Below we explain archetypes. For the purpose of this section we have defined these spiritual images and imagery as those which have arisen from the various systems of belief around the world. These frequently surface in dreams and are part of what Jung called the Collective Unconscious. These images are often recognizable, half-remembered and, once we have identified them, easily understandable. Obviously, in a book of this size we regrettably have not been able to include all such images, but hope that this short cross-section will whet your appetite for further research of your own.
So that it gives you, the reader, a proper flavour of how the entries in the book are laid out, we should point out that first part is a spiritual explanation, the second a slightly more emotionally slanted one – in these cases the popular meaning – which has developed over a number of years. Finally, the third section gives more down-to-earth information as to why we need these images in our lives and our dreams. Below that is a section on spiritual imagery, an important part of any dreamer’s vocabulary. Some of the images also have individual entries in the body of the book which will further enhance your understanding.
If spirituality is taken to be an inner truth, and religion as that which links us back to Source, then it must be the case that religious, or perhaps more accurately, spiritual imagery partly assists us in recognizing truths which we have long accepted as genuine. They are archetypal images which belong to everyone but resonate – or have a particular effect on each of us – in slightly different ways. Dreams have a way of introducing – or rather reintroducing – us to these images and when they begin to surface it is time to widen our appreciation of them perhaps by reading, perhaps by study, but probably most importantly by simple contemplation which helps decide what relevance they have to us. Using images that seem primarily to have a spiritual application allows us to integrate spirituality fully into our lives and does away with the idea that it is something separate from our daily lives but is, and always will be, an intrinsic part of who we are. Because the images are so specific they may be startling, but having the patience to work with them enhances first our understanding of ourselves and then our dream lives.
If we are prepared to accept that each truth will have its own personal slant, and that we must get back to the basic Truth, all dreams can be interpreted from a spiritual point of view. This is especially true of spiritual imagery. Most interpretations here are stated only in general terms and are given only as guidelines. When you feel like throwing away the book and saying that the interpretations are not valid, then you will be able to take on personal responsibility and will only need the book for verification.
Angel – in spiritual terms the angel symbolizes pure being and freedom from earthly matters. Angels tend to be androgynous, and are not recognized either as male or female. There is a hierarchy of angels:Angels (the realm closest to the physical), Cherubim, Seraphim and finally the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel. As more and more people seek spirituality, there are those who have become more aware of the angel form, particularly in dreams. It is vital that we are able to differentiate between the personalized aspect of the Higher Self and the angelic form, since they are similar but different. To put it as simply as possible, the aspect known as the Higher Self has a stronger affiliation with the physical domain, while the Angels have a greater affiliation with the spiritual. The Dark Angels are reputed to be those angelic beings who have not yet totally rejected the Ego or earthly passions. When this image appears in a dream, we are being alerted to a spiritual transgression, which often has already happened. Angels who issue warnings usually symbolize what should not be done in the future.
Buddha – the figure of Buddha appearing in dreams highlights the necessity to be aware of the Qualities of Being which Buddha taught. These are the four Noble Truths. It links us to the power of renunciation and of suffering, but in the sense that experience of suffering is valid.
Breastplate – the breastplate of Aaron was a jewelled protection where the jewels had certain esoteric meanings and were also said to represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel. When we experience ourselves as wearing some form of protection around the heart, we are usually protecting our right to love unconditionally and protect ourselves spiritually. If we are particularly aware of the gems or jewels, they can also have a great deal of relevance
Ceremonies / Rituals – ceremony and ritual are all part of the heightening of awareness which occurs on the path to spirituality. In dream ceremony the
images are even more vivid.
Consecration – any act of consecration, blessing or prayer is dedicating an aspect of ourselves to the service of our God. In dreams, consecrating an object is ensuring that it is used solely for spiritual purposes.
Christ – the ideal Christ is that part of ourselves which is prepared to take on our portion of the sufferings in the world by working within the world. We do not need to be crucified physically to suffer. Appearing on the cross, Christ signifies redemption through suffering. The anarchic Christ is the part of us whose love and lust for life permit us to break through all known barriers. The cosmic Christ is the part that is prepared to take on Cosmic Responsibility – that is, to be connected with the Universal Truth. While these aspects have been spoken of particularly in Christian terms, they are also present in all religious leaders.
Church or Religious Music – these sounds, dedicated to the perception of God that we have, are sacred sounds, creating a vibration which expands consciousness. This creates a different state of awareness and is a way of expanding the spirit.
Corridor or any passage – this signifies a state of spiritual limbo, of transition, possibly moving from one state of mind to another, or perhaps between two states of being.
Crucible – manifestation of spiritual or psychic energy can be perceived as a crucible, a transforming receptacle linking with receptivity, intuition and our creative side. As a container which is capable of withstanding great heat, it is the aspect which can contain change and make it happen.
Crucifixion images – in a dream, these links typify the human being’s need to sacrifice himself through passion and through pain. The image of Man hung upon a tree is a very ancient one and is seen in stories of Odin, the Norse God who hung upon the World Tree for nine days in order to obtain Knowledge.
Devil – in dreams, the Devil represents temptation. This often arises from repressed sexual drives, animal drives and the lust for life which all demand attention. It may also signify the Shadow.
Ghosts – these arise from independent forces within, which are separate from the will. It will depend on personal beliefs whether we accept the appearance of ghosts as psychological or spiritual apparitions.
Gods / Goddesses – we are each given the opportunity to make real our fullest potential. In doing so, we must undertake an exploration of, and possibly a confrontation with, our perception of gods and goddesses, whichever pantheon we may believe in.
Hell – a state of being where nothing is ever as it seems and, alternatively, this could be thought of as continually existing in a state of negative illusion. Reputedly, it is a state of spiritual agony where our worst dreams are fulfilled. It is thought that the same actions are often repeated over and over again ad infinitum.
Heaven – a state of being where the energy is of such a high frequency that there is no suffering. In dreams, it appears when we are transmuting our awareness into the spiritual dimensions. It is reputedly a place where bliss exists and is also known as Nirvana and Samadhi.
Holy Communion – the belief that Christ’s body was transmuted into heavenly food – symbolized by the Last Supper – appears in dreams as the intake of spiritual sustenance. Holy Communion represents a sacred sharing. Most systems of belief have evidences of feasts and celebrations where the whole community participates in a meal which has certain rituals attached to it. This is one example of transubstantiation.
Icon - an icon is a representation of a religious figure or concept. It can, through usage, become revered as a holy object in its own right. In dreams, it can signify the belief itself.
Incense – an offering to the gods and a physical form of prayer through perfume and smoke.
Initiation – this occurs when we are ready to enhance our knowledge and understanding so that we can ‘be’– that is, use the power we have – in a different, more effective, way. Spontaneous initiation can occur in dreams. We transcend something within ourselves.
Mary, the Mother of God / Virgin Mother – the symbolism of Mary, both as the maiden and as the mother, is a potent one. She epitomizes all that is Woman, and all that is holy.
Moses – appears in dreams as the holy figure who will lead us out of difficulty. He often symbolizes a flaw in our personality for which there must be some kind of ‘sacrifice’.
Ouroborus – the symbol of the cycle of existence. As the snake that eats its own tail, it is circular in shape and therefore has the same symbolism as the circle. It signifies eternal existence.
Religious books and Sacred Texts – there is a repository of knowledge available to us all. In dream imagery, this will often appear in the form of books such as the Bible, the Koran or the Torah. Other sacred texts will also appear in dreams at certain stages of development to help us towards understanding.
Priest / Prophet – a priest as a man of God belongs to the present, whereas a prophet will foretell events to come. Both are interpreters of Divine Will,
so in dreams, if they appear together, they represent a conflict between the present and the future.
Religious Buildings – this includes churches, chapels, mosques, synagogues and temples. We all are aware of our need for sanctuary from the batterings of the everyday world. Within the religious building, we are free to form a relationship with our own personal God. Dreams are often one of the places where we first discover this sense of sanctuary. In dreams, we may also come to the realization that our body is our temple.
Religious Festivals – each system of belief has its own celebration, whether that be the Wheel of the Year, Christian festivals, Hindu celebrations or Shinto. Associated with these festivals are certain traditions such as Diwali sweets or the sharing of food. One such tradition is the Christmas tree which initially symbolizes the tree of rebirth and immortality (the World Tree), the return of the light and the beginning of a new phase of life.
Religious leaders – appearing in dreams, they epitomize the recognition of the ability to reconcile the physical and the spiritual, God and Man. They personify Perfect Man, a state to which we all aspire. Each religious leader has their own quality or particular perspective on spirituality which will resonate with us and which will manifest unexpectedly in dreams. Most often we will first meet the religious figure who belongs to our own early system of belief later widening out to include others as our awareness increases. So someone brought up as Christian may first perceive the Christ figure, someone of the Hindu faith might perceive Lord Krishna.
Religious Service – the act of worship which is used to bring people together. It is recognized in dreams, perhaps as an act of integration of the whole self, and as an illustration that the whole is greater than the parts.
Rose / Rosette – the rose in dreams carries with it a great deal of symbolism. It suggests Perfection and Passion, Life and Death, Time and Eternity. It also represents the heart, the centre of life and as a psychological symbol symbolizes perfection. It contains within it the mystery of life and its grace and happiness.
Sackcloth – the act of mourning in olden times often indicated some public show, and so sackcloth was taken as the substance to show the spiritual poverty of the people concerned – that they had lost something very valuable. Sackcloth in dreams indicates repentance and an outward show of such repentance. We may feel that we have humiliated ourselves, and wish to show the world that we have repented of an action or deed.
Seance – we need the qualities of patience and determination to contact our own spiritual self. Dreaming of being at a seance, or sitting, can suggest a need to explore the psychic side of our nature. Remembering that psychic means ‘being in touch with self’, this can suggest being aware of our intuition.
Sheaf – as the symbol of the goddess Demeter, the sheaf represents Mother Nature in her guise of the nurturing mother. It can also suggest a dying world, in that Demeter refused to nurture ‘her’humans when her daughter Persephone was taken into the Underworld by Pluto. Previously, a sheaf, particularly of corn, would signify a harvest or good husbandry. Now it is more likely to suggest old-fashioned ways and methods of operating.
Shaman – when this figure appears in a dream he epitomizes the ability to travel with guidance through otherworldly realms. His totem animal will transport, guard and protect him as he seeks knowledge often on behalf of others. He will, in waking life, interpret dreams and will dream on behalf of the whole community or tribe.
Spirits – during spiritual development, our perceptions widen from the ordinary everyday to other aspects and dimensions of knowledge. The spiritual self has access to the Collective Unconscious in its entirety. When spirits appear in dreams, their function may be to help us through various states of transition. A kindly or helpful spirit signifies that we can move on. Seeing the spirits of dead people generally means we need reassurance.
Tabernacle – this is a place where a sacred object is kept for safety,
represents a temple and therefore becomes a World Centre. To dream of a tabernacle is therefore to be trying to understand our own need for sanctuary and safekeeping.
Talisman – mankind has a deep connection with objects he believes to be sacred. In most Pagan religions, objects such as stones and drawings were, and indeed still are, given magical powers by special techniques which empower them. They retain the ability to protect the wearer throughout time. When such an image appears in a dream we are linking spontaneously with ancient magic.
Third Eye – this represents developed clairvoyant perceptiveness, or the clarity of vision that comes with spiritual development. It is the Third Eye of Buddha and symbolizes unity and balance. It is often represented in symbolism by the Eye of Horus. In no case does it represent a physical quality, though it is thought to link with the pineal gland.
Transfiguration – this is a phenomenon which can occur during altered states of consciousness. It is as though a light enters the personality and changes it; for this to happen suggests that there is some special purpose or Divine intent. In the waking state, it is taken to suggest being used as a spiritual channel. Spiritually, we need to be aware that we are all part of a greater whole, and this dream can occur as we are working through stages of transition in our lives.
Transformation – this takes place in spiritual terms when freedom of thought or action is indicated, or when higher impulses are substituted for lower reactions. As the growth to spiritual maturity takes place, there are many transformations which occur. These are often depicted in dreams as immediate changes, rather like a time-stop film sequence of a flower opening. Transubstantiation is a form of transformation which takes place through Divine Intervention when a substance ‘becomes’something else.
Totem / Totem Animal – a totem is an object or objects revered as sacred; they will have particular significance for the owner. When they are given enough spiritual power by a joint belief, the objects are perceived as taking on a power of their own. A totem animal, similar to a guardian angel, appears when we are ready to accept that there are dimensions other than our own, which can be visited with the animal’s guidance.
When we, through deliberate or spontaneous neglect, deny ourselves access to the store of spiritual imagery in waking life, dreams will often react to this lack and try to compensate by jolting us back into an awareness of our inner spirit. In today’s society it is very easy to fasten on to the hypocritical aspects of religion and to accept that hypocrisy. It is also easy to make the assumption that the outward forms of religion often deny the existence of a true inner reality. If spirituality – the inner truth that we all hold – is neglected, it will not go away:it will simply reappear in its negative and terrifying form. In waking life, the closest image we have to that is the Devil, or the more vengeful Indian gods. Our own personalized demons can be more frightening than those. It is not until we accept responsibility for our own existence that true spirituality emerges.