Songs of the Soul & the Syren [Dive Sickness]
“Stage Four begins where many modes of therapy end. It is called ‘From Vision to Commitment’. Here is where the insights are tested and reinforced so that the process envisioned can move from the hypothetical or imaginal realm into the phase of intention and then into action. Stage Five entails weaving the new mythology into life. Here a series of practical steps is suggested whereby the inner transformation can be demonstrated in the world… From here on, the process continues both as inner work and as living in the world in a new way, more free of the constrictions of unconscious assumptions.” – Dr. June Singer [Foreword of Personal Mythology: Using Rituals, Dreams, and Imagination to Discover Your Inner Story by Dr. David Feinstein of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Dr. Stanley Krippner]
“I’m walking slow
With a weary mind
She’s dragging me low
I’m falling behind
You got me where you want me
Still I keep on trying
Trying to see through the darkness
Between you and I.”
–Darkness, Tab Benoit
Allow me to further illustrate the facets of depersonalization, which will help provide the framework for the narrative of my personal, impromptu case study. We have addressed some basic psychological definitions of spirit in contrast to the soul, spirit being the contextual energetic output of Descartes’ Cogito, ergo sum. We have also discussed how this has affected the adaptational path of the human being, incremented by archetypes and memes. This is a tangible two-way street of activity between the psychological and the material, but how do we define the parameters of this measurement?
I think, therefore I am, therefore I tend to act. I don’t always act, but I tend to. But what happens when I don’t act instead—and what gauges the two options? Is the human spirit a combination of determinant factors or is it a quality of the soul? Is the soul merely another a determinant factor of some kind?
Depersonalization throws these questions out the window unconsciously. It is the deep-seated unconscious acceptance that the subjective self-concept is an illusion—it doesn’t exist and therefore is inconsequential. If the ego was a sock-puppet, I was trying to take my hand out. Most people experience this throughout their lives in small degrees. There are three major instinctive drives that a human being possesses when handling a threat: flight, flight, or disassociate when the threat can neither be fled from or fought. Depersonalization (which is a specific type of disassociation) is a rejection of the self at its utmost instinctual level. Usually, a person comes down from this state of mind after the event takes place, but a small percentage of the population find their mind maladapting to this depersonalization, thus making it a disorder. Little is known about this disorder in clinical psychiatry, but it is classified all the same. It seems Depersonalization Disorder works similarly to PTSD, having lingering effects on the mind that can be rehabilitated or mitigated over time and therapy. But like PTSD, the experiences radically change the individual.
The psychosocial self-concept becomes nothing. Even things like sleep, appetite, and other natural drives become a faint, distant echo of what they once were. A human deterministically must eat and sleep to stay alive, but there is a big difference between minimum requirements to stay alive, and minimum requirements to thrive in life. The self or ego divorces itself from any equation with the objective. But instead of the ego then taking over entirely, like with psychopathy, the objective becomes the only accepted reality.
The predication in depersonalization is a psychological maladaptation that is borne from trauma in one way or another. It stems from the psyche itself. A chemical imbalance seems to be a side effect of this fractured psyche, and there are likely to be a whole host of contributing factors. The adrenal glands are likely to suffer, and depersonalization is, overall, some sort of modulation of the cerebral cortex, dealing with visual memory, language, and the emotional circuitry.
For a while, I wondered what could have triggered this lapse of depersonalization within me. I wasn’t born with it, and it didn’t happen after one thing specifically, it was a snow-ball effect. However, I can pinpoint one specific primary catalyst. As I have stated before, my upbringing was anxious and so was my family. Along with this, through playing childhood sports I had learned the power of disassociation. No-pain-no-gain was the motto, so learning to block out most of my pain became something I quickly adapted to as a child, and this easily bled into my emotional spectrum. In my case, this was the first major building block of depersonalization.
As a teenager, my parents were unwilling to allow me to smoke cannabis, which I found to help me very much, so instead they started drug-testing me and putting me on pharmaceuticals. I was on antipsychotic (neuroleptic), antianxiety (benzodiazepine), and antidepressant (selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitor) medication. Because of the already swelling existential dilemmas within me, these medications only served to cork the bottle of my madness and imprison it behind bars of chemicals—as if a djinn was being bottled within a lamp.
I took these chemicals for two years before leaving home and detoxing with the help of cannabis, as I have already briefly mentioned, and here I believe that my no-pain-no-gain training kicked into gear. I felt psychically naked without chemicals, like I had no barriers whatsoever between my own mind and the outside world. Everything pressed into me as if I were putty.
My mind was constantly filled with inescapable anxiety, which created an ever-present dark-cloud of anxiety that followed me, and because of this I became quiet and internal. I started brooding a lot, spending more time by myself and ignoring phone calls, et cetera. Without question, I can genuinely pinpoint a large portion of my aggravated symptoms to consumption and then rapid detox from these chemicals. This gave me a shaper inability to superimpose my internal narrative onto the external world. It made my mind ripe for the idea of everything being meaningless and even hallucinatory like a dream.
So, through a flight-or-flight response that was on the fritz, I was reminded of how limiting pain was, and so I disassociated from it. Like a reptile, I shed my skin and found myself radically within a new persona. I never forgot anything that once happened to me—there was no amnesia, I knew I was still the same person I had always been. There was no denial of the things I had done or experienced—but there was an unwillingness to accept them. This is where my total sense of meaningless stemmed from. In order to render my past experiences meaningless, allowing me to adopt a new persona, I had to allow everything to become meaningless—past, present, future. Most of these decisions were entirely unconscious, but sometimes vaguely conscious in ways I did not understand.
With that in mind, the original question still remains. What is that decision-gauge in the brain? This is the question of the soul and of free-will, both of which are predicated on the other. They aren’t exactly the same thing, but they cannot be separated because of their existential implications. This has become perhaps more of a pressing intellectual debate now than ever before, with the atheist-scientific philosophies like that of Sam Harris and Susan Blackmore, and the theological-scientific philosophies of the Carl Jung, Viktor Frankl, and their contemporaries like Jordan Peterson. The fascinating thing is that these camps of philosophy are easily more similar than they are not, but they are both predicated on a different basis.
The atheist-scientific predication is that the subjective is essentially nothing other than an adaptation. Even existential concepts of meaning, spirituality, and philosophy are merely ideas that inevitably bubble out of us like a state of friction naturally creating heat as byproduct. It is utter determinism—things only exist as an ever-expanding byproduct. This ever-expanding byproduct is what the existentialists call spirit. It exists whether or not a person uses this term.
The existentialist philosophy argues merely that these things are not simply subjective fantasies. Personal meaning, spirituality, and subjectivity are not just meaningless byproducts of the adaptation process. Both religious and philosophical ideologies have produced symbolism and allegory that actually—in certain cases—represent biological models that permeate through to the psychological unconscious. This permeation of the archetype, and the fact that anything permeates implies a soul.
It should be made clear that free will is not the same as a person’s active thought process. Free will is not a person merely deciding to do something. It is true that a person’s thoughts and actions are essentially byproducts of a vast network of unconscious motivations—but this is not where the investigation should end. There is much more to be considered. A person is not merely a network of unconscious motives, and there needs to be something that ties these unconscious motives together. Allegorically, free will exists through a bargain-exchange with the unconscious.
The soul is philosophically akin to dark matter—it is theorized not because humans can observe dark matter, but because they can mathematically deduce it in their models. Here, the science of psychology simply must accept the predication of the soul through the mere deduction of the models. I think the only reason scientific atheists even denounce the concept of soul is simply because they choose to call it something else. What I am arguing is that the soul categorically can be observed—it’s just a matter of whether this too is deterministic or not. The atheists argue that it is. The existentialists argue that it isn’t. The contents of this novel are here to argue that there is something beyond determinism. Determinism is not invalid, but its crux is ill-founded, hastily compiled.
Both subjectively and objectively, chaos theory plays a critical role in the unfoldment the known cosmos. And, naturally implied by the fractal, the whole is in the one and the one in the whole. Chaos theory seems to imply that human consciousness can be explained as a fractal of the cosmos deterministically. But this raises more questions than answers, and even this is still determinism. It doesn’t answer the question of the soul. It could, and the ancient spiritualists meant exactly for this allegory to explain the relevance of the individual soul, but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily true.
But, as Viktor Frankl once famously wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” [p. 63, Man’s Search for Meaning] This choice is the centrifuge of spiritual output, that which creates the friction to produce the heat of the spirit. This is the soul—never mind the considerations of any afterlife or judgement. This is psychology. The addict deciding the get clean and then staying clean despite all odds—even in spite of relapses—this is the nature that constitutes the soul. The mere fact that a person can make a drastic change and stick with it, despite any deterministic quality within them—this is the quality of the soul. So, too, is the nature of the sober person to fall into addiction after one taste of the drug, or a person to murder another in a fit or rage.
Frankl made specific effort to differentiate some of his ideas from Jung’s in his work, The Unconscious God. Their ideas are quite compatible except for the semantics of one point, which Frankl discusses. He argued that there are two facets of the unconscious mind—the instinctual and the spiritual. He argued that Jung put far too much emphasis on the instinctual being the spiritual. Archetypes explained autonomous psychological mechanisms that propelled the human being along its adaptational process. Jung’s philosophy was essentially, “I think, therefore I am spiritual.” To him, it mattered not if someone didn’t consider themselves spiritual—they were simply using a different word to describe that which is spirituality. More to the point, however, Jung saw spirituality more or less as deterministic. It was a byproduct.
On the other hand, Frankl thought, “I am spiritual, therefore I think.” He considered the quality of the spirit—the soul—to be something that lied deep in the core of the psyche, beneath layers of unconscious drives and instincts.
I don’t think there is any reason that these statements have to contradict each other. This is the self-perpetuating nature of the human experience.
I explain this distinction because, what Frankl calls the “spiritual unconscious”, I call the soul. What he calls the instinctual unconscious, I call the “spirit.”, and so did Jung. Furthermore, I don’t think that Jung would have had any objection to these notions by the end of his career.
Surely, many people find this all to be controversial, but not because of the lack of evidence. It is the interpretation of the evidence that is controversial. Here we have to penetrate to the source of the matter—we have to consider that there is a soul in order to hold the idea up to scrutiny.
At this point in the analysis, we find the dividing line between the meme and the archetype. Let us remember that the meme essentially is a secondary evolutionary factor, it is a cultural unit of psychological development. The archetype is a psychological unit of cultural development. This is simple, yet a bit tricky to wrap the head around. This highlights the relationship between the Microcosm and Macrocosm. Archetypes and memes represent different steps of one overall process.
Neuroscientist VS Ramachandran wrote in his novel, Phantoms in the Brain, of the effect of the mirror-system of neurology in the cerebral cortex by elaborating his study into the science, and his stories of helping patients rehabilitate from neurological ailments like phantom limb syndrome. This phantom limb is, in layman’s terms, the brain’s attempt to neurologically account for the limb that is no longer connected to the body. When the brain finds that there is no “reflection” for its neurons, no limb to process, this lack of limb becomes the brain’s anti-thesis, and some patients are known to experience extreme forms of pain and tension from this non-existent limb. In a famous anecdote given by the doctor in the book, he tells of holding a mirror up to the arm of a patient, creating the optical illusion that the reflection of the patient’s remaining hand was actually their missing hand. When the patient wiggled his remaining hand, he watched its reflection wiggle, and as the man watched his “synthetic” or reflective limb wiggle, the pain disappeared.
Phantom limb pain seems to be some sort of forced-projection from the unconscious mind—an attempt to purge tension. Suppose, then, that we have “phantom limbs” of the mind— where is our neuroscientist to hold the mirror so that we may observe our reflection? Aside from art as therapy and the experiences of dreaming, where is some even harder data that we can sink our teeth into?
This notion of the doctor using the mirror to cause a reflection of a patient’s missing limb is classically termed a fetish. Used in the original, broadest context of the word, it characterizes the idea of investing a certain amount of power into something through intention that would not otherwise have any power. As an example, in traditional shamanic, voodoo, and pagan cultures with rituals that incorporated dances, head-dresses, and staffs, et cetera, this idea of the ritual is a creation of fetish—something out of nothing— to create a neurophenomenological event in the individual that is seeking medicine from the medicine-man. The components of this physical event that creates a deep psychological response is hypnotic suggestion.
A person simply cannot begin to change their own thought-process without a novel catalyst–something that is new, unfamiliar, and transitional to a fresh mode of experience. Knowledge and wisdom are often equated with pain and trauma in this regard because the things that are new, unfamiliar, and transitional many times found through an initiatic degree of trauma—i.e. traumatic child-rearing, the loss of a loved one, drug addiction, permanent physical injuries, a brush with a deadly illness, et cetera. The ancient concept of magick is not the ability to fly on a broomstick, but rather learning the fundamental processes of the deep chasms of human consciousness so that a person can transcend their own limitations.
Real magick is not about seeing the future, telepathy, telekinesis, et cetera—it is about the mind choosing how to use the environment to adapt, and then methodically producing results. These are, essentially, the realities of what is called sympathetic magick. The possibility of other magick is a speculative open ending as far as my research is concerned. Here, I am focused on what can currently be measured in some way by the scientific method. What I can say is this: magick is useful for its properties to highlight aspects of our mind that need attention. In the case of the psychic phantom limbs, proper attention is not being given to certain needs through the activities of the physical mundane life, similar to a person that is nutrient deficient through their diet. When we begin developing psychic deficiencies, our brain projects these psychic phantom limbs through dreams and artwork, whether we be observing or creating the art.
Sometimes, extra effort is needed. These phantom-psychic-limbs need to be brought into confrontation with the conscious mind so that we may gather enough energy to fully process our ailments. This occurs through either meditation, or hypnotic states of consciousness (both playing on the same essential brain functions here.)
Updates in modern science since the late 1980’s have continued to demonstrate the functions and efficacies of hypnotic therapy. Today, scientists have clearly demonstrated the functional role that hypnosis plays in human consciousness—it is the gateway to the unconscious mind, the tether between consciousness and the void. It has also become irrefutable that the unconscious mind plays dramatic roles in the process of pain management, anxiety, depression, and any over-accumulation of tension on a mental or physical level.
When we dream, or meditate, perform hypnosis, create art, or even pray, we are receiving messages from the instinctual unconscious, the spirit. When we learn from these things and engage them by properly integrating them, this is the call towards the unconscious epicenter, the voice of the soul.
Consider this collage of quotes, taken only from scientific studies published within the last couple decades.
“Brain oscillations represent the combined electrical activity of neuronal assemblies, and are usually measured as specific frequencies representing slower (delta, theta, alpha) and faster (beta, gamma) oscillations. Hypnosis has been most closely linked to power in the theta band and changes in gamma activity. These oscillations are thought to play a critical role in both the recording and recall of declarative memory and emotional limbic circuits.” (MP Jensen, T Adachi, S Hakimian, 2015, “Brain Oscillations, Hypnosis, and Hypnotizability”)
“Individuals highly responsive to hypnosis can quickly and effortlessly manifest atypical conscious experiences as well as override deeply entrenched processes. These capacities open new avenues for suspending habitual modes of attention and achieving refined states of meta-awareness.” (M Lifshitz1, E Cusumano, A Raz, 2013, “Hypnosis as Neurophenomenology”)
“It is proposed that hypnosis is a state of enhanced attention that activates an interplay between cortical and subcortical brain dynamics during hypnotic phenomena, such as both attentional and disattentional processes, among others.” (H Crawford, 1992, “Brain Dynamics and Hypnosis: Attentional and Disattentional Processes”)
“Moreover, converging findings intimate that hypnotic suggestions seem to induce specific neural patterns. These observations propose that suggestions may have the ability to target focal brain networks. Drawing on evidence spanning several technological modalities, neuroimaging studies of hypnosis pave the road to a more scientific understanding of a dramatic, yet largely evasive, domain of human behavior.” (M Landry, A Raz, 2015, “Hypnosis and Imaging of the Living Human Brain”)
“There is, in effect, a psycho-physiological dimension of hypnosis. It lies at the crossroads between the instrumental and the relational. But we know nothing about what unconscious processes hide at the psycho-physiological level. Psychoanalysis has brought to light the laws governing the functioning of unconscious representations. But the realm of the affect, the non-verbal, the corporal still remains beyond our knowledge. This is a hidden side of the unconscious, in relation to which hypnosis may serve as another ‘royal way’.” (L Chertok, 1980, “The Unconscious and Hypnosis”)
What is brought to attention here in short summary is enough scientific data to understand that hypnosis, dreams, and even placebo all have different but connected neurophenomenology.
Hypnosis, in effect, appears to be some sort of blockade of the mirror-neurons, isolating the reflection to an entirely inward state. Here, no longer is the unconscious mind compensating to understand the environment outside, and when it is freed from this constraint, the attentional mechanisms of the unconscious are naturally focused inward (becoming “disattentional”). In this sense, hypnosis seems to be opening the floodgates of the mirror-neuronal activity in a very concentrated way through a sense of sensory deprivation that projections the mirror-neuronal associations inward.
Let us now set all these things aside for a moment and consider some more anecdotal data. As I have already explained, the most innate form of this hypnotic unconscious is the dream. Ultimately, all these anecdotes are presented to drive the data points further home.
For me, the thing that started my sojourn into the unconscious was the dream that I have mentioned a few times throughout this novel. It was the first time I ever met Ramona Flower. Understand that none of this is a love story. There is a little bit of romance, but the motifs and concepts are much deeper and more multi-faceted than anything like a love story. The events that I will now explain are the events that finally began to highlight my depersonalization disorder. It had been a subtle inkling in the back of my mind before this, but these here events were going to bring it to the surface. Yet it would still take me years to fully understand how these events would be my eventual salvation as well.
In the dream, I attended a carnival during the day with my old friend, Kahlil, and while we were walking around, he told me that a friend of his was also at the carnival. He told me about her, said she was a singer and songwriter, and said I would really like her. “Let’s go meet up with her,” he suggested.
Before I knew it, we met her in the dream. There were in fact two women, one who was talkative with brunette hair, and the other who was silent throughout, having blonde hair with brunette streaks. They looked essentially the same, like they would be identical twins, but the brunette was taller. My friend held conversation with the brunette, and so did I, but I became fascinated with the second woman that stood slightly behind her. In fact, after our conversation with the two girls, I followed them, leaving my friend behind.
As I followed, the crowd of people became thicker, the noises became louder, and the lights brighter. The carnival was truly fascinating, with monolithic rides, like a ferris-wheel that touched the horizon, a classic roller-coaster, large circus tents, and minimal technology. It was like a P.T. Barnham circus circa the 1960s, or something like that.
The two girls eventually walked into a tent, and I followed. I wasn’t trying to tail them inconspicuously, I was trying to catch up with them to strike up my own conversation with them before they disappeared forever into a sea of people. This tent I followed them into was essentially the wardrobe closet for all the carnival workers—clown attire, strong-man attire, monster outfits for a haunted-house ride, all sorts of wild outfits. Being the only three people in the tent, the two women noticed me instantly. The shorter woman with brunette and blonde hair quickly left the tent on the other side, and I found it nearly impossible to maneuver through all the scattered aisles of hanging wardrobes. When she was gone, I had given up, and right as her brunette friend was about to follow her back outside, I called out, “Please, can you tell your friend that I’d like to see her again?” to which the brunette giggled, waved, and left.
The dream completed with me deeply contemplating the encounter with the two women, then eventually taking a public bus alone back home.
Later that day, after I had awoken, I spoke with Kahlil about the dream. I said, “And I can’t help but ask, even though it was just a dream… do you actually have any friends that fit the description?” In my dream, my friend did not elaborate which of the two women he had wanted to introduce me to, so I described them both to him, noting their twin similarities. To my surprise, he responded with the name “Ramona”. He said that she was a good friend of his. Her hair was usually brunette, but she had dyed part of it blonde recently—he also told me that she would be in Africa for two more months exploring.
Oh, how the plot thickens!
A month later, I went on a double-date with Kahlil to a public fair hosted by a local college. It was not a carnival, but there were booths for food, games, and music and live performances, and crowds of people all around. My friend and I brought some ladies to see Nick Offerman perform standup comedy, but we showed up early to walk around a bit. About an hour before the show, my friend and I left the women to go get some drinks for us all, while they stayed in the already-large line for the show. It was here in the line to pay for drinks that we ran into Ms. Ramona Flower all by herself.
People say things about “love at first sight”, or “time stops when you fall in love”. I’m not the type for such clichés, but I can say that this was one of the most surreal moments I have ever experienced. The first time I saw Ramona is something I will always vividly remember.
Kahlil ran up to her and gave her a great big hug, asking her how Africa was and why she was back sooner than he thought she would be. I introduced myself but could hardly say anything. She told me later how she’d barely noticed me at first because I had been so silent, I was completely stunned, dumbfounded. She looked exactly like the women from my dreams.
Needless to say, this encounter ruined the rest of my date. Nick Offerman was hilarious but extremely awkward for me, and all I could think about were ways to get end the date quickly. Once it ended, I went out to search for Ramona, in hopes that I could find her. Fortunately, at Kahlil’s house later that night, I did. He slapped together a spontaneous get-together at his house, and about ten people had arrived over a period of time to drink, smoke and talk. Ramona happened to be one of these people.
My friend even went out of his way to mentioned to Ramona that I had written a novella and had it published. With this, our fate was apparently sealed. I remember her telling me how she wondered if atoms could each be their own universe, and meanwhile, I wondered if this was how it felt to actively fall in love.
After our conversation, she dropped me off at home so that I could give her a spare copy of my novella. She would later tell me that it had moved her in ways she could never describe, and felt as if I was voicing thoughts she had never once told anyone before. She told me that, upon reading my story, she had cried. It was here that I told her about my dream, and the rest becomes the classic boy-meets-girl story that needs no elaboration. It was puppy love at its finest! It was passionate, romantic, deep, and brief.
Little did I know that this was to be a glimpse of my own anima. I can’t claim to know all the mechanisms behind this, but it seems to me that I had already begun wrestling my shadow a bit and had been primed for an encounter with the anima, but not a full integration. It was adaptation through a sort of neuroplasticity—my mind needed to grasp at something beyond the archetypal shadow, otherwise I had no chance of overcoming it. I needed a goal, a goal that was innate and highly personal. My psyche had been grasping towards one of the most unconscious and instinctual drives that a man has—a woman—and at the slightest opportunity, it burst forth its reflective properties of the anima, puppeteering my shadow like the reflection puppeteering the phantom limb. As for how, exactly, I dreamt of her face before I met her—I don’t know. I have my own personal suspicions, but nothing concrete.
The end of our relationship was equally classical and needs no long elaboration in a book like this. She wanted to explore, she didn’t want to be tied down, and I was quickly convinced that I would marry her—two ideas that were entirely incompatible. I was jarred by the end of it all. How could a single person affect me so much? What were the mechanisms behind this process? How could I make it stop, and how could I make sure that heartache of this magnitude would never happen again?
These were the initial questions that caused me to research the works of minds like Carl Jung and Manly Hall. It was this process that opened the floodgates of my unconscious mind.
As for my time at the Beaujolais Lodge of the Blue Moose, this was an instigated confrontation with my shadow, something that I had been running from ever since I had quit taking my prescribed pharmaceutical medication. Here, under heavy psychedelic experiences with trusted friends, I confronted the shadow head-on, because the only way to integrate the anima and reach further to the unconscious epicenter is through the shadow.
I was contemplating all this one morning as I sat on my porch, a couple years after that first dream of Ramona. My friend had just dropped me off after a night of drinking, and I was about to go and sleep all day. This was my final joint, a moment of silence and quietude as I watched the sun rise over the mountains. I was living in Anchorage, Alaska, at the time, so the mountains had a snow-blanket of termination dust on them. My eyelids were heavy, and the onset of my inevitable slumber seemed as encompassing as the onset of the winter I saw all around me. Combined with the illustrious colors of fall, the sunset was a treat.
It was in this brief respite and others like it that my many different trains of thought began to coalesce, inch by inch. I thought about the shadow, the phantom limb, free will and instinct, the objective and subjective. My brain was swirling with ideas, and the centrifuge had become my recurring dreams. They were starting to happen more and more often these days.
Jung himself once poignantly wrote of my exact dilemma in the eighth published volume of his collected work, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche: “The term ‘compensation’ naturally gives us only a very general idea of the function of dreams. Bu if, as happens in long and difficult treatments, the analyst observes a series of dreams often running into hundreds, there gradually forces itself upon him a phenomenon which, in an isolated dream, would remain hidden behind the compensation of the moment. This phenomenon is a kind of developmental process in the personality itself. At first it seems that each compensation is a momentary adjustment of one-sidedness or an equalization of disturbed balance. But with deeper insight and experience, these apparently separate acts of compensation arrange themselves into a kind of plan. They seem to hang together and in the deepest sense to be subordinated to a common goal, so that a long dream-series no longer appears as a senseless string of incoherent and isolated happenings, but resembles the successive steps in a planned and orderly process of development. I have called this unconscious process spontaneously expressing itself in the symbolism of a long dream-series the individuation process.” [p.289-90]
The first dream I ever had about Ramona was the template for this consistently recurring dream. Each one was slightly different, with the very same motifs every time. I was chasing Ramona through a maze, and she was beckoning for me to follow her, always looking over her shoulder and blowing kisses, or smiling or winking. The mazes varied—the first dream was of the circus and the obstacles of the crowd and the costume-tent, but other dreams included large house parties or literal lazes, and sometimes they seemed like great lengths of time. One was an abstract and dreamy road-trip we took together that seemed to stretch over days and days, and eventually I lost her and began searching for her. When I found her, the chase was on. Other times it was very abstract, and I remember once floating through outer space, gliding towards her slowly like an astronaut as she glided ahead of me. Ahead of her was wooden door floating in space, and it was open, shining a blinding light through the doorway. Another time I was an Indiana-Jones-esque character, chasing her through an elaborate ancient temple full of booby traps. There are many different examples.
It’s hard to say how many of these dreams I had, but it became the only dream I ever had for a period of maybe a couple years, with only a handful of exceptions throughout the entire span of time. If we are counting that very first dream to the very last dream, it was a span of four years. For the first two years, it was very uncommon for me to have the dream, but I did have it sometimes. The last two years, it happened quite a bit more. Often I wouldn’t dream for a month, only to suddenly have three, four, five nights in a row with vivid dreams of this chase scene between Ramona and I. Then, after a rapid burst, it would fade and I wouldn’t dream again for a month, or maybe two. The next time I dreamt, maybe I would have one dream a week, and then nothing again for several weeks. It was extremely erratic almost without any pattern, but its consistency was highly unnerving.
There are a few peculiar notes about this string of dreams. They usually always occurred right before I woke up, and it was never in the middle of the night—it was always at sunrise or just before sunrise. It was much like a nightmare without the overt horror—so many aspects were the same. I woke up jarred, in a cold sweat with a racing heart and a gasp. The sheer number was beginning to unnerve me and it all centered around the fact that there was a subtle tone of mockery to the dream. There was a sincere amount of tension and frustration throughout the dream as I struggled to catch up to her, and she was always beckoning for me to continue. Was she leading me by the nose into my downfall through obstacles, or encouraging me to triumph over the obstacles? Both ideas were equally compelling, and this split became the crux of my questions regarding it all. I needed more information. I needed the dream to progress instead of feeling like a broken record. I needed more symbolism to analyze.
I was desperate to know what this woman represented in my brain, and I was also unable to separate the romance despite how hard I tried to forget it. When my conscious mind would forget her, my unconscious would dream of her, and I would find myself falling right back into the same feelings, only to stuff them back down with hedonism.
Back on my porch, the sun had risen, and I had a rolled a cigarette of organic tobacco as I felt the warmth begin to wash over me. I was barely awake, but I still pondered. I wondered about the dream, and if I may dream about her again as I slept through the day. I felt like a detective worrying over a trail that was steadily running cold, watching the case slip through his fingers. I had been studying my astrological natal chart for any clues to be found within my dreams and performing personal tarot readings as well. It was all with a healthy skepticism balanced by a state of suspended belief. I didn’t take the superstitions at face-value, but I wondered what, if any, value there could be. I was willing to give it a shot.
As I put out my cigarette, I asked myself what it really meant to be a man—what was the initiatory quality that ideally separated child from adult? What is the difference between love and obsession? What does it mean if my ego is readily acceptant of this relationship’s end, but my unconscious mind keeps mulling over it? What the hell is real and what isn’t? Are these dreams free will, adaptation, or just insanity? Of course, these recurring dreams are the unconscious mind forcing us to adapt. I was beginning to realize this, but I was still uncertain what specifically I needed to adapt to, and how to do it.
One of the stranger parts is that I had not spoken with Ramona in year at this time. She was happily dating someone else, and I tried to avoid bumping into her wherever I went—sometimes unsuccessfully. I figured it was time that I let her go and move on, but now my mind was reaching some sort of boiling point. Maybe I needed to see what she was up to…
I walked through my front door, kicked off my shoes, and shambled into my room. There, I collapsed on my bed, next to my cat, and fell into a deep sleep. That day as I slept, I remember one small dream that was unbelievably vivid. I found myself on a small vessel in the middle of the ocean. There was no land in sight, my ship was nothing more than logs tied together with a small mast and sail. There was no food or water, I laid there and stared at the sky, listening to the birds. Then, suddenly, I heard a beautiful woman singing my name. It was the most alluring song I have ever heard, something to this day I could never describe or produce. I jerked up and looked around. Suddenly, I saw a small island nearby that had gone unnoticed. Between the island and I, Ramona floated in the water, singing to me and waving.
Suddenly, she dove into the water, revealing herself to be a mermaid with a tail. She swam around, diving out of the water and back in, to and fro, beckoning for me to come forward to meet her. I tried to call out to her but she didn’t answer, just kept singing—beckoning me with her lyrics. Then, after diving in once more, she did not return.
I stuck my head into the water and looked around, but I couldn’t find her. I scanned the water, my vision upside down, as she swam up from my blind-side and pulled me into the water.
This is when I woke up, the name of the syren on the tip of my tongue, for I knew where the legend of the mermaid had come from. As soon as I got out of bed, I shuffled my tarot cards for a reading. The results seemed as if to confirm my suspicions thus far about the dream. What followed next would be a full night of research for me, steady until dawn.
In the twelfth book of the Odyssey, Circe warns Odysseus of the syrens and their songs, saying,
“First you will come to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them. If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great heap of dead men’s bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men’s ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you stand upright on a cross-piece half way up the mast, and they must lash the rope’s ends to the mast itself, that you may have the pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you, then they must bind you faster.”
“‘When your crew have taken you past these Sirens, I cannot give you coherent directions as to which of two courses you are to take; I will lay the two alternatives before you, and you must consider them for yourself.
When Odysseus and his men set sail and finally encounter the sirens, Odysseus tied tightly to his ship’s mast, they heard the syrens sing the lyrics:
“’Come here… renowned Ulysses, honour to the Achaean name, and listen to our two voices. No one ever sailed past us without staying to hear the enchanting sweetness of our song—and he who listens will go on his way not only charmed, but wiser, for we know all the ills that the gods laid upon the Argives and Trojans before Troy, and can tell you everything that is going to happen over the whole world.”
And, of course, in the Argonautica, Jason and the Argonauts only escape the songs of the syrens through the aid of the poet, Orpheus, who plays his lyre louder than the syren song.
Here, I would eventually be forced to consider the syren as the archetype that wore Ramona’s face in my dreams, which helped me find the right track, but still confused me no less. Something was using Ramona as a mask in my mind. It was my psychic phantom limb, wriggling with a reflection and taking on an animation—a seemingly autonomous nature. I did not yet understand that Ramona herself was not naturally the syren archetype within my dream, it was rather my actions and interpretations within the dream that made her into the archetype. It was my bottomless desire for reckless abandon at the sight of unbridled beauty—this allowed a fertile soil for the manifestation of the syren archetype.
In her novel Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, Jane Ellen Harrison analyzes the syren for its deep context within Greek mythology (stemming from Mesopotamian culture, let us not forget) and the Eleusinian Mysteries, as well as a bit of detail highlighting the Egyptian inspirations within Greek folklore and mythology. The syren of Greek mythology holds a much deeper symbolism than most people give it credit today. Harrison explains that it was basically synonymous with the Greek Kere, which were feminine psychopomps, meaning that they were spirits that carried the souls of humans to and from heaven and hell, life and death, et cetera. The Kere were also sisters of the Moirai, known commonly today as the Fates.
Jane Ellen Harrison tells us further of the classical folklore of the syren: “Their song takes effect at midday, in the windless calm. The end of that song is death. It is only the warning of Circe that we know of the heap of bones, corrupt in death—horror is kept in the background, seduction to the fore.” [p.199] “It is the very image of obsession, of nightmare, of a haunting midday dream. The woman can be none other than an Evil Siren… The terrors of the midday were known to the Greeks in their sunsmitten land; nightmare was to them also a daymare. Such a visitation, coupled possibly with occasional cases of sun-stroke, was of course the obsession of a demon. Even a troubled tormenting illicit dream was the work of a Siren. In sleep the will and the reason are becalmed and the passions unchained. That the midday nightmare went to the making of the Siren is clear from the windless calm and the heat of the sun in Homer. The horrid end, the wasting death, the sterile enchantment the loss of wife and babes, all look the same way.” [p.203]
Plato wrote in the tenth book of the Republic about the syren and their relationship to the Fates. What he described are the classical musical spheres that create existence in Greek cosmogony, which are equivalents to the sephiroth of the Tree of Life. “The spindle turns on the knees of Necessity; and on the upper surface of each circle is a siren, who goes round with them, hymning a single tone or note. The eight together form one harmony; and round about, at equal intervals, there is another band, three in number, each sitting upon her throne: these are the Fates, daughters of Necessity, who are clothed in white robes and have chaplets upon their heads, Lachesis and Clotho and Atropos, who accompany with their voices the harmony of the sirens—Lachesis singing of the past, Clotho of the present, Atropos of the future; Clotho from time to time assisting with a touch of her right hand the revolution of the outer circle of the whorl or spindle, and Atropos with her left hand touching and guiding the inner ones, and Lachesis laying hold of either in turn, first with one hand and then with the other.” [p.367] Here, the syrens serve as interesting and compatible allegories with the qliphoth of the Tree of Death and how the correlate to the sephiroth.
But what, then, is the syren? Is it the shadow, is it the anima, is it something else entirely? In the last chapter, I said that it was essentially the shadow puppeteering Ramona’s persona. This is true, but it is a bit more nuanced than this. More precisely, it was a glimpse of the anima through the lens of the shadow.
I was not close to understanding all these little details at the time, but I was hot on the trail. I could see the details but could not put the bigger picture together. As the sun came up once again and I ended my night of research of the syren. I fell back asleep, only to have the same dream of the syren once more. This time, I dived right into the water when I saw her, trying to resolve the situation quickly, but in the water, she was nowhere to be found. I tired myself out and began to fall deeper into the depths of the ocean. Thankfully, I then woke up.
I needed more time to process the significance of the syren, but time is not abundant when you are out at sea, at the mercy of the elements, and begin to hear the melodic, devilish crooning of the enchantress ashore. Circe had been warning me, but I was still learning how to decipher her message.
Chapter Seven Coming Soon…
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