When I was thirteen, I had a wonderful dream. The dream was quite complex and involved, but here are the main elements. I was in a huge arena, which I came to understand in the dream was the “arena of the world.” There was a large crowd of people walking up stairs into the arena, but I was walking down a set of stairs away from it. I walked down many flights of stairs, and came to an underground passageway. I entered the passageway and I saw a door ajar with a golden light coming from it. I opened the door, and inside was a beautiful woman, giving off a radiant golden light. We exchanged no words, but I felt a great joy in her presence.
The dream was so beautiful and powerful, that I wrote it down when I woke up, so I was able to remember many of the details. I had never heard of Jung at the time, but years later, when I read Jung, I immediately recognized the woman as the Jungian anima. While I know a Freudian would quickly read such a dream in a youngster at the age of puberty in sexual terms, there was nothing sexual about the dream.
Many years later, at the age of twenty-two, I had a dream that contained the following: I was on the North Shore of Lake Superior at a place like Gooseberry Falls. There was a gas station built out on the rocks by the water, a Mobil station. I stopped in the station and went into the bathroom. There was a stairs leading down into a lower level, and men were walking up the stairs. I walked down. When I got to the bottom there was a woman there lying naked in a pile of rags. Semen was dripping out of her vagina. I looked at her and I knew she was the same woman I had visited in that earlier dream.
A few years before this second dream, I set about living the hedonistic life style. I wanted to explore every avenue of pleasure and maximize the amount of pleasure I could have. Being the early seventies, there was a great opportunity. I lived the sex, drugs, and rock and roll scene to the maximum. I had a great time, but after a few years, I felt like ashes.
It was at this time that I had the second dream. It had a very powerful effect on me. I understood immediately the connection between the two dreams. The first dream was a calling, and the second told me I was failing in my calling. Recognizing this, I put an end to my pursuit of hedonism, and went back to my Zen Buddhist practice that I had abandoned. (The Mobil station and the North Shore are personal elements of the dream — my earliest sexual encounter is associated with a Mobil Station, and the North Shore has always been for me a sacred, holy place.)
The encounters with the Anima, the Goddess, did not end there. The most recent was a few years ago on an October night at Gooseberry Falls on the rocks by the Lake. I was meditating in the moonlight. During the meditation, I had made a commitment towards a certain course of action in my life. But as I was getting up to leave, a female voice said to me, “No, that is not the way it is to be,” and then told me the way it was to be. From the distance of a few years, I can now see that the course of action I was told to take was both wise and also aligned with that original calling.
Now, I understand if at this point the reader thinks I’m simply crazy. It is very un-modern to hear voices and heed them. I write all this only to give a concrete example of how the archetypes can operate. I do not believe that the Goddess I have so wonderfully met exists as an entity out in the world, but nor is she something solely in “my” mind. I do not think she belongs to the supernatural, or is in violation of the dictates of naturalism, but I do think she challenges any simplistic understanding of dreams or the nature of the unconscious.
While I’m not sure what level of reality all this occurs on, I do know that through these dreams and in this calling, I feel deeply blessed, and I wouldn’t trade that blessing for anything.
I wrote this piece several years ago for the Humanistic Paganism website. I am now in my early sixties, and it amazes me the degree to which this dream from my youth speaks so much about my life.
There are many different callings in life – a life of leadership or service to the community, to scholarship and research, to the arts and crafts – to name a few. There is not one best way, but for each individual I would suggest that the best way is to find and follow your true calling.
I was called to be a mystic or what in earlier times would have been a shaman. There have been cultures and times when this was a respected calling, but ours is not such a time. There have also been cultures and times when the Goddess -- the divinity of the earthly, dark, and soulful -- was the main object of human veneration. Our time is also far removed from those.
Because our times are the way they are, it has been a prerequisite of this calling to be an outsider (to walk away from the arena of the world); that has its costs, but it is a small price to pay for the deep abiding joy comes from fealty to those eternal inner values the Goddess symbolizes.