Questions on the Nature of Dreams
Lecture VII 8th March, 1935
There are several questions today.
The first question is highly philosophical.
Speaking from the standpoint of many thousands of dreams I cannot say that they show guidance.
It is as if the dream were quite uninterested in the fate of the ego, it is pure Nature, it expresses the given thing, it mirrors
the state of our consciousness with complete detachment; it never says “to do it in such and such a way would be well”,
but states that it is so.
If anyone knows how to read the meaning of the dream it is very well for him, if not, it is an opportunity missed, but every day is
full of missed opportunities.
There are certain dreams which seem really to concern themselves with the fate of the ego, but these belong to
the category of big dreams.
Dreams as a whole are without purpose, like nature herself, it is wiser to regard them as such.
The second question speaks of the memory images which occur in dreams; things , countries, situations, which the dreamer
has never seen or experienced, though they have associations to real experiences of a quite different nature.
This is a question of paramnesia, it is what the French call le sentiment du “deja vu”, a parallel memory.
These associations have nothing to do with the archetypes, they are probably built up over the archetypes, but the archetype
itself does not appear in them.
But in certain cases of affinities to people or things, a personal sense of “deja vu”, such as Go \ethe describes
when he expresses the feeling: “Were you in times gone by my sister or my bride”, the archetype is touched.
Next term I intend to deal with this more fully.
The third question asks if we can dream of experiences undergone by our ancestors.
I cannot be sure of this.
There are so many curious sources from which we dream, that we cannot say for certain where anything comes from.
Here we come to cryptomnesia (hidden memories).
Flournoy’s Helene Smith in “Somnambulisme avec Glossolalie” is a classic example, also the example I gave you last
year from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.
Benoit was accused of plagiarism of Rider Haggard’s “She” in his “L’ Atlantide”.
He denied this, however, and I quite believe him, for both these figures are coupled with the archetype of the anima.
It is almost impossible to prove what is actual ancestral experience, in the first place we should have to be sure that the dreamer had never
heard of the experience, then that it actually had happened, and so on, all conditions hard to be sure of.
The fourth question asks if there are not certain types of people who are more likely to have archetypal dreams than others.
In my experience these dreams can come to all types of people.
It is a question of the archetypal situation in the man ‘ s life.
There are certain people with a low threshold of consciousness, one might almost say a schizophrenic tendency.
These people have a specially thin skin with weak places in it, and they experience archetypal situations far more readily than
other thick-skinned people who ride roughshod over the world.
Such experiences as military service and getting engaged to be married, for instance, are just sugar to thick-skinned people
but there are other people who find these experiences filled with the whole of life’s tragedy and they are quite unable to
stand the strain. These experiences may b e a donkey ride or a terrible shock, both
aspects are equally real.
To return to our dream, I still owe you a clear interpretation.
I have broken my head in trying to find one for you and have often wished that I had never given you this dream at all!
We must imagine ourselves in the situation of the dreamer, an aesthetic and sensitive person, with a thin skin like a
fragile glass, confronted with a vast cathedral which will certainly impress him very deeply.
A cathedral shows a whole world, the House of God, the greatness of the mediaeval “Weltanschauung” (outlook on life).
We hardly realise how much our modern spirit is founded on such a building, the last expression of an age.
The great church stands clear above the ground, and underneath it lies a secret which at this stage we will not attempt
to define, an incomprehensible secret.
The dreamer has not got this secret, it has him.
The essential thing is not what the dreamer believes but what he is; it is not my creed that matters, but what I am, every
gesture betrays me.
We do not know what this secret is, but the symbols which he found point to history, indications that not only the Christian
“Weltanschauung” is meant, but quite other ” Weltanschauungs ” of which the Church wishes to remain in ignorance.
A darkness lies under the conscious, the unconscious, the dark place under the church.
We do not know what this is, but we find a thread of it here.
The secret was known to the church, and it was kept in the Sacramentum, hidden from the profane.
Christ was referred to as the fish.
In a papyrus which has recently been discovered and is in the British Museum he is referred to by the secret sign XP. T
he sign is formed from it.
These signs appear in Gnosticism, St. Paul’s sayings are undoubtedly connected with Gnosticism.
On Gnostic gems we find the symbol of the vase, the vase of sin.
The Gnosis is a disturber of the peace of the Church, but it is full of psychological truths, many yet undiscovered.
The vase was the crater, and is very often thought of in connection with Aesculapius, the doctor.
The Egyptian form of this is expressed by the well bucket in which the fruitful water of the Nile is drawn up.
The same symbol appears next in the Grail legend and seems to come to an end there.
In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s history of Parsifal, written in the beginning of the thirteenth century, we find this sentence “It is
called the “Lap sit exillis”; this was interpreted “lapis ex coelis”, the precious stone out of which the Grail was made coming from
the sky, but the word was really “exilis” which means small, insignificant; this appeared so strange that the meaning of the
word was changed.
About the same time, in Provence, the philosopher Villanova speaks of the philosopher’s stone as the lapis exilis”, describing
it as one stone, one medicine, one vase, the symbol of healing.
This leads us over to the secret gnosis of the Middle Ages, when it takes the form of alchemy.
This hidden teaching is continue d to the present day in the form of secret societies, the most important of those surviving
being the Free Masons.
They do not treasure “da ” consciousness, but the things which belong to “night” consciousness.
The vast number of members of these societies shows how living these things still are.
I have given you this one sequence, it must serve as an example to show that what is being done now has been done before
and will recur again.
This dreamer is not a member of any of these secret societies, he is an unprejudiced young man so his dream comes straight
from the unconscious.
There is a secret dark life among the primitives also and unless we know of it we understand nothing of their psychology.
If we seek our connection with the snake we come to the spinal cord and that points to the animal soul of man which leads
him down into the darkness of the body, into the instinct which one meets in animal form in the outer world.
When we come on instinct in the inner world it appears containing the most strange things as is the case in this dream.
The task which is given the dreamer is to find a connection with this dark instinctive soul.
This is a difficult task for he will get no help from the time he lives in, for this instinctive soul is denied on every side.
This attitude does not help us any more than it would to say that bacteria and mosquitoes are nonsense; they exist
and so does the instinctive soul.
If the secret teaching of the primitive tribe is lost the whole tribe goes to pieces for it has lost its connection with the mother
That means that it has lost the ground under its feet, but civilised man lives like a balloon, he is nowhere in touch with the
round, with reality.
Primitives are really human animals living on the lap of the earth and from its sap.
We are merely enlightened!
We see the cathedral but we do not know what is under it, we do not know what a cathedral is, what religion is.
We do not know why th e Christian “Weltanschauung” exists, and why it is so insisted upon.
The real reason is that these things lie under it, these essential roots of man; they belong to the secret teaching
and had to be hidden, the Church was built over them and because of this people have become cut off from their
The one thing we cannot fight is the madness of man and his sick ideas; if these deep roots are cut off it is only good
luck if there is no general explosion of all the gas balloons which are floating over the earth.
This young man should be able to reach back to these roots and take them without guile, though with full consciousness
of what he is doing, but he prefers to betray the snake and give the task over to the shadow.
He is unconscious of his problem. It is the task of all of us to understand the ways of the left hand, to pierce it with the
clear insight of the intellect.
This is exceedingly painful, but if we can do it we learn to see in the dark and we discover the secret, which is the
foundation and meaning lying below all the philosophies and religions on the earth. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 8March1935,