lives in our dreamer and I’ve really been kind of sitting with that, because Jung is very clear that every part of the dream, in almost all cases, is part of the dreamer — the playwright, the director, the prompter, and the cast of characters. I’m putting that in the context of the reference to having lost his business and here in this dream, both the dream ego and the father are able to summon a countervailing opposition to the speaker who can levitate and declares himself God. So, I am, like you wondering about the father principle and the dream ego being able to resist the inflated spirit of pretension to greatness.
It does feel like the father is a kind of bulwark against the inflation, which seems to be perhaps coming from somewhere else in his psyche. I also want to just mention that the setting is in an academic lecture hall. So, I’m also wondering if there’s some relationship to the inflation, one might feel, as let’s say, a professor, and as much as you’re sitting there lecturing to 200 or 400 kids in a lecture hall. There’s an enormous amount of esteem that is provided around that which can be inflating, of course, for any of us. But also, there are superhuman demands that are being made of professors right now. A lot of professors, some of whom are my friends, could easily say, my god! It’s as if they want me to levitate and bench 500 pounds, and then I’ve got to, you know, do this, and do this, and do this, and I’m working 70 hours a week and for inadequate pay. So, there’s also that ambivalence around having to identify with this superhuman image in order to survive. I think, Lisa, you’ve mentioned this before, that at certain moments in the heroic journey, the inflation gets you through it. So, I’m wondering if this is the bivalence of the inflation. There’s a way in which it could serve somebody to get through something but then it comes at a cost.
Yeah. There’s also the image here of our dream ego in the front row, and the father sitting in the back row, sort of book it ending. The book goes on in the middle, so to speak. But I think I’m going to channel you for a minute Lisa, and reference, how this dream reminds me of the fairy tale of the fisherman and his wife. The fisherman goes down and catches a fish that can talk and the fish says, you know, please let me go, and maybe I can help you out and he goes home and basically says to his wife, “guess what happened to me today? I met a fish who could talk!” and the wife says, “Oh my God, go back down there, and then ask him to give us a nice little cottage instead of this miserable, little hovel.” He does and the fish grants the wish, and the wife is never satisfied. So, her demands increase and increase, and they wind up being queen, and then she winds up being pope. But when she asks to be God, the bubble bursts and they go back to where they started from. I’m wondering about how that kind of story is played out that the speaker begins to perform miraculous feats. Although he’s an older man, he successfully bench presses 500 pounds on stage. Wow. Then he’d be a celebrity. Oh my gosh! But when he says he’s Jesus, that’s when the other players in this dream drama come into being. The dream ego says no, and the dream ego’s father says no.
Yeah, that’s really a helpful amplification. I’m finding the question that’s coming up that I think builds on that is, what are we in service to? Everyone else in the auditorium is willing to pray to this fraud, and so where in our lives are we in service to something that is fraudulent or is pretending to be something that it’s not? Part of the sort of Christian ethos is there is this the sense of kind of being humble before God and so I think that stating your allegiance to Christ, in that sense, is something about the appropriate relativization of the ego. I do want to say I’m super curious about the dreamer’s relationship with this father, because I hear the love and I hear that the father is this really positive figure in the dream. And yet I’m also curious, because just the statement, this old man is not God. Is that a statement about his father? And is this about also the separation that we have to make from our parents where we stop seeing them as Gods?
I think it makes perfect sense that the benign father and the inflated father are two sides of the father complex, at the very least. If I step way back and think about it a purely archetypal way, there’s a process that we all go through, often in midlife, but not only then, where the religion of our childhood collapses in the face of our adult psychology and our adult needs. I was raised in the Catholic Church. My image of God was of a levitating old man. Although sometimes it was about a lamb, which always really confused me, the Lamb of God and God, and those images were very hard for me to resolve, you know, when I was six. That said, the idea of the paranormal old man isn’t adequate. It isn’t philosophic enough. It isn’t something that an adult psyche can find meaningful enough to stay in relationship to the religious idea. And so it may very well be here at 39 — easily a place where midlife crisis is beginning to happen –that there is rebuking of the old religious beliefs, ideas and values, and perhaps making way for the emergence of a more appropriate god image. Jung writes about this beautifully and very fully in his volume called Aion, where he just tracks the evolution of the god images historically, helping us understand that as the human psyche evolves, its capacity to imagine the divine also evolves, and can present something that is more meaningful, and more relevant, and more useful. Symbols help us connect to things in the collective unconscious and so again, the demanding, paranormally-strong levitating old man could sound a little bit like Yahweh, or Yahweh in the child’s conception of it, and there’s an opportunity here to challenge that and rebuke it, which is a way of demanding something better.