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The Way of the Dream by Marie-Louise von Franz


The Inner Guide

The positive animus is an innermost instinctive awareness of the inner truth, a basic inner truthfulness which guides the spiritual woman in her individuation, toward becoming her own self -Marie-Louise von Franz

In the Great Mother, Erich Neumann points out that in childbearing, a woman is the organ and instrument of transformation of both herself and her child. Her body is an unconscious vehicle by which nature reproduces. By giving birth, the woman herself is transformed into a mother and, unlike the male, she becomes the mother out of which she came. That which is born from her belongs to her and remains subject to her. To nourish and protect, to keep warm and hold fast are the functions of the maternal feminine in relation to a child. This instinctive maternal energy is an awesome power in a woman.

Dr. von Franz, why do pregnant women often have disturbing dreams?

These are typical dreams of pregnant women. The state of pregnancy, especially for a modern, active woman, is very difficult, because, for the sake of pregnancy and for the coming child, the woman should fall into a state of musing, brooding, quietness. Pregnant women should live a quiet life, following their natural rhythms. However, their own impulse toward action and outer activity comes into conflict with that.

Jung once said, “Women are absolutely lovely and charming and chase the men till they reach the point of being married, and then they transform into devils and harass the man from morning till night.  That is because marriage is also being pinned down to a specific destiny and situation, and something in the woman resents it. Before a woman is married, she can dream about what she could do or would do. She can dream about marrying a TV reporter and traveling all over the world, or marrying a rich man and doing whatever she likes, or marrying a farmer and having her own farm-her life is full of possibilities. But, as soon as she marries the man she loves, she is pinned down to him for better or for worse, and the freedom-loving person in the woman resents it.

That is why these male figures, the animi, often come up in her dreams and attack her. The attacks become even worse during pregnancy because as long as there is no child, a woman can still toy with the idea of divorce, but when a child is on the way, she is really pinned down for the next ten or fifteen years. And the wild, freedom-loving side of a woman’s personality revolts.

In the second dream, the woman dreams of all those cowboys who are attacking and shooting down pregnant women and even burning them on the bonfire. The cowboys would represent within her not something evil but rather her own temperamental impulse toward action, toward living an active life, which is not in accordance with her pregnant state. The cowboys want to make the farm richer and make more profit, but this is not a time to work for outer profit or outer goals. Pregnancy is a time of introversion for a woman and therefore, if a woman has led a very active life up to her pregnancy, she generally has a conflict about it which is mirrored in the dream. But the dream ends well because she realizes she can manage to escape.

How can a pregnant woman deal with this?

Generally it’s projected and the poor husband has to pay for that. He’s the one that caused it. He put her into that pregnant situation, into that pinned-down situation, and a modern woman says, “Now I’m always confined to this flat, and I cannot fulfill my personality, and I cannot do what I want to do, and it’s your fault. ” Though she wanted to marry him and have the child, it’s now his fault.

Is there a constructive solution?

A modern woman with children has a difficult task, for on the one hand she wishes to fulfill the demands of her maternal nature and, at the same time, develop her own personality. I feel she should maintain a balance. She should say, “I have my husband and I wanted him. I have a child and I wanted that child. But they don’t prevent me from developing whatever else I have and want to do. I have simply to do both, continue to develop my independent personality while accepting this confinement. ” Naturally, one can’t have the penny and the cake. I often say to young women, “Look here, you wanted that husband .  You wanted those children. Now you can’t throw it all over and go to the university and become a university professor. You have to reach a compromise. But you can, for instance, do some studying in spite of having children, and prepare to build it.> a more masculine career later when the children are older and are going to school. ” There’s still a second half of life ahead when a woman can fulfill her more masculine desires.

This next dream comes from the second half of a woman’s life, and we see it in a different kind of birth, the birth of a spiritual guide who comes from the womb, not of a physical, but of a spiritual mother.

In this dream I was swimming in a very dark, deep cave. The water was also very dark. At the far end of the cave there was an enormous rock. On the rock there was a small ginger-colored, furry dog with gold eyes. The animal was smiling at me, and I knew that this little dog represented the Christ. I don’t know how I knew that, hut I knew it. -female dreamer

Now, here is the symbol of the inner Christ in the depths of the soul. He is not out there in the sky, as Christian teaching wants to have it, or in some metaphysical spiritual realm. He is in the depths of the earth, and the earth is an image of matter, of our body, of our physical existence. The cave has always been a sacred place in former ages. Long after man no longer lived in caves, they remained sanctuaries. They were, so to speak, the womb of the earth goddess, or the goddess of nature. So the cave symbolizes the depth of the inner nature.

Now, this dream says that Christ is not some model figure you have to follow as you have been taught. On the contrary, he is a being which you find when you go into the depth of your own being. You find him in the womb of Mother Earth. But he appears in a strange  form. He appears as a dog. The zoologist Konrad Lorenz once said that taming the dog and making him his companion is the greatest and best conquest man ever made. The dog is that representative of the animal kingdom who has adapted most to us. That is why we can take him into our houses. Compared to the cat, he is much more domesticated. He has really given up his whole way of life, sacrificed it to become our companion. In former times the dog was probably accepted by man because of his hunting ability. He helped the hunting societies in their hunts, and later became the sheepdog who protected and kept the herds together, and also the watchdog, protecting man from robbers and burglars and danger. So the dog has become a cherished helper of man. He therefore carries the projection of being the companion, the best friend of man, the psychopomp.

In modem dreams, the dog often represents our instinctive nature. Now, dogs are oriented by their nose. They are short-sighted and don’t see very far, but they hear very well and their noses are twenty times better than ours. So he represents the instinctive flare or intuition which our computerized mind has blunted. The dog sniffs it. Symbolically, dogs have a strange relationship to the other world, to the land of the dead, the land of the ghosts, the land where the dreams come from, to what we call the unconscious. This relationship stems from their instinctive nature. For instance, in practically all religions of the world, the dog is the guide of the dead in the other world. It was once believed that when people died they had trouble finding the beyond, the land of the ancestors, or the paradise, or the underworld, or whatever the beyond of the dead was called in the religion. A dog had to be used as a guide to bring the dead to this place. In some older civilizations, the Mongolian civilization for instance, the dog was always buried with his master, together with the horse. When a pregnant woman died, two dogs were placed in the grave, one for her and one for the not-yet-born child to guide them in the other world. Also, in old Persia, when somebody was dying, a dog was brought in, and the dying person· had to give it a bit of bread or meat so that the dog would come and guide him in the other world. In many places-in Africa, for instance–dogs are sacrificed on the graves of people for the same reason. So the dog has a strange relationship to the underworld, which we still have in the Greek three-headed dog, Cerberus.

The most famous dog figure that guided the dead to the land of the beyond was the Egyptian god Anubis, who had a jackal head. He was the god who presided at embalming, which Egyptians believed transformed the dead person into an immortal, divine person, a deification of the dead by treating the corpse. (Actually, while the embalming rite of deification was being performed, a priest with a jackal-head mask supervised it.) Anubis was called the agent of the resurrection. He was the guide to the other world. Now, there is absolutely no distinction between the unconscious and the land of the dead. What most mythologies and religions describe as the land of the dead is what we would call the unconscious. Therefore, you could say the dog is the one true leader to the other world. In relation to the dream world, he is the guiding god in the unconscious. That’s why in our dream it is very fitting that Christ is a dog, because he’s a guardian of souls. He watches over the dreamer’s soul and guides her in the darkness of the unknown.

The golden quality which is stressed in the dream refers to immortality. Gold is the only metal ancient people knew which is not corroded by old age or by acids. Gold can be buried for five thousand years and be absolutely unaltered, while silver, copper, and iron rust and disintegrate. And so gold has always carried the projection of immortality, eternity, the substance of highest value. Even today we still have gold as the value standard of our monetary system, despite the fact that many people say that it’s quite useless from a practical standpoint. But it still has a symbolic value, and that’s why, in most civilizations, divine figures and statues are painted and decorated in gold. This stresses that they are eternal, shining, immortal, everlasting.

In the dream the woman realizes that the golden dog is Christ. It’s the way Christ appears within her. He is an image of what we call the Self, the inner guiding principle.

Is this image of the Self masculine or feminine?

The dog in this dream is still more or less a masculine figure identified with Christ, and that is one of the problems of our civilization. We have no divine feminine figure. If a divine feminine figure appears, it is generally in the form of an Earth Mother goddess or a wise old woman. I remember a dream of a pregnant woman who was very annoyed by her pregnancy. She had a negative relationship to her own mother, and women who have a negative relationship to their own mothers generally have difficulty with pregnancies. They resent having a child, vomit a lot, suffer physical discomfort. They don’t enjoy pregnancy, and she was one of those women.

Then she dreamt that she was sitting on the earth in a cave looking at her pregnant belly. Suddenly, she realized there was a transparent floor above the cave, and on this floor was a woman she actually knew, onto whom she had projected the Self. She would have said it was a wise woman who knew about the secrets of life. This wise woman above her was performing a ritual by praying to the stars. Through her prayer the water of life dripped from the stars, flowed through the transparent floor, assembled in her womb, and quickened and nourished the child. She realized that this wise woman figure was helping her to carry the child so that the child would come out right. She woke up really relieved, and from then on she could accept her pregnancy. There the Self appeared to her in order to help her to fulfill her task as a mother.

We see in the next dream the animus relating the woman to the Self. He functions as the guide toward inner truth.

I dreamt I was translating Anglo-Saxon and I came to an extremely difficult passage. It was the second chapter of Matthew, and I came to the second verse. I couldn’t understand it. Then a male voice said to me with absolute authority, “This is your lodestar. ” I woke up. -female dreamer

In this case it is a male voice, but very often in the dreams of women, male angels direct the dreamer. If you think of the French saint Joan of Arc, for instance, she was guided by the archangel Michael, who advised her in her political and heroic career. That is the positive animus, whom I would call an innermost instinctive awareness of the inner truth, a basic inner truthfulness which guides the spiritual woman in her individuation toward becoming her own self. That is the opposite to the negative animus who is a big swindler.

She is occupied in translating the Christian revelation into her own psychological set-up and language. The translating is a process of assimilation, of understanding the revelation in her own way instead of just believing what she’s been told. And there she has difficulty with the passage, “That’s your lodestar.”

When I woke up I looked up the passage in the Bible and it read, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. ” And then I looked up the word lodestar in the dictionary and found that lodestar is a guiding star, a star on which one fixes all one’s hopes and attention, and it acts as a magnet for the soul that’s following it. -dreamer

The lodestar means the guiding star, like the star of Bethlehem, to which it afterwards alludes quite clearly. It is that passage which alludes to the star of Bethlehem which guided the kings toward the newborn child, Jesus. We have already seen in the dream of Gilgamesh that the guiding star is the principle of individuation. It’s that which guides one toward the absolute individual meaning of one’s own individual life, one’s innermost divine or cosmic destiny. The dreamer has difficulty finding the meaning of that lodestar, but then she discovers it in Matthew 2:2, which alludes to the star of Bethlehem. It’s a star which indicates a divine birth.

In antiquity one always thought that if a new bright star appeared in the sky, a future ruler or wise man would appear on earth who would save mankind. And that is behind the story of the star of Bethlehem. So the dream tells her that though she still has difficulties understanding, she will in her innermost being find that the Christ is born within her own soul. The Christ child represents the saving factor which is born within oneself. We are not divine, but we are the stable in which something divine is born.

Once a woman has become conscious of this newfound masculine spirit in her, once she has identified that energy and feels it within herself, is there not a danger that by developing her masculine side, say by pursuing a professional career, her femininity may suffer? It seems like a very delicate balance.

Well, certainly a woman should be educated and have a career, but she should not be possessed by it. She should not be carried away by it. Otherwise she loses her feminine identity. But if she keeps her feminine identity, then her career adds a spiritual dimension of activity, intelligence, and willpower to her personality, all positive qualities. It makes her into a personality. Jung was always very much in favor of women studying. He said that women who don’t have a career or study or have a profession have generally a very negative animus. They lead a seemingly feminine life at home as mothers and householders, but their masculinity sours, turns negative, and the women use it to torture their husbands. It’s much better to occupy the animus. Then he makes less mischief.

The masculinity in women is just as exceedingly positive as it is negative. It’s only in certain aspects negative when women don’t know how to relate to it with wisdom. A woman who has no animus has no pep, no enterprise, no intelligence, no initiative. She is a very poor creature. She is just a womb producing children and a hand cooking in the kitchen. A woman without an animus is nothing. So the animus is an exceedingly positive thing. It is the intelligence. It is the spiritual longing. The whole spirituality of women is connected with the animus. So you can say that in a woman, the animus, her masculine side, extends from Devil to Holy Ghost. ~The Way of the Dream, Page  185