Meeting with the Minister

This dream came in April 2003, nine months after the break up of my second marriage and it turned out to be prophetic. The minister in the dream is the priest who had performed our marriage ceremony and who I had mentioned in the Trapped Spider dream.

I am to have a meeting with Steven, scheduled for 1pm. The church I go to is very big and not one I am familiar with. There are a group of people gathered around a table near the altar, apparently about to have a meeting. They seem rather superior and unfriendly. I tell a woman I have a meeting with Steven and ask where he is. She says he will be along soon.

Just then he comes in looking quite harried and I run to him hugging him like a long lost friend. He is happy to see me too but I have a fleeting pang of anxiety that the stuffed shirts won’t approve. 

He motions for me to follow him and we go down the aisle and up a narrow spiral staircase.  He is slightly ahead of me and on my right. I chat on the whole time about a book I had just read called A Man Called Peter and say the subject, Peter Marshall, died of a heart attack aged 47.

On reaching the top of the stairs we go through a doorway and Steven locks the door behind us. I feel relieved that we won’t be disturbed. We then step down into an area with several rows of pews. End of dream.

I posted it to the dream forum, saying ‘it was never quite clear in the dream what I was meeting with him for, except that it seemed to be to tell him about the split. It actually felt more like a confession.’

The ensuing discussion confirmed my hunch that the dream was addressing feelings of guilt over the impending divorce but I didn’t feel that anything had been resolved because it was one of those dreams with no real conclusion. At that point I was still feeling quite conflicted over getting a divorce, even though it was clear that we were finished as a couple. Eventually I would come to realise that in addition to my own unrealistic idealism regarding marriage vows, the situation had stirred up a lot of unresolved issues relating to my parents’ disastrous marriage.

My alcoholic father had deserted the family when I was 3 but Mum had never sought a divorce until she decided to remarry about 16 years after his disappearance. Before the marriage could be dissolved, there was a legal requirement to put notices in all the national papers asking for information regarding his whereabouts. By sheer coincidence, he was spotted around this same time by relatives holidaying in Sydney. They followed him to what turned out to be a rooming house and confronted him. They then notified my mother but before the divorce proceedings could be put in motion, he committed suicide. This saved her the trouble of getting a divorce but the circumstances of the death required an inquest and delayed the issuing of a death certificate, thereby frustrating the wedding plans. It was 6 months after being officially widowed before Mum was able to remarry. My father’s death had occurred just 7 weeks before my own first marriage and I was much too caught up in my own plans at the time to worry about all that had unfolded but events of such emotional intensity have their own timetable for emerging from the depths of the unconscious to where they have been relegated.

I concluded the dream was simply processing all the mixed emotions, past and present, that I was experiencing and in doing so was helping me to deal with what had to be done. I was 47 when my first husband died and I decided that the reference to Peter Marshall dying of a heart attack at that same age was addressing my heartbreak over his death and the death of my old life.

In my post to the dream forum, I wrote, ‘One thing that keeps nagging me is reconnecting with Steven. I made enquiries and he is running some classes that interest me, so will give it some thought.’

Well, I did give it some thought but it would be over two years before I actually did anything about it and that is when this dream unfolded properly. I emailed Steven and he ‘just happened’ to have what he called an Adult Enquirers course about to start that very week. It was to be held at the deanery and not in the Cathedral, so on that basis I decided to attend. For some reason I felt somewhat intimidated by the Cathedral, as if I had no right to be there. Totally irrational of course but that’s how I felt at the time.

On the first night we drew up a curriculum according to participants’ interests and as there were several who weren’t part of the Cathedral congregation, Steven suggested a tour of the building as part of the course. To have a tour personally conducted by the Dean was something I enthusiastically agreed to, as did the rest of the group.

On the night of the tour, as the group assembled outside of the Cathedral, a feeling of what I can only describe as pure joy began to rise within me. As we walked around inside it was all I could do to stop myself from bursting into song, I felt so joyful. We went down into the crypt and back up to the main building and then there was a discussion about going up to the gallery, as the stairway was a bit challenging. Again we were all in agreement and as we set off, I was at the head of the group, following Steven. As we were mounting the spiral staircase, we were chatting when I suddenly had a sense of déjà vu and a vague recollection of having had this same experience in a dream. When we got to the top, we had to step down into where the pews were arranged and again I had the sense of déjà vu.

Over the next few days the incident kept nagging at me and finally I decided to try to find the dream.  The dream forum had closed by this time but fortunately Jane had advised us to save anything we felt was important before she dismantled it. At the time I was in two minds, as it turned out to be a rather tedious job to copy them from the web format but I am very glad I did. Over the years I have often had occasion to refer to old dreams and now the records are proving useful for this blog. I had developed the habit of recording my dreams when they first captured my attention back in 1997 but the forum really forced me into a more disciplined way of composing so as to make them comprehensible to others. The ensuing discussion with the other members also proved to be an invaluable record of how I came to some of the interpretations.

When I reread the dream, I instantly saw that the ‘big church’ I had described was the Cathedral. I don’t know why I hadn’t recognised it but it was probably because in the dream it was empty except for the regular pews, whereas on the one and only occasion I had been inside the building it had been for Steven’s installation as Dean. At that time, it had additional seating for the occasion and was jam packed with people. In fact the only seat we could find was in the gallery so I had in fact been up that staircase but not with him. There was even the clue in the book I had been talking about, A Man Called Peter. The name of the cathedral is St Peter’s Cathedral.

I still didn’t really understand the feeling of joy that had overwhelmed me but the following week we had a discussion on the sacraments and when we came to the sacrament of marriage, the penny finally dropped. All the remorse, guilt and sadness over the way the marriage had turned out just dissolved. The long and short of it was that it simply hadn’t worked out. It was now 3 years since the split and it was time to let go of the pain, integrate the lessons learned and move on. There would be residue still to process of course but over time the complex of mixed feelings gradually dissolved to the point where nothing was left but the generic sadness that comes from life not conforming to fairy tale endings.

I was left wondering though about how dreams like this come about. Was it ‘just coincidence’ that I happened to have a dream that had elements that would be enacted in real life at some time in the future? Was the dream a response to my yearning to find some peace with a troubling situation, which in turn led to me taking steps to find that peace? I had to wonder at the circumstances that contributed to this dream being realised, as I had no conscious intention of visiting the cathedral at any point. That I ascended the stairs in precisely the manner depicted in the dream is too hard to dismiss, especially as it involved the cooperation of another person. I hadn’t been the one to suggest the tour in the first place and hadn’t expected the gallery to be part of it, as it wasn’t an easy climb and there were some members of the group for whom it would have been quite daunting.

Notwithstanding the surprise element of ‘a dream come true,’ I was glad I had followed the prompt from the dream to reconnect not only with a trusted spiritual guide but also my interrupted spiritual journey. Eventually I started attending the Cathedral, even becoming baptised there and though I stopped being a regular after Steven was moved to another position interstate, my spiritual journey continued with explorations into other traditions. My years in the Cathedral community were a wonderfully rich time and I did much healing of my antagonistic attitude towards religion as a whole and Christianity in particular.

As with the Trapped Spider dream, this one illustrates how dreams can unfold over time and for that reason, among others, I feel it is worthwhile keeping some sort of record. Perhaps this type of dream scenario happens more often than we realise simply because we either don’t pay enough attention or dismiss them as improbable. The wealth of dream study reports unequivocally support the validity of such experiences but there is nothing like personal experience to verify their occurrence and especially their value.

Trapped Spider

I had this dream in January 2000 when I was sleeping over one night at my then partner’s house. The setting in the dream was exactly as it was in reality and there was very little of the kind of fantasy-like symbolic imagery that dreams often employ. From the vantage point of understanding I have today, that indicates the issue is very close to the surface.

Even though I was having a lot of intriguing and dramatic dreams around this time, this one kept haunting me and did so until I finally understood it, a full four years later. It was an important lesson in the power of dreams as a life guidance system and was pivotal in encouraging me to take the dream life more seriously. Another important lesson from the dream is that dreams don’t lie, even though our understanding of them may miss the mark.

I dream that I wake up and get out of bed to find spider web wound round and round me, binding me. I move my arms away from my sides and find I can break out of the web easily. I start itching and realise I have been bitten. I look in the mirror and see I have raised bumps all over my body and face. It looks like I have chicken pox. I vaguely recall a little black spider being in the bed and somehow know it had bitten me to try and wake me up and when that didn’t work, it bound me up. I marvel at the fact that it was able to wind the thread right around me even though I was lying down, and can’t understand how it was able to get between my body and the bed. I am both amused and impressed by its attempts to get my attention but to what end I do not know. 

I had no idea what the dream was about but I made a note to the effect that I was able to get out of the binding easily and that I was aware that the bites were no more than temporary annoyances. What puzzled me most was the sense of urgency and exasperation in the spider’s behaviour. It seemed determined to get my attention and yet its attempts were rather pathetic. I made a note that I thought it might be a prophetic dream and that turned out to be correct. A few days later, I had a dream about a cat being trapped in my bedroom in my own house and noted the similarity to the spider dream.

At the time I had the dream, I was in the process of returning to Uni with the intention of doing a Social Science degree and with so much else going on in my life as well, I had very little time to pursue a study of dreams.  Truth was, although I didn’t realise it at the time of course, I was afraid of entering the deep waters of the unconscious mind. I was still wading in the shallows at the water’s edge and following my old pattern of trying to find myself in external activities. Eventually I quit the course and as I was doing it for enrichment rather than a career, from then on I chose to study on my own only the topics that really interested me. Ironically the final straw had come when I read a statement in the psychology textbook that dreams were just random firings of neurons. I didn’t know much about dreams at that stage but I knew from my own experience that that simply was not true.

The Uni course did have some benefits though and one of them was a requirement to connect to the Internet. I must have felt some motivation to work out the dream because I found a website that offered online dream analysis for about $25 and sent it in.  It was a waste of money but a good lesson in the futility of this kind of simplistic approach. I also had a session coming up with my hypnotherapist and discussed it with her but still didn’t come any closer to cracking it.

Fast forward to September 2002 and in the interim my partner had become my husband and now soon to be ex-husband. I was having a very difficult time dealing with the rapid turn of events but I had lucked onto Jane Teresa Anderson’s dream forum a couple of months earlier and it was an invaluable source of support and help. There was some discussion on the forum about spiders in dreams and it resurrected the memory of my trapped spider, so I posted it. Through the discussion, it became obvious that it was related to the relationship in some way but I still didn’t get it. Finally, 16 months after posting to the forum, I had the Aha! moment. This is what I put in my journal, a full 4 years after originally having the dream:

This morning in the shower I was reflecting on the spider dream and it suddenly made sense. It was warning me not to get married – not to bind myself up.

Why didn’t I see it at the time? After all, I had made some effort to understand it. One reason is that at the time of the dream, marriage was not on the agenda. We had been together for two and a half years and had discussed it from time to time and though there was an expectation it would happen, we had no definite plans. By the time we made the decision to marry, the dream had faded from my memory. The other, more pertinent reason, was that I didn’t want to know. The biggest block to heeding messages from the unconscious is when it tells us things that conflict with our conscious desires and it takes some hard lessons to learn to pay attention.

I eventually learned that spiders are a potent symbol of intuition because of the fact that they extrude the silk from within their bodies. And of course black is also symbolic of the unconscious. Cats too are symbolic of intuition and spiders and cats are both symbols of the feminine – the inner dimension of being, or yin energy, as distinct from the masculine/yang energy of action in the outer world. I was definitely being called to attend to the inner world but old ways of being don’t yield easily to change.

Six months after the original spider dream, the decision to marry was hastened due to the priest at the church we had been attending getting a post as Dean of the Cathedral. His new post would take effect within eight weeks, which meant if we were to have the wedding in our church, with him officiating, we needed to make a decision quickly. Arrangements were made and everything fell into place nicely. We had quite a close relationship with this very progressive priest, even though we were only casual churchgoers. We were part of a group that met socially with him for in-depth and no-holds-barred discussions of contemporary spirituality. I was also seeing him privately for spiritual direction, which I had considerable conflict about, given my long standing, though recently challenged, atheism.

Twenty one months after we married, it was all over and I was feeling devastated. The dream forum became my lifeline because I was so emotionally fragile that I would only leave the house when I absolutely had to. The break up brought fully to the surface all the childhood loss, abandonment and betrayal issues that I had been trying to keep a lid on all my life. I had worked through some of these issues after my husband’s death 5 years earlier, due in no small part to the new relationship but now I was on my own for the first time in 34 years and faced with another loss that left me feeling totally confused and bewildered. Even so, in the midst of the anguish, part of me recognised it as an opportunity to really find out at last who I am as an individual and what my life is really about. These were questions that had been posed in one form or another through the upheavals in my life since my first husband’s death in 1997 but I had attempted to answer them by trying to recreate my old life. It hadn’t worked.

With the initial awakening experience my feet had been firmly planted on a spiritual path. Though I had believed my new husband and I were compatible in this regard, it turned out not to be the case and apparently a relationship not in alignment with my soul’s agenda had a use by date not of my choosing. Just prior to the split, there had been a lot of intense activity, consisting of what I can only refer to as psychic communication. As with the dream and for the same reasons, I just couldn’t figure out the message. It turned out to be the same as the dream – wake up! I will explore some of those communications in these pages.

The prospect of a divorce created a great deal of anguish within me but eventually I had a dream about meeting with the priest who had married us and all of the inner conflict was resolved. This dream too turned out to be prophetic, albeit with a much more positive and affirming message. The divorce laws required a 12 month waiting period before being finalised and during that period I had some interesting adventures with afore-mentioned spiritual communication. Though I was still somewhat sceptical and often a bit spooked by these happenings, I eventually realised that my fears were unfounded. I didn’t always like what was happening, or what was being communicated, but it became apparent that it was all for my support and ultimate benefit. In retrospect, the psychic communication had been there all along but my scientific materialistic worldview was a very efficient interference device. Dream work became the means for unblocking the channels of communication.

There is a wonderful poem by Rumi, which captures the essence of this dream and its message.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you

Don’t go back to sleep!

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep!

People are going back and forth

Across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,

The door is round and open

Don’t go back to sleep!