Thursday, February 3, 2011

Personal Note: A Childhood Dream of God

In the summer of 1966, the final dream of a lazy summer morning had just ended. Twelve-year-old Cyd sat up in bed and looked at her right hand. It was hot and glowing red. Fifty years later, she's still writing about that dream.

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I am flying through the night sky with Jesus--like He's Superman in a white robe and I'm Lois Lane in pyjamas. The air is warm, the wind is brisk. I feel safe and cozy, nestled in His arm. We pass quickly over the neighboring foothills and come upon our destination a few miles away.  

Hundreds or thousands of people are waiting in a line that snakes up a hill. Each person holds a burning torch. I expect to be deposited at the end of the line, but Jesus carries me up the hillside, past all those people, to the front of the line. He sets me down and stands close behind me, His hands resting on my shoulders. I am not afraid because of His reassuring presence.

In front of us is a small table. On the table is a brass fire pit, hot with red glowing coals. Behind the table sits an old man, maybe God.
Jesus, with his hands still upon my shoulders, says to God, "It's alright. She's with me."

God nods and reaches across the table and takes my right hand. He places a burning hot coal from the fire pit in my right hand. I can feel the great heat, but it does not hurt, and my hand is not burned. God seems satisfied, as if I had passed some sort of test. He releases my hand and waves me through to a door I hadn't noticed before, set into a brightly lit wall behind the table.
Jesus gives my shoulders a loving squeeze and releases me to go through the door. I enter unafraid.

"3-D Matrix Screensaver"
I am in a long corridor, with many doors opening off of it to either side. The first room to my left looks like a waiting room. I poke my head in the door and see someone I recognize as my dad sitting on the sofa, even though he appears to look exactly like Larry Hagman as the astronaut in the television show, "I Dream Of Jeannie." He's even wearing Maj. Nelson's dress-blue uniform with the eagle and ribbons on the chest.
Larry Hagman as Maj. Nelson
"Oh! It's you!" I say in surprise. Happy to see him. He smiles and nods at me.
I go on down the hall, leaving him there. I open the next door I come to on the left.

It seems odd, but when I step out of the hall through the door I am not in another room, but appear to be outside of somewhere else. It's daytime here, bright and warm. This is small village of simple huts. I think maybe I'm in rural Mexico. I enter one of the huts.
Now I realize I must not be in Mexico but in Israel, because there is a young woman in the hut, sitting in a rocking chair nursing a baby, and they look a lot like the Madonna and Child. There is a box sitting on a crude, handmade table in the hut. I cross the room to look into the box and recognize my clothes are in there. I suddenly notice I am naked and I take my roughly hand-loomed tunic out of the box and put it on. Yes, this is mine.
I turn and exit the hut. Rather than exiting into the village, the door out of the hut puts me directly back into the long, bright corridor.
I am near the end of the corridor now. I open and enter another door, and unexpectedly find myself outside the building, back out in the night air. I turn around to see the building, and it is higher on the hill than where I now stand.

The building glows a very bright white. Its sides do not form a square, but a continuously changing polyhedron. First it's a regular pentagon; now it has more sides; now it has more; now less; etc. The effect of the continuously changing number of facets is that the building shimmers then pulses as the walls change their number.

No sign of the other people and the torch-lit procession anymore. Maybe I am on the other side of the building from them. My hand is really hot from that coal.

I wake up in bed. My hand is hot. I sit up and look at it. My right hand is hot and red. My left hand is not.

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I wrote this dream down when it was fresh, and I still have that piece of paper. Though the memory of the dream was crystal clear, much of the meaning was beyond my ability to discern at the time. I did, however, recognize Jesus as an old and dear friend and my adored Guru, and He has remained close to me from that day to this. When I wish to sense His Presence, I feel hands on my shoulders and there He is, just behind me.

Over the years, I have studied dreams and various arts of dream interpretation, partly motivated by the need to understand my own childhood dreams. Here is a quote from a scholarly article of mine on dreams, published in the journal Janus Head. You can read the entire article at Janus Head:

Dreams, as a form of proto-rhetoric that occurs largely outside our volitional control, can be thought of as constituting a kind of meditative thought largely free from calculative thinking. Viewing dreaming as a form of meditative thinking may help to explain both the unbridled creativity of dream imagery and dreaming's rhetorical appeal as a "call of conscience" leading to personal growth. Michael J. Hyde proposes that Heidegger's "call of conscience" is rhetorical in that "we are called upon to assume the personal and ethical responsibility of affirming our freedom through resolute choice" (1994, 376). Hyde explains that Dasein's openness to hearing the call of its own potentiality-for-Being is essential to becoming what it will be, for the appeal is delivered in silence: "the discourse of the conscience never comes to utterance" (Heidegger, 1962, 342-43). In order to hear that silent appeal, calculative thinking with its willful deliberation must be overshadowed by meditative thinking's "releasement toward things" (Gelassenheit), a "letting go" of practical concerns (Heidegger, 1966, 54-56, 58f). I would like to suggest that the dream may be one such avenue through which the "discourse of the conscience" may be heard, for the dreamer's lack of control over dream content reflects this necessary "letting go." The dreams' rhetorical appeal may then be seen as Dasein's inherent responsiveness to the call to personal and ethical responsibility. But this call of conscience will go unheeded unless the dreamer takes the further step of hermeneutic analysis and authentic application.
(Ropp, Cyd C., A Hermeneutic and Rhetoric of Dreams, Janus Head, http://www.janushead.org/3-1/cropp.cfm )

By this time in my life, the symbology in this childhood dream seems pretty clear. This is an archetypal dream with many archetypal figures--Christ the Savior, God the Father, Madonna and Child--and archetypal situations--judgment, torch-lit procession, shining fortress on a hill, the long, white corridor with many doors.

Here's how I would interpret this dream. First we'll associate meanings to the dream's metaphors: 
  • Flying--freedom, soaring above troubles, soaring above this world
  • Flying With Jesus--Absolute Freedom, Spiritual Journey, Trust, Death
  • hills--obstacles, troubles, difficult to climb
  • the line of people with torches--Judgment Day, Souls, each soul's light
  • going to the front of the line--Salvation through Christ, shortcut to judgment
  • Jesus behind me, hands on me--love, embraced, safety, has my back, my friend, reassuring presence
  • God--the Judge, listens to Jesus, personally judges each person, I am not afraid because I'm with Jesus
  • the firepit--judgment through fire, heat
  • hot but not burned--judgment passed, trials need not be painful, trust that it will be alright
  • the door in the shining wall--passage between spheres, into death, into life, into heaven
  • the long white corridor with many doors--passage from one place to the next, choices, timeless threshhold
  • My dad/Maj. Nelson--my dad worked at an air force base in missle programs; looked like Maj. Nelson, this friend will be my dad
  • village huts--crude but effective, human made dwellings, primitive humans
  • Madonna and Child--archetypal mother and nursing child, mother's love, motherhood, peaceful
  • my clothes in the box--clothing my naked soul in my meme bundles and karma, covering my nakedness with old, crude garments, my clothes/the box/the motherhood setting--preparing for physical birth
  • near the end of the corridor--timelessness about to end, choices constrained
  • unexpectedly outside--not in control, fall from grace, removed to the world, out in the dark again
  • the sparkling, faceted, ever-changing walls--the Heavenly City, New Jerusalem, God's presence on earth, Heaven in our midst
  • hand is hot--lessons from judgment day learned and carried forward, karma
Now we'll look at the interpreted side of the dream rather than the metaphors and see what emerges:

This seems to be a dream about the place in between life and death. My Christian belief system obviously informs the metaphorical symbology. Jesus can be viewed as the Christ principle in the abstract, but in this dream my relationship with Jesus was personal. He felt to me like my friend, my Master, my Sat-Guru. I remembered Him from an earlier time, and I was happy to be with Him and under His care. Judgment did not come at His hands, but from the Father through fire. Through the reassuring presence of my Master, I was able to pass through the fire of judgment unharmed.

In the dream I recognized my earthly father in the waiting room. Was I being shown who my father in this incarnation was to be? If this was my father's soul, then this would have also been prior to his own birth, as well. It was as though we were being informed of each other's upcoming role--"oh! it's you!"

And while I was shown an archetypal mother and child, I did not recognize this as my earthly mother. Had she not been selected yet? If that was the case, then this dream was surely of an earlier time, since by the time of this dream I would have known my mother. In the abstract, the mother and child's proximity to my box of clothes makes the interpretation of impending birth strong.

Recognizing and putting on the clothes is such an interesting metaphor. There was no hesitation in throwing on those clothes. This attraction to the clothes demonstrates how easily our souls jump into familiar material forms. And, once clothed in those old memes and karma, rebirth is swift, inevitable, and out of your control.

Lastly, those sparkling, ever-changing faceted walls of the Heavenly City marks the first appearance in my personal mythology of the torus. When I looked up at the place I had been, aside from the changing facets of the walls, the general building shape was toroidal. (Toroidal in the same way you could say the building known as the Pentagon is toroidal.)