Post Retreat...

How to express the experience of a NOE Archetypal dreamwork retreat? It is hard to put into words. To see the arc of my work through the week is humbling and I realize more and more how little I really know about how the whole process works as a psychological construct of the teaching and how my not knowing doesn’t matter right now. I don’t know where I am at, stage one, stage two, etc…and I don’t fully understand the alchemical process, but the clarity which came to me this past week as we moved through my particular work and through the work of others is a gift. I witness and am witnessed.

What I am understanding today is the level of gratitude I feel for the healing power that is within us and of the Divine. I have a new understanding of what the real war is. What I also understand is my commitment to the integrity of my work that I feel in my heart. No matter what happens, I don’t have to go it alone. I have the support of the Archetypes, my therapist, my teachers and my comrades in arms. If we make mistakes or miss something, the truth will come through the next dreams. I just have to trust, even when the demon would cast doubts like gossamer, sticky webs that float gentle or wrap fierce to entangle me, engage me, cause me to turn the fight back out into the world. I have a new understanding that somehow this work, this part of my journey, has become paramount.

I am experiencing new sensations in my body. These are feelings I have never felt. They are completely new or perhaps not remembered. How is this possible? How can I have lived half my life without discovering this? If you are reading this and in the work, then you probably already feel the sensual climb up your back. Perhaps you feel it now reading this. The suffusing, encompassing ecstatic feeling that moves you and moves through you. If you are are not in the work, or are in the work and have yet to experience this, then know that this is part of the why. This is why I do the work, to find that part of me that was lost, which is my soul. My soul which knows this feeling, the essence of itself as feeling and experienced in this way. What is the depth and range that is possible? It is scary to contemplate.


In my recent dream, I see a young deer who is disoriented and stunned. A man grabs her and cuts off her horns and also seems to cut around her eyes. It sounds traumatic, but the Animus as the provocateur sometimes wields a heavy hand. In the last Mystery of the Dream class, Marc talked about the how the Animus often shoots people in the dream. Not to kill them, but to push them to feel their pain. Some of us are so blocked that Divine intervention must be radical.

In my therapy session, it is suggested that the man is the Animus and the young deer, of course, is me. The Animus cutting off the horns of the young deer and cutting around her eyes is not about causing harm to the young deer, but it is instead to move me more deeply into feelings of vulnerability that I have been working with these past several weeks. It is to open me, to open my eyes, to help me move deeper into new understandings of myself.

In my homework, which is to be with the man as the defenseless fawn who has had her horns removed, I feel disoriented and confused. I feel a sense of freeness, as in a lightness around my head without those horns, but also absolute terror in my defenselessness. I am terrified at the prospect of being in the world this fragile and defenseless. Why is this being asked of me? I feel I need my defenses or I will be hurt. The truth is I have already been hurt and my reaction to that hurt is to take a defended position. I don’t think I am being asked to be something different than what I am. I think I am being asked to see myself as I truly am. I have no idea how to exist in this state of utter defenselessness. I don’t know what it is like to approach the world in this way, only that it is terrifying.

Why would I want to do this? That is a good question. I can only tell you that I really have no choice. At this point, to deny the dream is to deny my life and my journey. To turn away from this is to turn away from Him. I want to ask, "Why would He do this to a poor little deer (ME)?" It seems like torture. It doesn’t seem right, but who am I to decide what is right or wrong? Each moment of the dream holds something for us, we don’t always know what it is, but if there is a real feeling in the dream, the challenge is always to move into that feeling. This is the journey. There is no end to the journey, only a growing awareness of our true nature and perhaps a call to service in some way. Marc has said that he doesn’t believe the Archetypes would ever traumatize us. To see the deer with its horns cut off could be traumatizing. It is like having the crust scraped from my eyes, the hard bark carved from my skin. Things look different and I am in a place of heightened sensitivity and disorientation. But to be the deer feels terrifying, not because there is pain, but because I feel my true vulnerable nature in a different way. This is archetypal fear, the fear of something completely unknown or perhaps unremembered.

Open Heart = Vulnerability

I am with a man and we go down into an underground bunker. The corridors are narrow and we pass by a room where there is a bloody dead man sprawled on the floor and go into another room. Then I decide to go back up. I have to walk back past the dead man and climb up to a door. I open the door a crack and look out. It seems as if I have climbed up some kind of silo. I see other buildings and a huge parking lot below with lots of cars with black windows. I suddenly become fearful that there is someone out there amongst the cars that will try and get to me. I turn and go back down into the bunker. I pass by the dead man again.
In the dream, I feel as though I pass by the dead man several times, like around each corner, there he is. I even have to step around his legs to pass by. But, I don’t stop. I don’t look at the dead man because I don’t want to see him. In the dream, I feel nothing about this dead man. I do not stop and I don’t look. Yet, he keeps appearing, so there must be something here that I am supposed to feel, to know about. And, I must know it because I choose to go back. Choosing to go back is choosing to go forward.

In our dreamwork session, my therapist Sue says she is curious about the dead man and she takes me to this moment and tells me to stop and asks me what I feel. “Nothing”, I say. “I feel nothing. He is dead. I don’t want to see him.”

Via Negativa

My cousin, the Rev. F. Vernon Wright, upon reading The Desert, a recent blog entry from the blog Carl & Me that I had posted on Facebook, commented that Carl “seems to be encountering some of the wisdom of the Apophatic tradition.”

Naturally, I had to google the word Apophatic since I had no idea what it meant. I found it described as via negativa or “negative theology” as in an attempt to achieve unity with the Divine through discernment, gaining knowledge of what God is NOT, rather than describing what God is.

For me, so far in the dreamwork, much of my work has been about understanding who I am not as opposed to who I am. Jung says God is where we are not. I thought I knew who I was, but it was a construct. I do not know who I am. The dreamwork, if we are willing, helps us to strip away who we are not. And it gives us the opportunity to push down past the outward projections, past the construct of the stories and lies, past the traumas, and into those feelings which seem to surround the core of our being. Feelings like pain, fear, love, vulnerability, ecstatic joy. These are feelings that I had rarely (perhaps never truly) experienced in their raw form, without a story to justify, explain, or attribute them to, before I started the dreamwork. And mostly, I rejected the less desirable feelings outright. It is hard to explain a “true” feeling, since emotional states are most definitely felt. For myself, I notice that my emotions typically manifest as a response to some external stimulus or, just as often, from some mental thought and can often project out from me onto the people around me or the world in general.


I am standing in a line of people. There is a woman who has told us we have to remove our clothing. The man and woman to my left start to take their clothes off. I don’t want to see them naked and I don’t want to take my clothes off. I feel frustrated that I have to be so exposed.
Vulnerability is not a nice word in our society. Dictionaries generally define it as “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded”, “open to attack or damage”, “open to censure, criticism or judgment”. Not a very flattering state. Not one I have ever aspired to.

But in the dreamwork, it is about being with the Archetypes as our true selves without fear of rejection or judgment. In the archetypal realm, there is no judgment or rejection, only the truth. Sometimes, it might seem as if the Animus is judging. Really He is just being provocative, showing us some way we have of being which is not of our soul. But for many of us, in our outer lives we have experienced exactly the kinds of attacks, criticisms, judgments, censuring, etc. for which the word generally derives is meaning. So, if it seems that the Archetypes are judging or rejecting, it is a projection. We respond to the projection by taking a defensive position to protect ourselves. In the dream above, there is no trauma fear that comes up, but still the NO is there, the defensive position still wants to rise up. I feel annoyance, irritation at the idea that I have to be exposed. The pathology is slowly being cornered and outed, and, it doesn’t like it. “NO”, it says, defiant, petulant and perturbed.

Warrior Heart

“Well we all have a face that we hide away forever, then we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone. Some are satin, some are steel, some are silk and some are leather. They’re the faces of The Stranger, but we love to try them on.” ~ The Stranger, by Billy Joel (1977)

The archetypes push us to strip away every last mask that we wear. The fa├žade, the veneer, the well crafted persona that I have constructed to help me live in the world apparently must go! The way I have of being, the trait that everyone attributes to me, the story of who I think I am. The dream challenges all of this. It shows the ways in which we hide our true selves from the world and asks us to consider, are they of God? Are they of our true essence? This is difficult, because many of the ways I have of being in the world are “good”. The environment is important, how we raise our food is important, our children are important. What about democracy in the world and women’s rights? When does a “good” thing become a block in the work? Whether it is being the good daughter, the good friend, the hard worker, the problem solver, or the care taker, it all can become the place to hide. What am I hiding from? Well, the core feelings, of course.