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.