Are Dreams Shadows? Part II

Are Dreams Shadows? Part II

James Hillman writes,

According to Plato (Sophist 266c), dream images are comparable with shadows, “when dark patches interrupt the light,” leading us to see a kind of “reflection,” “the reverse of the ordinary direct view.” This useful analogy presents dreams as dark spots, the lacunae or ab-senses of the dayworld, where the dayworld reverses itself or converts its sense to metaphorical significance. This is not merely the dayworld repeated in a thinner silhouette of two dimensions. Like any visual shadow, these images shade in life, giving it depth and twi-light, duplicity, metaphor. The scene in a dream (the root of the word scene is akin to skia, “shadow”) is a metaphorical version of that scene and those players of yesterday who have now deepened and entered my soul (The Dream and the Underworld, page 54).

Just as we have a dayworld method of perception, we also have a nightworld method of perception.  By this, we perceive the dream world as an actual location that we travel through every night. Dreams are a strange and bizarre reflection of our dayworld. Dreams are “dark spots,” something that we consciously missed, perhaps, in our everyday world. The nightworld is the shadow of the dayworld, where dayworld encounters become metaphorized in the nightworld as dreams. During sleep, the unconscious is busy churning out metaphorical images of our dayworld experiences.

Parenthetically,  one wonders how “dark matter” would fit into these ideas? This idea must be circumnavigated.

Hillman says “these images shade in life.” The shades are inhabitants of Hades, spirits of the dead, black figures that move swiftly, here, and then gone again. Dream images are shadows (skias), fleeting phantoms in the night that one can never quite make out. These images are not two-dimensional. Rather, they provide depth and duplicity, deepening our experience so that we can become conscious of something we need to become conscious of. The actors in this dream theater are dark reflections of people we come in contact with in the dayworld. The dream world is the underworld, Hades in Greek mythology. Every night, we pay the ferryman and cross the River Styx, where we enter the land of shades.

Hillman says “we perceive images with the imagination” (ibid. page 55). So, this nightworld sense is not the typical door of perception. The nightworld method of perception is imagination, which Hillman calls “our instrument for undistorted listening” (ibid.). He says,

Dreams call from the imagination to the imagination and can be answered only by the imagination” (ibid.).

Once again, we see that the imagination is the sine qua non of the entire Soul experience. Blessed be the imagination!

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