Part 3 of DreamWork: A Soulcentric Approach

DreamWork is a section of the Real Imaginal online magazine, dedicated to the re-enchantment of Neptune.

The planetary archetype of Neptune engenders dreams and dreaming, both in the sense of the states of consciousness experienced during sleep and those more diffuse, permeable and unfocused of the dayworld, in which imagery and fantasy seep into our ordinary or everyday consciousness. In DreamWork, we will explore various ideas about and experiences of dreaming, with an open mind which honors Neptune’s infinite ocean of potentiality, and the seemingly inexhaustible variegation of meaning contained within imagery itself.

DreamWork honors dreams as a potent way of engaging with the imaginal realms, the archetypal and creative, and dreams may even provide a portal to conversation with the vast Earth Community, the greater-than-human world. The field of ecopsychology honors dreams as a doorway to place, a way of connecting our inner geography with the outer topography of Home, our planet Earth, through our shared depths of psyche.

This is the final installment of the DreamWork: A Soulcentric Approach series, in which we explore the soulcentric orientation to dreams set forth by the depth ecopsychologist Bill Plotkin. Its main principle—which can be challenging—requires setting aside the primacy of the ego, that conscious sense of self which seeks to narrate our individual lives, in order to listen for a more profound patterning, an often strange or foreign nibbling of longing and desire emerging from a deeper dimension. In the soulcentric approach, we are invited to a conversation with soul, which promises to disrupt the middleworld ambitions and opinions of our ordinary sense of self and personal trajectory.[1]

Continuing with the dreamwork experience recounted in Part 2, in which a series ofNavarro River Trees April 2015 synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) led me to live beside a river of which I first dreamed, I notice here the temptation to assign myself—my ego—all the agency. As if these are “my dreams,” as if I knew all along what was going to happen if I ever met this river. In fact, it took me several months to recognize the dream river as the Navarro River, alongside which I came to live for about 18 months. The trees were what alerted me to the connection, by eliciting the same feeling tone as in the dreams.

Were these dreams really only “mine?” I ask myself, “Was the river dreaming about me?” Had I entered its dreams as an unknown apparition, a prophecy bearing some portent of its future? The soulcentric perspective allows that all things dream, for our world is seen as sentient, permeated with certain sensitivities and awareness. Soul is not conceived as merely a human-bound phenomenon, but a feature of our living cosmos.[2] Given the remarkable revelatory effect of listening in deeply to the voices of dream beings, feeling states and images, this seems a reasonable observation. Though we certainly can (and often do) put words in the mouths of images, assigning meaning from our own limited perspective, the effect upon consciousness is not nearly as profound as when we remain in a stance of curiosity, not-knowing and alterity (being different from the image, being other than the feeling state). A deeper communication can occur, as we allow a different perspective to enter, and it may in fact be that the intelligence appearing in dreams is sometimes other than one’s own.

Hendy Woods yellow flowerPsychologist Carol Gilligan offers the notion that “Speaking depends on listening and being heard; it is an intensely relational act.”[3] Perhaps soulcentric dreamwork in some small way contributes to the revitalization of the human-planet relationship, for listening to and hearing the voices of others speaking through dream magnifies their presence in the human community, as well as magnifying the human presence in the greater Earth Community. Providing an audience, being a receptacle for the dreaming of the Earth may strengthen the bonds of the human with the other-than-human, but it may also strengthen the voices of those others, whose presences are dimmed by industrial growth societies’ ecocidal race to outcompete all species, including eventually the human. As much as our physical survival is bound up in the well-being of the other-than-human, so our psychic integrity is integral with the psyche of Earth and of cosmos.[4] Such an expanded notion of psyche is familiar to those initiated in astrology, for astrology provides a means of listening and responding to the archetypal voices of our solar system, and the voices of all those beings who form the body of the Earth are no less important. Attuning to the forms of speech and modes of communication of the other-than-human may well form part of an evolutionary survival strategy to liberate those voices whose silencing creates a divide between the industrialized human and the living matrix upon which it is entirely dependent.

Bill Plotkin suggests, “Perhaps we would say that we are each being dreamed by the Earth (and Universe) and that our dreaming and the dreaming of all the Others are influencing one another and that together we are all not only participating in the dream of the Earth, but each one of us (human or otherwise) is helping to move that dream forward (and into manifestation).”[5] Responding to the dreaming of the Earth and of the universe, however, is not always terribly simple and carries with it a moral weightiness as well as a delightful levity, a chance to adventure. As a potential opening into greater self-knowledge (which explicitly recognizes that the “Self” is intimately connected with all beings), agreeing to accept a role in the dream of the Earth is not unlike the sincere embodiment of the astrological perspective in one’s life. We may recognize a Saturn transit and shrink from its demands, finding someone to blame or refusing to allow necessary suffering its place in the drama of life, or we may accept a deeper truth, excavate our deeper values, reflect on the belonging and kinship which emerge out of our limitations and interdependency with life and society. Participating in the phenomenon called Earth, the phenomenon called cosmos, opens the way for the many voices, the many beings and bodies of life to speak to and through us, to realize our destiny in community.

Navarro River April 2015
The Navarro River at River’s Bend, April 2015

What are my responsibilities to the being called the Navarro River, I wonder? How do I reciprocate to this ecosystem, who has given me so much in my short time there? I maintain an altar to the river deity Oshun, who in dreams negotiated the invitation of the Navarro, and I offer praise to her every day, that the beauty, joy, celebration—all the wonderful things that make life worth living, which she is held to contribute to this cosmos—may they never be forgotten! May Oshun always be remembered by our daily acts of generosity, enjoying our embodiment, sensuality and sexual natures in healthy and life-affirming ways, and caring for the honeybees!—that the sweetness of Oshun’s honey forever bless our lips. What praise by way of daily acts do I yet owe the Navarro River? Though I have now departed its physical shores, we remain connected through the fabric of the imaginal, the fabric of space-time and I must ask and answer this question with my body, and not with abstract thinking alone, for the imaginal asks us for life, not for conjecture nor for conceptualization, but for a living, breathing, loving presence animating this Earth Community.

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[1] Bill Plotkin: “By upperworld, middleworld, and underworld, I don’t mean geographical or cosmological locations but three realms of consciousness, or three domains of human life or identity, roughly corresponding to spirit, ego, and soul, respectively” (p. 43, Nature and the Human Soul). Astrologically, these realms roughly correspond to the planetary archetypes of Neptune, Saturn and Pluto, respectively, though their boundary lines are not sharply drawn and these archetypes may, as always, interpenetrate and appear in complex forms with any other planetary archetype. For example, the Moon may be easily associated with upperworld, middleworld and underworld, by virtue of its pervasive and often invisible presence throughout all domains of consciousness.

[2] Bill Plotkin: “By soul, I mean a thing’s ultimate place in the world. I use the word thing to embrace the fact that every thing has a particular place in the world and therefore has a soul — all creatures, objects, events, and relationships.” Nature and the Human Soul, p. 30

[3] Carol Gilligan. In a Different Voice, p. xvi.

[4] A main premise of ecopsychology is that the psychological well-being of the human is intimately related to the well-being of the natural world, such that humans experience distress in witnessing environmental degradation.

[5] Personal communication, April 19, 2015.

1 thought on “DreamWork {1.3}

  1. I love what you share about dreams, stars, imagination and ecology, reminding us of the woven world we all belong to, trees, stars, humans, bones and bears alike. Thank you!

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