18 May 2008

Our Values Revealed by Raymond Hillis

Raymond Hillis is a professor emeritus of counseling at California State University Los Angeles, and currently lives and practices in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He conducts vision quests in the Rocky Mountains of southern Colorado. He can be reached at raymondhillis@gmail.com

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I’d like to start by saying it is very fitting that this website has been birthed outside the United States, offering an international point of view. For what is happening within the States is not at all limited in scope to that territory, and much of the dream material being collective has significance that recognizes no national boundaries.

It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to respond to the wealth of material present in this first group of dreams. And, since this is the first response in the coming series by others, I’d like to start with a few thoughts about the ways in which one can look at dream material. My own background is rooted in the work of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who was initially a colleague of Sigmund Freud’s, and later diverged to develop his own theory and methodology for looking at dreams.


Whereas Freud viewed dreams primarily as compensating for bias in the dreamer’s conscious personality (due to repression of selected personality dimensions, for example), Jung came to see them as having the added and much deeper role of bringing the most fundamental layers of the dreamer’s internal existence up to consciousness. One could say Freud focused on dreams as attempts to balance things, while Jung saw them additionally as attempts to reveal the larger picture of one’s existence, so that the dreamer’s view of his or her own nature is continually expanded.

Another difference in their approaches can be described as Freud’s focus on dreams as being entirely personal, that is, reflecting only the dynamics of the individual dreamer’s world, both internal and external; while Jung viewed them as having both this personal content and a “collective” kind of content. The latter was seen as illuminating the condition of the human psyche in general, beyond the particulars of the individual dreamer’s world. Some dreams feel mostly personal in nature, while others feel mostly collective. The latter, one might say, “belong” to everyone: they are speaking not just to the dreamer but to all of us. When one of us shares a dream of this type we are, in effect, offering a gift to all of our fellow companions in the human species as it makes its way through the evolution of life.

In both approaches there is an intricate reliance upon knowing how symbolism has figured into human experience throughout recorded history, and how to attribute meaning to each dream image with reference to the symbolic material it contains. In this regard, every aspect of a dream image can be seen as having symbolic significance, including the people the dream portrays. So, within the personal context of a dream “Hillary” and “Barack” are not just outer people whom the dreamer knows actually exist, they also are used by a dream to represent some inner aspect of the dreamer’s own personality in a symbolic fashion.

Obviously, in order to interpret the personal side of a dream one must know the dreamer quite well, hence the dependence upon frequent uncensored communication between a dreamer and an analyst over an extended period of time. It would be rather presumptuous and risky to try to speak about the personal meaning of any of these dreams in the absence of that kind of knowledge of the dreamer as a person, and I plan to avoid heading in that direction here. But I would encourage each dreamer to take a closer look at their dream in terms of what this Hillary or Barack might represent within their own psychological dynamics… who, within them, might be “running for office” in their own life, seeking authority or power, courting their vote, and so on.


On the other hand, one can often sense, in the “collective” side of a dream, symbolic content that feels like it has broad applicability in the culture of the time. Here the basis of the symbolism tends not to be so much related to an aspect of individual existence, but more to primary themes of a cultural nature. These have often been expressed in human history through art and mythology, and were explored by Jung through his concept of the “archetypes.”

In this collective frame of reference, “Hillary” or “Barack” in a dream can represent much more than just a current female or male candidate for the U.S. presidency. They can symbolize for the culture as well as for the dreamer some very large subterranean movements taking place, “tectonic shifts” within the human psyche at a “transpersonal” level.


It is not always clear whether something in a dream is to be taken personally, or collectively, or in both ways simultaneously. I’d like to illustrate this by referring to the dreams in this collection in which a candidate is assassinated (one in the same circumstances as was Robert Kennedy). I pick these dreams because they are a particularly troubling image for all of us. Those of us who are old enough to remember RFK, JFK, MLK and those dark days in our history will recall the overwhelming sense that every courageous effort to bring something vibrantly fresh into our world seemed destined to be taken from us. And today, one hears frequent worries expressed that both of our current candidates face some degree of risk in this regard.

We, as a culture, face this risk of losing the courageous energy of change over and over again, in all of its many forms. And we do need to be reminded of this danger, and to summon the coordinated effort to protect our culture and future from it as much as we can. Such dreams can help us find the determination to go forward in the face of adversity. And they offer a reminder of how easily the new can be lost if we lose our vigilance.

And yet, it is also possible to see this dream image in an entirely different way by asking oneself, “If this is my dream, what new and vibrant aspect of my own self is in danger of being killed? What new place within myself would the more entrenched parts of me choose not to allow to live and develop?” In this sense, an outer possibility is used by the dream to point the dreamer to an inner parallel, the need to protect new life and leadership within oneself…and to help the dreamer become aware that something in which he or she is presently engaged may be endangering that new life.

Thus one can see that every dream presents this ultimate pair of meanings, one related to the very personal inner world of the dreamer and one related to the transpersonal collective world. The former is visible only to the dreamer or to someone working intimately with the dreamer over time. The latter is potentially able to communicate with all of us.


And so, turning toward these transpersonal, collective levels of meaning, there are a few things I’d like to note from this very interesting set of dreams. For starters, there are a number of images of romance and seduction, sometimes satisfying, sometimes disappointing, and sometimes involving new infants. And indeed there does seem to be a very strong sense afoot that the present election is offering a dramatically new possibility to U.S. voters: the possibility of a first woman President and the possibility of a first African-American President both in the same election. And this is an extraordinary moment of courtship with the new. But I believe what is emerging is much larger than this. The emergence of these possibilities is the visible tip of a larger iceberg floating the seas of the psyche at this time in history.


Let’s speak first a bit about the prospect of a first woman “president”. In the earliest millennia of human history the most dominant side of human nature was the feminine principle. This principle, among other things, put the primary focus on the well-being of the group rather than the individual. Sometime around the birth of the Judeo-Christian tradition, perhaps around 6000 years ago, a major shift took place and the masculine principle took hold. The history of world religion reflects this shift clearly. The divine feminine was overthrown by the divine masculine. Accounts abound in the Old Testament of the Bible where the ancient goddesses are portrayed as false gods and their worship as idolatry. Their monuments were destroyed and their worshippers frequently done away with as the masculine Yahweh took over.

The ascendance of this masculine principle was a necessary stage in human history with its focus on the development of the individual rather than the group. Over the course of two thousand years we now see, however, the immense dangers associated with giving all power to the masculine principle. We are discovering, regretfully slowly, but certainly, that, as Hillary Clinton says, “It takes a village”. We appear to be at a time when another fundamental shift is occurring in the depths of the transpersonal psyche, one which is leading toward a “marriage” on a conscious level, in all of us, between the feminine and masculine principles, such that neither of them dominates the other any longer.


And that would be quite enough change to be integrating at one time. But let’s look now at what a first black “president” presents psychologically. In United States history the African American culture became symbolic of enslavement, deprivation, victimization. In general, of an absence of justice. On a symbolic level, the image of a black man as President carries not only a sense of reflecting possible healing taking place on this historical cultural level, but in a more personal way it represents an image of the way in which the side of oneself that has been put down, blocked and excluded from equal participation in one’s life is finally redeemed, brought back into consciousness and placed in a position of leadership.

And so it is that we find many dreams here reflecting a courtship process of one kind or another, hope, loss of hope, and all of the associated emotions one might expect in the presence of such large waves of change.


We find a number of dreams seeming to want to remind us that “Hillary” and “Barack” are, after all, still just ordinary human beings. Barack is someone who, the dreamer is somewhat disappointed to discover, smokes…and he’s also someone one can just “hang out” with and eat pancakes. Hillary shops for Tupperware in her spare time. It is important to remember that it is the principles they are promoting, not their own persons, that are important in the larger scheme of things.


There are also a substantial number of dreams in which the dreamer is challenged to question his or her current opinions about a candidate. This is particularly notable when the dreamer has an intensely negative point of view and the dream is pushing against that. We know that such negative opinions often are surface reflections of “projecting” undesirable aspects of oneself onto someone else, i.e., what I can’t see in myself gets projected outwards so that I can see it…only I don’t know that it actually exists within me rather than within the person I’ve projected it on to.

Now, suppose this dimension of myself is actually something worthwhile that my psyche needs for my continued growth towards wholeness, but which I’ve repressed thinking it is a “bad” thing to be, perhaps due to the particulars of the values my parents held. How can the psyche move me toward more self awareness in this case? One way is to present a dream in which someone seeking a leadership position has these qualities I so despise, and then portray that person as actually very valuable. We see quite a large number of dreams here in which this process is taking place.

A particularly interesting example is the dream in which Hillary and Barack have been elected and, as a result, both Canada and Mexico are experiencing a huge wave of illegal immigration leaving the United States. This is interesting from my own point of view living inside the States, because here one of the major campaign issues has to do with controlling illegal immigration into the states, not out. But this dream seems to be portraying the tendency to want to escape the emergence of the new principles spoken of earlier at any cost. It is indeed true that the “ego” (the usual center of conscious existence) tends to maintain a bias against change of any type in life. It has the job, in effect, to preserve the status quo within oneself. Against this inertia the forces within the subconscious mind must struggle to ascend into consciousness. And when they succeed the ego is often inclined to “head for Canada”. The dreamer is asked to question this.

There are so many more themes to speak of. But I think this is enough to begin with. In general, I’d invite the reader to look at each dream in both the “personal” and the “collective” perspectives, realizing of course that on the personal perspective it belongs to the dreamer rather than the reader. On the collective level it belongs to all of us, and we are wise to be listening.


For those who might like to begin an exploration of Jung’s approach to dreams, I’d recommend taking a look at two very approachable introductory books: Inner Work by Robert Johnson, and Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language by John Sanford. Neither requires prior knowledge or study of psychology, and both point the reader toward his or her own dream material.

Monika Wikman has written a book that explores the processes of finding rebirth in the presence of the darker passages in life, Pregnant Darkness: Alchemy and the Rebirth of Consciousness. (She is my partner, but my reason for suggesting the book goes beyond promoting it.)

To explore the feminine principle you might enjoy reading The Spirit of the Valley by Sukie Cosgrove.

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