Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Dreams And The Underworld

James Hillman on retardation and punctuality in dreams: (following on from the Bookshop dream and it's ambiguities over time and lack of time - to browse):
"If, as Freud said, the underworld knows no time, then punctuality and retardation do not belong there. Yet, these are common experiences in dreams... These emotions of hurried anxiousness need to be read from the image. Then we learn that the dream-ego is terrified of slowness... We learn that images of punctuality are ideal adjustments to the time of others, fixations on the clock that keep the dream-ego ticking. Dream-punctuality shows a dream-ego in accord with daylight consciousness, and retardation shows a dream-ego drifting into the disorientation of underworld timelessness, despite panicked efforts..."
"If the dream does not unfurl in time because the underworld is timeless, then there is nowhere to go with it, in the sense of goal. We have to abandon our hopes for the future when working on it. The dream stops time, and we have to stop too, else it slips into a story and carries us into the stream of time. We can stop time by not reading the dream as a story. Then the dream has no end. This means both that it is not going anywhere else and that it is always going on. A dream is stuck within itself, its actual imagery, and has to be read in terms of what is going on in it. It is stuck within the limits of its framework, like a painting in which nothing comes first and nothing comes later and which is read by articulating and deepening the internal relations of its image."
"By concentrating upon the image in which time is embedded, part of which imagery is number symbolics, we are stressing the quality of time, as did Artemidorus and other ancient dream interpreters who always asked about the hour when the dream took place... time qualities refer to distinct psychic moments: at breakfast, when school is out, after the late show. They present moments of feeling consciousness, matutinal,post-meridional, toward evening and the close of day..."
"I am trying here to regain a feeling for the differences among the hours. They too are mythical persons (Horae), with distinct personalities. Time in dreams refer to regions of the night, places with qualities, like the twelve subterranean domains traversed by the Egyptian sun God in his ship of the night."
Caveat... these quotes come from the paradoxical and insanely tricky chapter "Praxis", in which he warns "Reader beware, this chapter will not tell you what you dreams means..." It also shows Hillman displaying his Neoplatonic side and captures the "feeling" that a dream is essentially about itself.
Interestingly, last year at the John Dee day event hosted by Atlantis bookshop, a "living" alchemist called Gary Nottingham gave a talk on spagyrics, from an entirely "practical" point of view. I asked if he found carrying out all these experiments helped in a psychological way in "dealing with reality". He looked a bit taken aback and said when he was working with a plant "that became his reality." Coincidentally there is a chapter in Nottingham's book "Ars Spagyrica" also called "Praxis".
At the beginning of the chapter is the quote from Paracelsus:
"Let the stars heal the stars".
So perhaps you could say more generally "The Work is about itself". Rather than Jung's "alchemy is like the process of individuation" it might be closer to the truth that dreaming and alchemy are synonymous. The word 'individuation' to me has the etymologically calcified reek of a neologism, a jargon barnacle encrusting the soft matter of the soul.
"The insidious and pathological use of prescription words brings upon a demyelination of the myth making system, a degenerative process ultimately leading to the sclerosis of psyche's potential".
Agrippa's Dictionary of "Word Diseases".

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