Robert Clarke on the mythological/religious symbolism of dreams

My friend Robert Clarke died in late October in his hometown in England, a merciful transition from life with a cancer-ridden body. Though he and I only met twice, we corresponded by email and he became a valued friend, in the long-distance way so many of us have friendships these days. I firmly believe that he in his life, like Carl Jung before him, found a valuable key for the rest of us. Though he lived in obscurity, he had a rich inner life that included, by his estimate, 30,000 dreams that led him through the individuation process.

He wrote two articles for his local newspaper that I think are of wider interest. The first, he sent to me on April 4, 2008. Tomorrow I will post the second.

The Mythological/Religious Symbolism of Dreams

We all have dreams, though some people fail to remember them. Often our dreams are about everyday concerns, our hopes, fears, desires, and ambitions, but now and then strange contents appear that impress us deeply, whether pleasantly or otherwise. This latter type of dream is what primitive peoples call “big dreams”, and if we take note of these over a sufficient period of time they are found to form processes, which, much to our surprise, can only be said to be mythological/religious in nature.

They cover a vast range, from the lower instinctual level (dragon depths etc.) to the higher spiritual, and anyone who follows the inner processes comes to realise that another spirit/soul reality exists behind the conscious/physical universe and that it speaks to us in symbolic language in dreams. Or it may come through to us in deep meditation, or occasionally even break through the veil as outer visions.

I personally have been studying dreams and their symbolism for thirty years, humbly following in the giant footsteps of the great psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who discovered these basic truths of unconscious/spirit reality almost a century ago. Jung came to realise that the same symbolism is to be found in myths and religious texts all over the world at all times, and indeed, that they always form the solid foundations of culture. If, however, these foundations are lost, then sooner or later the culture falls into chaos (a situation to which we are perilously close in modern society).

Finding that certain contents of his patient’s dreams matched ones in myths and religious texts led Jung to the study of these subjects, but he later concentrated on alchemy, which was also largely dependent upon dreams – the alchemists themselves tell us so. For my part, I directed my studies towards the royal line of Western religious experience, which runs from early Egypt, through the Bible up to Christ, and then to the Holy Grail, Philosopher’s Stone, and Holy Ghost mysticism of the Middle Ages. All of these involve quests through the collective unconscious to what Eastern philosophy calls the Higher Self, the immortal figure of wholeness to which all mortal beings are spiritually attached, otherwise called the Daemon, Logos, or Word, of which Christ is an example.

The timelessness of dream symbolism was demonstrated to me one day when a woman I know told me of a dream that had disturbed her for some years. At the dead of night she looked out of her bedroom window to see a huge fish in the garden pool. The full moon beamed brightly above as the fish, a Mother-Fish, gave birth to seven young crocodiles, while a number of goldfish, probably seven again, stood upright around the rim of the pool at the back. There was more to the dream but this is the basis of it.

Julie had never heard of any of this symbolism in waking life at all, but I immediately recognised it from early Egyptian mythology, where Neith, as Mother-Fish, gives birth to seven crocodile sons. As to the seven goldfish, these are far more common in mythology than seven crocodiles, and often there is one main fish with seven followers, expressing its constituent parts. My godson, also knowing nothing whatsoever of the subject, dreamt of one fish and then seven others, precisely the same formation as the ancient archetype, but obviously still very much alive today. 

This is actually a symbol of the Higher Self as 1 + 7. The first symbol of Christ was not the cross but the Saviour-Fish, called the Ichthys, and when Christ cooks fish for seven disciples in a boat at the Sea of Tiberius this again symbolises the same archetype. Other 1 + 7 Saviour-Fish were Enki in Sumeria, Ea in Babylonia, Vishnu in India, Oannes in Greece, and Nu in Egypt, the latter being in a boat with seven companions (from whom Noah with seven companions in the Ark is taken.) As for the connection with Julie’s dream, Sebek, the crocodile Saviour as son of Neith, led the other crocodile sons. A follow up dream of Julie’s was of a sort of crocodile dragon-horse, and Sebek appears as this in a certain myth. (The crocodile was positive and sacred in this particular Egyptian cult.)

Julie has since dreamt of a golden dog, another symbol of the Higher Self in Egypt, and also of the colours red and white, which have always symbolised masculine and feminine spirits that need to be unified. Red wine and white bread were symbols of the opposite spirits in Egypt and through the Bible, and were continued, of course, as symbolism of the Church Mass. The Grail Knight wears red armour while his ladylove is called Blancheflor, which means “white flower”, and the Red King and White Queen represent the male/female opposites to be united in alchemy. All of this archetypal symbolism, and much other, comes through in our dreams, and has done so for thousands of years, the collective unconscious being a timeless other reality.

I have had two books published in America concerning the meaning of archetypal dream symbolism. The first, The Four Gold Keys, is the record of my own inner quest through thousands of dreams, while the second, An Order Outside Time, explores the deeper symbolism of the Bible and in the mythology of the ancient world.

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