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A dream and a vision of shooting stars by Sabina Spielrein

(Translated by Pramila Bennett in collaboration with Barbara Wharton)

These two observations are interesting because of their common structure; the two cases are about people of different nationality; one of the girls is rather plump, the other is schizophrenic.

In spite of that, in both cases, we have the image of the golden rain in the foreground and that of personal desire in the background; in the dream there is a signboard in the sky bearing in large letters

the word ‘love’, in the vision it is the beloved himself.

The dream of shooting stars

Plump Miss N. tells the following dream to a small group of people:

I was by my bedroom window; the window was closed, there were lots of stars; I was looking at them casually; suddenly I saw several shooting stars.

I found the sight magnificent; it was never ending, it went on and on. I went on admiring them.

Suddenly I saw that they were not shooting stars, that it was rain, rain-water running down the other side of the window, driven against the other side of the window by the wind. It was like the reflection of starlight, with the water falling in a continuous motion, like rivulets of gold, threads of gold, not really threads as it was a flowing movement, not a linear one.

She was astonished when she woke up.

The contradiction of stars and water, rain, both being present in the same dream struck her.

When she discovered that it was nothing, ‘only water’, she was disappointed, but she drew comfort

from the fact that it was nevertheless very beautiful.

One must always make a wish when a shooting star appears; but she was always too late for it.

This time she said to herself in her dream: ‘If you are too late for that one (star), there will be another’.

Analysis (a few days later)

The shooting stars remind her of a childhood memory: she was walking with her aunt, when suddenly a star fell; it was so fast that she did not have time to make a wish; then a second star fell; a million stars.

The aunt commented that she ought to have made a wish, to which she answered that she had already made it silently. ‘How stupid I was then’, she said to me, ‘this time I would have made an altogether different wish’. – ‘What would you have wished?’ – ‘A great love’.

Later she confides to me that she had not wanted to tell her whole dream in front of everybody.

What she hid from us was this: on a signboard in the sky she had seen written in huge letters the word ‘love’; the letters were round and black on a red background.

‘Now I am thinking of a dish (a kind of brown pudding which is sold as a powder); I think of the factory that makes

it; the letters were round like those on the wrapper of this pudding; I see the rivulets of gold; I remember yesterday’s walk (after the dream), we were in a restaurant where we drank tea; there was an advertisement showing a comet, with a tail, like the golden rivulets in my dream.

I was told that once having sustained a knock on the head, I saw stars.

As a child I used to love the marvellous

candles on the Christmas tree; once I burnt myself on them.

In my dream too I saw a torrent; a firework; it was magnificent, but it was soon gone! It was a waste of money’.

‘I would like to have a great love, an immense love; I am so afraid that it will never happen’.

The rivulet of gold makes her think of money. ‘Good gracious!’ she exclaims in surprise, ‘I never think of money, that is, I am happy to be able to carry on with my studies, but money is not important to me.

I think of gold, of Mrs. Holle and the golden rain; a fir-tree wished it could have golden leaves.

I remember a sad story, something that happened recently to a young girl.

This young girl, like me, was always looking for the ideal.

She loved a young man and was fighting this feeling; she thought she had conquered it.

And then this young man came to ask for her hand.

But he does not love the girl, he is thinking of her money. The poor girl on the other hand loves him very much; she is very disappointed’.

Miss N. also is very disappointed. What if the same thing were to happen to her too?

These days she is always thinking of this young girl.

Miss N. has never experienced anything as ‘disgusting’ as this.

She confides in me that she is in love with a young man for the first time.

She will soon be going away, she will be able to conquer this love, but she feels transformed since that moment,

she feels a new, until now unknown, element penetrating her soul against which she will have to fight constantly. She has been offered a good job at R.

Her future boss is very rich (golden rain, the rivulet of gold in her dream and the associations with money); but he is said to be not very likeable (‘he has been painted black’ in her own words).

He is thought to be very lazy, and stingy, though he is rich; he would love the pudding.

‘All this considered I said to myself that it would perhaps be better not to be introduced to him.

He loves the pudding, like me’.

I think the dream is understandable without explanations: the young girl is looking for a paradise on earth, a heaven of love, something immense and pure. At the same time she has doubts whether it exists.

The sad story of her friend accentuates this feeling of doubt even more.

She herself has recently felt the torments of love.

She runs away, carrying in the depths of her heart, unknown to her, the secret desire of finding this ideal love in the form of her future boss.

The letters on the board are black – they have been painted black, but fundamentally there is something good – the background is red (=the colour of passion); the letters are round as on the pudding wrapper – he likes puddings, as she does.

The impressions of the last few days, which have played their part in the formation of the image of the signboard, are still present.

These black letters remind her of a comedy poster, it is that of a performance … here she hesitates, of ‘La dame de Chez Maxime’ (‘The woman from Maxime’s’).

She confuses the poster of this play with another, which had black lettering on a red background.

These two posters have a common characteristic, in that they both advertise plays of a rather frivolous,

‘improper’ character.

The idea of ‘heaven on earth’, the doubt (‘a false flash which is gone in a moment’), the image of the boss, who is very rich (=gold), are evocative of the image of the shooting stars in the dream; there is one more point, based on the popular belief that a shooting star could bring one happiness.

Images of shooting stars have played a big part in Mrs. N.’s life since her childhood.

As free association shows, they are transformed into images of golden rain.

The two stories of ‘Mrs. Holle’ and ‘the little fir-tree’ are well known: Mrs. Holle rewards the beautiful and good young girl by showering golden rain on her: this rain makes her even more beautiful, rich, and finally brings her a handsome prince.

She had heard this story when she was four or five years old, and had always wanted to hear it again and again.

The story of the young fir-tree had impressed her even more: the young tree was not happy with its needles: it wanted leaves of glass: once its wish had been granted, the leaves were broken by the wind; next it wanted leaves of gold but the children plucked this finery off; its third transformation was as unhappy as the first two: the beautiful green leaves which it received this time were eaten by animals. So it was very happy to get back its old needles.

Some people may believe that dreams reveal an idea of a moral order, because these stories contribute to the formation of the images.

Objective observation does not corroborate this supposition; throughout the dream we see only the crisscrossing of the desire and its negative aspect, doubt; desire happens to triumph: the signboard in the sky is the image of the fulfilled desire.

Even the shooting stars, which give rise to numerous associations with doubt, give great pleasure to the dreamer in the end: the great love is only a firework; it fades away very quickly. She finds out ‘that it was nothing, only water’, at the same time she feels that it was nevertheless ‘very beautiful’.

The vision of shooting stars

A patient (a schizophrenic) had read somewhere in the Bible that at the time of the last judgement a shower of shooting stars will fall on to the earth and destroy the world. In her delirium, one rainy day, it seemed to her that the rain was a shower of shooting stars; behind it came the angels, dressed in blue; they introduced the patient to a Mr. K. with whom she was in love.

She could see all this through the window of her cell.

The patient herself said to me: ‘Yes, in my delirium the shower of shooting stars meant something completely different from what the Bible says!

On the contrary there was great rejoicing! Such force! A thrilling of the senses.

I still feel that sensation when I think about it!’

She felt a warm glow at the same time.

So here as in the previous dream, the symbol of the shower of stars has become the image of personal desire, which, so it is said, must be prepared for or introduced, and enhanced, while at the same time perhaps remaining hidden, as a result of this symbol. ~Sabina Spielrein, The Vision of the Shooting Stars, Page 211-214

Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2001, 46, 211–214 0021–8774/2001/4601/211 © 2001, The Society of Analytical Psychology Published by Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.