Carl Jung Resources > Dream Interpretation

A Dream about Spirit-Matter Ambivalence

George told us a strange dream in which occur symbols that are hard to decipher and which, at first glance, do not seem to have anything to do with the life of the dreamer.

The dream is presented in two fragments or chapters. Here's the first one as recounted by the dreamer:

I look at the sky at night and it is full of lights and rays that chaotically move like a swarm of bees or mosquitoes, as if a warlike confrontation took place above. Perhaps they are very sophisticated flight machines or who knows what. The vision is fascinating but also scary because everything is going up there and I, and others like me, are just spectators. I do not know how long this "show" will take and what will be the final result. But I'm expecting something bad.

The second chapter of the dream comes as a follow-up to the first one, but it's happening on the ground this time, and it is about George's wife he's not finding anymore, "we're probably lost in this mess", he says, adding: "I shout for her and looked frenetically for her but I can not find her. She just disappeared without a trace. I was desperate."

Here we have the dreames's associations(1):

The first part of the dream reminds me of a funny story about a famous astronomer who fell into a pit and nearly lost his life because he was staring at the sky while walking. Regardless of his intelligence and genius, he was close to disaster because he was totally absent on earthly things. Something like that was told by my friend J. from the philosophical literature about a great Taoist philosopher who has been punished for violating the laws of the place, also in disregard. He was very upset of the issue due to his negligence. The philosopher told his disciples at one point: "My duty was to adapt to the circumstances of the locals, but, stolen by the spectacle of the world, I turned away from them. That cost me dearly!"

Thinking of the sky, the stars, of what is happening up there, meaning the spiritual realm, doesn't matter as long as you feel so bad, down here, when you can not find your wife anymore as if you lost everything.

I see in this opposition between heaven and earth the expression of the irony of the simple, common man, to the high concerns of the educated man.

Searching the Sky - the need for meaningSearching the sky is the symbol of the need for meaning
of the modern man

So we deal with a conflict between two parts of the person: the worldly one - interested in material things and the spiritual one- interested in speculation and philosophy.

The dream is seemingly an embodiment, with its specific means, of this ambivalence spirit-matter.

The dream has not been interpreted to the end, if it even has an end. The idea is that dreams do not only address issues related to our desires, obsessions, phobias, ambitions, but also more complex problems of our total being that have to incorporate opposite drives, divergent interests that can often lead to fragmentation, that is to schizoidism.

If schizoidism, the tendency of our ego to split into two or more distinct personalities, is evident in our modern world it is because our various social positions, interests, passions etc. are only rarely compatible.

In fact, we are no longer interested in the "meaning"(2) of the world and this leads to an impoverishment of life which has only one goal: living better on the material realm!

But what happened with the spirit?

It didn't disappear, as it is shown by the first part of this dream, but has been eclipsed, that is, repressed.

Aiming at the unity or wholeness of the person, Jung talked about the meeting of the archetype of the old sage (3), which offers the solution to the dissolution. But first we must stop the fighting between spirit and matter. We must acquire a new understanding of the mode they complement each other.

We must assimilate the solution proposed by the archetype(4) in order to extend our consciousness as to include both spirit and matter.

In Gospels, Christ said the same: we don't have to concern ourselves only with food and clothes but also with the word of God. He tried to compensate the inclination of man to live only on the material plane.

But how can this be done?

Psychoanalysis offers us a method (as Jung suggests), but not simple enough and not obvious enough.


Finally, George's dream is not a common dream. On the contrary, despite its strangeness, it is a special dream, a "great dream", in the spirit of ancient tradition, and calls for reflection right now in our modern times.

1. Dream interpretation method requires dreamer's associations to the parts of his/her dream. More about this method

2. Still we are searching for the meaning but only with the modern scientifically means. So we are more interested in black holes rather than in our self and individuation process..

3. The Old Sage archetype is a Jungian concept meaning the need of people confronted with mind disorders to find the sense in their conflicting problems.

4. Here the solution doesn't seem to appear in the dream - this is perhaps a first dream of a long series, the beginning of the individuation process. (About the individuation in dreams see my course dealing with Jung's method of dream interpretation).

Paper by J Jones
(psychoanalysis researcher and writter)


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