There are, and always have been, those who cannot help but see that the world and its experiences are in the nature of a symbol, and that it reflects something that lies hidden in the subject himself.
~C. G. Jung
To quote Jung, “Occasionally reality is quite as archetypal as human fantasy, and sometimes the soul seems to ‘imagine things outside the body,’ where they fall to playing as they do in our dreams.” We are living in a time in which the deeper archetypal, mythic patterns underlying human consciousness are incarnating themselves through us and thereby becoming visible so as to be seen and integrated. We are living in a moment in which we, as a species, are being asked to recognize our active participation and responsibility in calling forth what is happening in our world. The universe is symbolically reflecting back to us that we are all collaboratively dreaming up our world together, and that the simple waking up to this fact is the very act that initiates a resolution of our collective world crisis.
Something profound becomes revealed when our current world situation is viewed AS IF it is a dream that we are all collaboratively dreaming up into materialization together. Seen as a ‘mass shared dream,’ this universe is recognized to be speaking to us not literally but symbolically, which is the language of dreams. Seeing the universe as a dream allows the universe to resume its revelatory function and wake us up. Seeing this universe as a dream immediately transforms it to be more dreamlike, as this universe is nothing other than an embodied reflection of our own consciousness projected outside of ourselves.
To see the symbolic dimension of existence is to not be fully immersed in the literal interpretation of reality, but rather to recognize that there is a deeper pattern that underlies what is playing out in our world. Seeing symbolically doesn’t negate the literal dimension of reality but rather complements and completes it. The literal and symbolic interpenetrate each other so fully that they are inseparable parts of a greater whole. What manifests literally in and as the ‘real world’ is simultaneously expressing the symbolic. And the symbolic aspect of reality is at the same time potentially affecting the literal. This means that the way to accomplish lasting change in this world, literally, is through awareness of the symbolic dimension. This is why Jung spent his whole life fighting for the “reactivation of symbolic thinking.”
Awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality, or the symbolic dimension of existence is to realize that events in our world are actually lower level shadows or reflections of a higher-dimensional reality. What is playing out on the world stage is an expression of a deeper process that we have gotten drafted into and is acting itself out through us. There is a deeper process that is incarnating itself through us, and it is expressing and revealing itself symbolically.
The symbolic dimension of this waking dream of ours is an expression of the interplay between the dreamer (which is us) and the dreamscape (the seemingly external world). The dreamer and the dream are not separate, but are indivisible and interactive parts of a greater unified field. The dreamer and the dreamscape mutually reflect and affect each other in a synchronistic, cybernetic feedback loop. The dreamer and the dreamed reciprocally in-form each other, co-arising simultaneously. The symbolic script of our universe is truly a revelation that is being mutually dreamed up by all of us, in and as the present moment. Crystallizing out of this interplay between us and our universe comes a symbol, and the symbol is in the form of our universe. This symbol is like a bridge, and it comes in the form of the very events in our world that precipitate out of this interplay. It requires a higher faculty of consciousness to recognize that our universe is in the form of a living, breathing symbol, and this higher-dimensional sense organ is our divine creative imagination.
The symbols that are arising in this waking dream of ours are not ‘objective’ or separate from ourselves, as if they come from ‘out there.’ The symbolic dimension of reality is something that we are not passively watching but are actively creating and participating in. The symbolic dimension of reality is ‘self-secret,’ in that it simultaneously veils and reveals itself to all who have eyes to see. Christ’s “kingdom of heaven” IS the symbolic dimension. The symbolic dimension is visible for all who have opened the eye of their creative imagination, which is why Christ says in the Gospels of Thomas, “The kingdom is spread all over earth and people just don’t see it.”
We are not separate from the universe. The universe that is speaking symbolically is not separate from our consciousness which is observing it. As quantum physics points out, the way we observe the universe cannot be separated out from the universe that we are observing. There is a mysterious, non-local correspondence between us and our universe, which is another way of saying that we are not separate from the universe. The hidden, intimate interplay between ourselves and our universe expresses and articulates itself as the symbolic dimension of reality.
How we interpret the universe crystallizes the universe into a symbol that reflects back to us our interpretation. The symbol is simultaneously both an embodiment of the unconscious as well as the liberator of the unconscious. The deeper symbolic process that is unfolding in and as our universe is showing us how the meaning we place on the ink blot of our universe has a reality-creating effect on the way our universe manifests. Our symbolic awareness itself is revealing to us that it is through activating symbolic awareness that we can actually change reality, in a very real sense, and in real time, the present moment.
To quote the Apocryphal Acts of John, “…the Lord contrived all things symbolically and by a dispensation towards men, for their conversion and salvation.” When we see symbolically, we realize that this universe is like an alarm clock that has been trying to wake itself up through us. When we awaken to the symbolic dimension of existence, we discover that we can literally dream up our universe in such a way as to wake ourselves up, a process that I call dreaming ourselves awake. The universe is dreaming itself awake, and it is dreaming itself awake through the most awake and visionary among us.
To quote Jung, “There are, and always have been, those who cannot help but see that the world and its experiences are in the nature of a symbol, and that it reflects something that lies hidden in the subject himself.” The nature of the symbolic dimension continually unfolding through events in our world is that it is our own inner process magically appearing to us in hidden symbolic form in, through and as the outside world. In other words, our inner process manifests itself not only inwardly, but is able to change channels, so to speak, and arrange and attract events in the outside world so as to symbolically give shape and form to itself. Realizing the symbolic dimension of our existence is to recognize this correlation between the inner and the outer. This realization is exactly what Christ meant when he said in the Gospel of Thomas, “You enter the kingdom when you make the inner as the outer.”
To say this universe is speaking symbolically is to say that what is appearing on the world stage is synchronistically reflecting back what is going on deep inside the collective psyche of all of humanity. What is unfolding on the world stage IS nothing other than the ‘World Soul’ playing itself out in real time and in solid flesh and blood. Events in our world are a symbolic embodied reflection of an archetypal process going on deep inside all of us that we have literally projected outside of ourselves and dreamed up into incarnation in, through and as this world of ours. It is like a deeper part of ourselves is speaking to us in a symbolic language that is encoded in events in our life.
To the extent that we insist on dreaming up events in our world unconsciously, however, we will continue to destroy ourselves. Becoming conscious of the symbolic dimension is the very thing that this universe is reflecting back to us that we need to do, and it is concurrently showing us how to. Encoded, in hidden symbolic form in what is playing out in the literal dimension (the real world) is the key to re-solve our real world problems. Awakening to symbolic awareness is the very means through which we can change our world, literally. What this means is that the way to resolve our current world crisis lies nowhere other than in a collective expansion of consciousness Our current world crisis is the projected footprint in time of a planetary awakening, and it not only portends the awakening, but activates it as well. The agency through which this awakening happens is our own consciousness.
To recognize that our inner process is manifesting in, through and as the outer world is equivalent to recognizing that we are dreaming. Becoming lucid in our waking dream means to recognize that our inner process has projected itself outside of ourselves and is manifesting itself as the world we are living in. This waking dream is recognized to be our mirrored reflection, as it is the unmediated expression of, and indivisible from our inner process. The boundary collapses between inner and outer, and our inner process is recognized to be expressing itself through the medium of the outside world. The boundary between not only inner and outer, but between dreaming and waking has dissolved.
What is happening in our world right now is analogous to when Buddha (which means ‘the awakened one’) was meditating under the bodhi tree right before he attained enlightenment and the forces of ‘Mara,’ the evil one, came to attack him. Seen as Buddha’s dream, Mara was none other than a part of Buddha’s own consciousness that got dreamed up to play out this role. From one point of view Mara seems like an adversary who was an obstacle to enlightenment and who was ‘evil.’ And yet, without Mara, Buddha wouldn’t have developed the muscle of realization, so to speak, to attain enlightenment. In other words, Mara was secretly an ally, helping to initiate and propel Buddha into his realization, which he was unable to have without Mara’s challenge. From this point of view, Mara was actually a blessing in a very convincing disguise that he was not.
A symbol both expresses (reflects) and simultaneously activates (effects) a potential expansion of consciousness. A symbol unites the opposites as it helps us to re-integrate, re-associate, and re-member. Seen as a part of Buddha’s dream, Mara was a genuine symbol in that he brought together and united the deepest evil and highest Godhead in one being. This same insight is expressed in alchemy: the highest God is the trickster figure Mercury, who is the evil one himself co-joined with the highest divinity. A true ‘coincidentia oppositorum,’ a symbol that unites the opposites. The appearance of Mara is a ‘re-conciling symbol’ in that it re-presents, reveals and potentially actualizes the state of consciousness in which the deepest evil produces the highest good.
When we contemplate Mara as a symbol in Buddha’s dreaming process, we realize that in a very real sense the figure of Mara is symbolically expressing itself in our collective dream, too. What is playing out on the world stage is analogous to Mara’s attack on Buddha, in that events in our world are literally challenging us, demanding us to expand our consciousness. What is happening on the world stage is clearly an initiation process that we have all dreamed up together. Seen as a dreaming process, we are all dreaming up the universe to prod us and push us off the cliff into realization, so to speak. We clearly aren’t jumping off the precipice by our own volition, so just like Buddha we are dreaming up the universe to propel us over our edge. Just like Mara was tailor-suited to what Buddha needed to wake up, what is happening on the world stage is exactly what we need to catapult us into a collective spiritual awakening unable to manifest until this very moment in time.
When we recognize the symbolic figure of Mara that is playing out in our world, we realize that the evil that is incarnating in our world is potentially furthering the evolution of our species. Whether the evil in our world destroys us or transforms us is dependent upon if enough of us collectively wake up to the dreamlike nature of our situation in time. The events that are happening on the world stage are the very medium through which we realize we are all collaboratively dreaming up our universe. This realization is itself the very expansion of consciousness that Mara is an expression of.
What is playing out on the world stage are the labor pains of a deeper part of our being that is incarnating itself in, through and as us. We are both midwives of this birth while simultaneously being midwived ourselves by the universe. Just like in human birth, the contractions are the most intense right before the emergence of the new being. This deeper part of ourselves is using events in our world as the birth canal through which to become conscious of itself. This deeper part of ourselves is symbolically communicating to itself through us, and we are asked to recognize and consciously participate in this process so as to become the conduit through which this process of integration becomes actualized.
Realizing the dreamlike nature of reality collapses the boundary between spirit and matter, as matter has become ‘spiritualized’ (blessed) and spirit has become materialized (incarnate). The magnum opus, or great work of alchemy, was to free the spirit that was imprisoned in matter. This is analogous to freeing the part of ourselves that is embedded and trapped in the mind of dogma, of materialism, and of viewing things literally instead of symbolically. It is to step out of linear-mindedness into the realization that the universe is an interactive, acausal feedback loop that is truly a work in progress. It is to realize that we are multi-dimensional creative artists and dreamers whose tool is the divine imagination and whose canvas is life itself. We play a crucial role in the divine incarnation process, as we are the instrument through which the Goddessence becomes aware of and re-conciles the opposites intrinsic to its nature.
To wake up to the dreamlike nature of reality is to symbolically ‘kill’ the mythic Cronos, the negative father, who is father time (linear time). To symbolically slay the negative patriarchy, who is a figure who abuses power over others simply because he can, is to find ourselves sin-cronos, or in synchronistic time, where time is experienced as a radial matrix whose center is now. This is to symbolically ‘die’ (to the sense of being a ‘separate-self’ alien from the universe) and to be reborn in and as spirit, interconnected and at one with all beings. This is to be fully released into and as the present moment, which is the access point through which we connect with our true power to consciously change the dream we are having.
It requires a higher faculty of consciousness to recognize that our universe is in the form of a living, breathing symbol. Our divine creative imagination is the supra-sensory organ that transubstantiates the mundane empirical data of this world into its real but hidden form as symbolic epiphany. To quote Jung, “I am indeed convinced that creative imagination is the only primordial phenomenon accessible to us, the real Ground of the psyche, the only immediate reality.”
As quantum physics has realized, the world is not separate from our consciousness of it. Noted physicist John Wheeler says, “I do take one hundred percent seriously that the world is a figment of the imagination.”[i] This dream-like universe is a living oracle, a continually unfolding revelation that is a reflection of, and not separate from, our own consciousness. Once we realize this, we discover that, both literally, as well as symbolically, we can put our lucidity together and consciously dream up the universe so as to wake ourselves up. What better thing could we imagine doing than that?
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Paul is also a visionary artist and a spiritually-informed political activist. He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis,which is available on his website www.awakeninthedream.com. (See the first chapter, The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis). Please feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. © Copyright 2010