Dream: Atonement with the Father

Dream: Atonement with the Father August 21, 2011

I had this dream last night.  It was extremely vivid and I woke up very distressed.  Since I remember less than a percent of my dreams, and this one seems particularly important, I am going to share it here.  Also, about a week ago I completed a week long ritual that I hoped would provoke a symbolic dream for me.

There was a prelude to the dream: I was in a cave like place, brightly lit by fires.  On the floor of the cave were potholes leading down to an expansive sewer system.  Some kind of secret rebel group was planning on having a secret meeting down in the sewer tunnels.  I was surprised to learn that there were large rooms down in the sewer system.  But the tunnels were flooding.  The water was coming up through the manholes.  Also, there was some kind of animal, a lioness or other large wild cat, running loose and trying to attack me, and I was evading it and throwing rocks at it.

In Jungian terms, the cave and the sewer tunnels symbolized an entrance to the underworld.  The flooding (water/flood = the Biblical Tehom/Abyss = female, mother, unconscious, goddess, womb/tomb) symbolized the unconscious coming up into the consciousness (i.e., in the form of the dream).  The wild cat was a classic guardian at the entrance to the underworld, which had to be evaded or defeated to win the revelation.

So, here was the main dream.  I was having a conversation with my mother.  I was remembering something she had told me in the past, which didn’t seem important then, but suddenly was as I was remembering it and it was very important.  She had told me that my biological father had died and was replaced by his twin.  My biological father had an identical twin.  Although outwardly identical, his twin was biologically deformed, having grown like a polyp from the side of my biological father.  When they were born, the twin was sent to live in some kind of commune for such deformities, like in cultures where dwarf babies are sent away.  But at some point early in my childhood my biological father died and my mother and my father’s family sought out the twin and replaced my biological father.

I asked my mother about this, and she was concerned that I wanted to know about the people who had raised him, who were a secret.  But I wanted to know about my father and his twin.  She left, and when she returned, she returned with the man I had believed was may father, but was actually the twin.  I had wanted to explore this with my mother without confronting my adoptive father and I was angry at her.  My mother and my adoptive father presented me with some old historical documents which explained his story.

One of the details that came out in the documents was that my adoptive father’s name was not John.  John was my biological father’s name and my own name.  My adoptive father’s name was actually Albert.  (I later looked this up and “Albert” means “noble and bright”, which is curious since Albert was the “dark twin” in my dream.)  After reading that I felt overwhelmed with the revelation and woke up in distress.  It took me several minutes to fully accept that the dream had not been real.

I have no doubt the dream was influenced by three things.  First, my mother called last night.  I don’t usually speak with her, but she had called using my sister’s phone, so I answered it thinking it was my sister.  Second, I actually do feel like my father is psychologically “deformed” (that’s probably too strong a word) in a way, in that he either does not feel or he does not recognize (more likely) the spiritual life as I know it.  And I have been feeling a need to connect with him in a way that he is incapable of (i.e., spiritually).  Third, just before going to sleep last night, I was reading the first few pages of a book called Growing Up Jung, an autobiography of a man who was raised by two Jungian therapists.  One part begins with a quote from the father saying to the son: “That’s good that I died in your dream.  It means you are integrating your inner father and becoming more independent.”

So my dream was about my disconnection with my real father, like the teenager that fantasizes they were adopted.  And it is a message about integrating my inner father (John my father/John my self).  The at-one-ment with the father is one of the stages in Joseph Campbell’s monomythic descent of the hero into the underworld.  I could not have imagined a more archetypal dream.  But I am unclear as to what it means for me.  How am I to find the deceased father-twin?  How am I to attain atonement with him?

I don’t know yet.  But it does occur to me that this dream relates directly to the quote from Joseph Campbell that I was led to on the first day of my Descensus Averni ritual:

“Now it appears that the perilous journey was a labor not of attainment but of reattainment, not discovery but rediscovery. The godly powers sought and dangerously won are revealed to have been within the heart of the hero all the time. He is “the king’s son” who has come to know who he is and therewith has entered into the exercise of his proper power—’God’s son,’ who has learned to know how much that title means. From this point of view the hero is symbolical of that divine creative and redemptive image which is hidden within us all, only waiting to be known and rendered into life.”

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