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The Way of the Dream by Marie-Louise von Franz

Dr. von Franz, do you feel there’s a relationship between the constellation of stars in the sky and the destiny of individuals or even of mankind?

The constellations in the sky represent the background constellations of great historical events, as if in our deep unconscious we are not isolated, but we are somehow linked up with the whole of mankind and mankind is dreaming an ongoing dream. This is what accounts for the changes in politics and religions.

If you think for a moment how much the outlook of mankind has changed in just the last thirty years, you will see how quickly such big collective changes take place. Naturally, intelligent human beings reflect upon the deeper processes behind outer historical events. To look at the sky could therefore be seen as the dreamer looking at the deeper constellations not only of his own personal life but also of our society. The word constellation itself comes from the word stella and therefore means star togetherness, mankind together with the stars.

He needs an orientation: “Where am I in this time? What is my task?” So he looks up to the sky and sees all those beautiful planet constellations, especially Jupiter and Saturn, which are very close together. Now, the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn has a long history. It occurred twenty times quite close to the birth of Christ, actually seven years before Christ was born, according to historical tradition.

Now, Saturn, as is well known, is an evildoer. Scorpions, serpents, the donkey, and so on, belong to his realm. He is a dark, destructive spirit. Jupiter, on the other hand, is in general the star of the kings, of the King of Justice, of worldly expansion, of magnanimity and all the positive qualities of a royal personality. Christianity was thought to have originated in a time of these extreme contrasts coming together, the dark and the light and the body and the spirit. Everything was torn apart into enormous opposites and conflicts. The whole idea was that the age of Christianity would be characterized first by the domination of Christ, the Jupiter spirit, and then by the anti-Christ, the Saturn spirit.

The combination of Saturn and the moon (which we will have in the next dream) was seen as predicting a time of revolution, great religious doubt and change. So when he looks for the constellation of this particular time and also of his own life, the dream tells the dreamer that there is a combination of extreme opposites. It is a moment of change in which destructive and constructive forces are constellated simultaneously.

In the dream he is only impressed by the beauty of the nocturnal scene, and proposes to leave the car and go for a walk. This is a big step forward, however, for he gives up his car, his mechanical way of moving through life. When you walk, you are slowed down and in much closer touch with nature. You go step by step; you feel the country; you feel the earth; you feel the trees and the air around you. That is the positive change which comes about from this vision of the sky.

This idea of finding his orientation in the night sky is repeated in his second dream of the same night.

The moon in historical tradition was always looked upon as dominating the transient, changeable world. There were also the masculine, eternal constellations, the realm of the Platonic ideas, so to speak, where nothing changed, or changed only through very long historical processes. But the moon was an ever-changing, feminine constellation .

It ruled over the menstruation of women, birth and death on earth, over the animals, the tides, and so on.

The prominence of the moon in the sky in this dream can be seen as reflecting a collective situation, namely, the coming up of the feminine archetype. A typical characteristic of our time is the emergence of a strong feminine element. It can be seen both in the liberation of women and also in the psychology of men. That is shown in the dream by the fact that the moon is now dominant.

And the three stars that are shining through the moon?

I would think that the three stars represent the Christian Trinity, which are three male divine powers from which the fourth element, the moon, the feminine, has been excluded. When the Christian tradition is characterized as being purely patriarchal and purely spirit-oriented, it does not include the feminine, the earth, the body-the element which is now coming up.

Then the dreamer looks closer, and he sees that the three stars are behind the moon, as if they had disappeared behind the moon and the moon is now covering them up. They are still shining through, however. It is only that the moon is now in the forefront, so to speak. That would mean that the feminine is now moving into the foreground. The Christian Trinity is not eclipsed, but it has to step into the background behind the feminine principle of the moon. The moon when it is new or nearly eclipsed is very close to the sun, which means that the feminine principle which is coming up is not to dominate as the masculine has done before, but rather that it is striving to be in connection with the masculine, to have a conjunction of sun and moon.

He associates, in the dream, the outline of the full moon and the dividing line that indicates where the new moon actually is shining with the yin-yang symbol, the well-known symbol of the play of opposites in Taoistic philosophy. In that case, the dark side would be dominant, though it is about to topple over into the light side. That would be, so to speak, the crucial moment when the dark side, which has been dominant in our time, is about to give way to a new light.

For this type of intellectual man, tasks of everyday life-cooking, sewing, looking after the kitchen, money, and so on-are a heavy burden, and sand generally carries the association of meaninglessness, sterile, earthly things. So, for him, up till now, the earth is meaningless and sterile, a bother, so to speak, which he drags along but would like to avoid. That had probably been his father’s problem and has now become his. It is as if the dream says, “That problem of your father is with you too. You too have this problem.”

His father is unloading sand from a truck. That would mean more of the sand is coming. The heaps and heaps of earthly things which he will have to deal with are going to accumulate. This is due to the fact that the moon now dominates the scene. Now the feminine, the changing world of the body, is important. Now he has to attend to his physical life.

The situation in the dream has to do with the fact that the dreamer is a professor who has obviously a brilliant, far-sighted mind. He is someone who doesn’t bother about little things, but goes directly to the essentials of the problem in his field of modem literature. But he himself is terribly confined within that spaceship; his thumbs, in particular, are tied. He can hardly move, and it feels suddenly terribly uncomfortable.

The thumb, if you think of the fairy-tale character of the dumbling, is the dwarf of the fingers and has mainly to do with creativity, with creative fantasy. Up till now he has obviously confined his own creativity. Perhaps he should become a writer on his own instead of studying the writing of other people, or in some other way become more artistically creative.

The dumbling or the thumb is also the trickster. It is a spirit which enjoys its freedom and plays tricks on the dominating bourgeois world. This side, the trickster side, the mischievous, creative side of his personality, has been completely confined, probably because of his professional situation, and it should now be liberated.

So he suddenly realizes that he is confined in his intellectual realm, that the air high up in university circles is very thin to breathe, and that his creativity is hampered. The positive message he receives from the dream is in the last sentence. The last sentence is always the solution, if there is a solution. He realizes he has to come down to earth. He has to leave the spaceship and return to earth.

How does the dream address the dreamer’s unique, individual psyche, as well as the much larger collective problem of the feminine principle in our time?

The dream first answers questions which he must have had in his conscious mind, deep questions: “What is the situation of our time? In what kind of age do we live?” Naturally with his interest in literature he is concerned with these questions because the whole of modern literature keeps asking them. And, as poets have also always been prophets, there is a secret longing to look in modern literature for the signs of the time. The dream deals with that, answers that, and only toward the end returns to his life situation. It makes an excursion into the situation of our time to say that the feminine-the body, the earthly, the ever-changing material world-is now becoming important. It has to be lovingly attended to. And then the dream focuses on him personally, “And for you that means you should come out of your spaceship and return to earth. ”

The dream closely parallels the dream of King Gilgamesh we looked at earlier. Would you say that this modem dreamer faces a similar life situation to Gilgamesh?

Like Gilgamesh, the dreamer of this modern dream is also in the situation where the first half of his life has been fulfilled and he now is looking to the sky for orientation. The first thing he sees is the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. It tells him that he belongs to the age of extreme opposites and that Saturn, the animal man, and Jupiter, the spiritual man, are in opposition, as they are in Christianity.

Then in the second dream he sees the moon, the feminine principle, and after that he realizes suddenly that he is in a spaceship and has to come down to Earth. We can say that this realization at the end of his dream, that he has to come down to Earth, is exactly what Gilgamesh had to realize after the star had fallen upon him. Namely, he had to realize and make friends with the earthly man, who, in the Gilgamesh Epic, first attacked Gilgamesh. They had a battle before becoming friends and going off on their heroic journey together. So we can expect that this dreamer will now have to meet the earthly man alluded to in the figure of his father, who is carrying a sack of sand. This sack is the load of earthly tasks and bodily existence which the dreamer must integrate into his own life before he can go on to fulfill his fate.

His fate will have to do with an integration of the feminine principle, which is the moon. That fate is different from the Gilgamesh epic. At that time, the matriarchal world of unconsciousness had to be over­ come by the hero. Nowadays, some four thousand years later, the situation is reversed. The feminine principle has to be integrated, not overcome. But, in both situations, the star and the appearance of the star have to do with trying to read or realize the unique meaning of one’s own importance within the cosmos.

We are just a particle of dust, somewhere living on a particle of dust, somewhere in the cosmic universe. If we look with scientific and collective standards at our life, it is completely transient and meaningless. But if we look within and we look at the stars, then we come to realize that within that cosmic infinity, we have a unique task to fulfill, which we generally experience as what we call the meaning of our life. ~The Way of the Dream, Page 109-118