Magazine article The Spectator

Looking for Answers

Magazine article The Spectator

Looking for Answers

Article excerpt

Over the Christmas holiday I read a collection of essays edited by Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols, which Jung kicks off with an essay entitled 'The Importance of Dreams'. Dreams ought to be taken seriously, says Jung. They are a specific expression of the unconscious and as such ought to be treated as facts.

He concedes that a fact expressed by the unconscious, primitive, symbol-encrusted part of the mind is never going to be easy for the contemporary, rational, conscious part of the mind to interpret with any certainty. But Jung contends that anyone equipped with an understanding of primitive symbolism can learn to interpret correctly at least some of their dreams, and perhaps take advantage of the guidance and prophesy that is being constantly offered by the unconscious mind.

I need all the advice and prophesy I can get at the moment, so I've been keeping a notebook and pencil by my bed, along with Jung's book to refer to, and without fail I've written up my dreams on waking each morning. But so far my unconscious mind hasn't offered anything that might be construed as counsel. Gaza city, of all things, has featured a lot.

One night I was driving through its deserted streets. In another dream I was watching it being bombed. My dream views of Gaza were identical with views I'd seen on the BBC's ten o'clock news before going to bed.

Similarly, the origin of a dream about Barack Obama could be traced to a news bulletin I'd seen. Rather than trying to advise me, my unconscious seems merely obsessed with what it watched on TV last night. In the dream about Obama I was dancing at a house party, and he was seated on a sofa with his wife. They were both laughing, snapping their fingers and swaying in their seats to the rhythm of the music.

The context in which I saw the news footage of President Obama snapping his fingers was rather unusual, however, and I noted that down, too, in case it proved significant.

Most days I take an aged, arthritic collie called Joe out for a walk because Margery, his aged, arthritic owner, is no longer up to it. Last week when I called for him, he wasn't there. The home help, Edna, had earlier found him lying semi-conscious in the hall and in a lot of pain. Thinking that Joe was at death's door, she sent for the vet, who came and took him away, and that, we assumed, was the end of Joe. …

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