Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Sometimes I wake up from a dream feeling that I've spent half the night exhausting myself in some frustrating, meaningless ordeal. This was one such dream. But as soon as I started to reflect on the symbolism of the dream, I realized it was significant, and the details re-emerged with clarity.
It was the end of a work day and I was at home waiting for Göran to arrive. We were going to a play downtown together. I was looking forward to a relaxing evening at the theater together after a hard day's work.

When Göran arrived, he seemed distracted and in a rush. He was accompanied by an older, heavy set, blond man with thinning, graying hair who wore a dark suit, white shirt and tie. He was also accompanied by a young, attractive woman wearing a colorful dress. Göran introduced me to them, though the man seemed rather self-important and didn't pay much attention to me. He asked me to get him something to eat, and then said he needed to refresh himself and went upstairs to our bathroom with the young woman. Göran hastily explained to me that it was a lawyer from the law firm where he works, and that he had invited himself to go to the theater with us. The woman, Göran explained, was his secretary. This lawyer had relocated to his present law firm -- the law firm where Göran worked -- from some southwestern state (New Mexico or Arizona), where this woman had also been his secretary, and the Bossy Lawyer had insisted she come with him and continue as his secretary. Göran said that of course he and other secretaries in the firm's secretarial pool had speculated that this woman was also his mistress.

In order to be a good host, I went into the kitchen and assembled some food for the Bossy Lawyer and his Mistress Secretary. This was, of course, an imposition, as we had limited time to get ready and go to the show. I was only half dressed myself, and needed to finish putting on my own suit and tie in order to be properly dressed for the theater. I got what I could -- some flatbread, crackers, cheese and juice, put them on one of our wooden serving trays (the green one), and emerged from the kitchen just in time to see the Bossy Lawyer arriving from the bathroom. I handed him the tray and he ate voraciously.

While waiting for him to eat, I had time to finish getting dressed: put on my black socks and shoes, finished buttoning my white shirt, put on my black tie and made sure my hair was combed. I already had my black suit on, and buttoned it up and brushed off excess lint until my dress was flawless. Also, Göran and I had a Young Precocious Son and a Young Precocious Daughter who had been dressing and preparing themselves. I inspected their clothes and made sure they were ready (they were). I was very proud of our children; very proud to be a father. I and my family were ready to go, just as the Bossy Lawyer and his Mistress Secretary had eaten their fill. There was still food left on the serving tray, and he had tossed a newspaper and napkins and other things onto the floor and the coffee table. Not wanting to leave our home a mess, I told Göran to go ahead with our kids and our guests to the bus stop, and I would quickly tidy up and run to meet them.

So they all went out the front door while I quickly grabbed the food tray, picked up the napkins and other personal effects and the newspaper left by the Bossy Lawyer. I figured it was enough simply to put everything in the kitchen next or on the counter next to the sink, and then clean everything up after we arrived home from the theater. I tossed the napkins into the garbage and was about to do the same with the newspaper, when I noticed in the newspaper an announcement about an event planned by a group called, "Christians for a Happy and Safe Halloween." I noticed that this event was being put on that very evening, at the same time as the show we were going to see, and that it was even being held in the same building where the theater was located, a building called "The Exchange." I shook my head and smirked a bit. I figured this was one of those silly alternative Halloween events planned by judgmental, conservative Christians who thought Halloween was evil. I tossed the newspaper into the garbage, looked around to make sure everything was properly tidied up, and then hurried out the front door, locking it behind me and then heading down the street toward the bus stop, where I hoped to rejoin my family.

From a distance, I could see that no one was at the bus stop. I was a bit surprised, as I figured that had the bus arrived before I could make it, Göran and the kids would have waited for me and we would have caught the next one together. But then it dawned on me that the Bossy Lawyer would probably have insisted on taking the first bus and leaving without me. I ran to the bus stop on the corner of 32nd Street and Chicago, and looked north to see if the bus was visible. I did in fact see a bus that was just one block away, and figured that must be the one that Göran and our kids were on board. I thought I'd call him on my cell phone and ask him to ask the bus driver to wait just a minute while I caught up with them, and I started chasing the bus.

As I ran, I was trying to pull Göran's number up on my cell phone so I could quickly call him but I was having trouble finding it. I went into the "contacts" menu on my cell phone and then had to scroll down through my contacts until I found Göran. But for some reason, something seemed to be wrong with my phone. I clicked on his name, and it opened up some very complicated looking information screen that was green and gray and looked rather mechanical. It had the name of some person, a "Dolly Lee" and a lot of personal information about her, but nowhere could I find Göran's number nor even a place where I could click a button to initiate a call even if I had been able to find it. I figured I would just have to run faster and catch the bus on my own.

It was starting to rain. As I ran, I thought I must be getting my suit sweaty, which I thought was a shame since I had been so perfectly dressed for the theater. Luckily, the bus seemed to be moving slowly, and as it pulled over to the bus stop on Chicago and Lake Street (two blocks north of the bus stop where I would normally have caught it), I saw there was a long line of people waiting to get on board. I got to the bus stop just as the last couple of people were getting on.

But then I noticed a problem. This was not the 5 bus, but some sort of express commuter bus numbered 256X. My family was nowhere on board. I figured at this point, however, that it was no matter, as long as the bus went downtown at least somewhat close to where the theater was. So I asked the bus driver, "Does this bus go downtown?" The bus driver glared back at me with an unfriendly expression, and acknowledged that it did. He mentioned some downtown landmark where the bus normally stopped, and I realized this landmark was just 2 or 3 blocks away from the theater, so that would be good enough. I got on board and swiped my bus card on the card reader. There were a couple of other people ahead of me, paying with cash. They were counting out their change seemingly a penny at a time and were taking a long time. I was glad I could just swipe my card and get on, and then went to find a seat. As I passed him, the Unfriendly Conductor glared at me again and muttered under his breath. Apparently at this time of day, no one ever got off at the stop I was asking about because on a commuter bus everybody was leaving down town. He seemed tremendously put out that he was going to have to stop at this stop just for me. Before finding my seat, I asked the Unfriendly Conductor if he could announce when we were approaching the stop as it was very important I not miss it, and he answered back gruffly that he wouldn't and that I would just have to watch for it and figure out when to get off myself.

I made my way toward the back of the bus. I saw that this being a commuter bus that serviced suburban passengers it was larger, cleaner and more luxuriously equipped than the buses that normally serviced the inner city. The bus was wide, and that seats were very comfortably upholstered and were arranged around some kind of service table where people could eat and drink as they rode. The seats were arranged in a wide row so that people could sit as a group and socialize if they wished. I found a comfortable seat next to the window and started to watch carefully to make sure I didn't miss my stop.

Suddenly the bus was a subway train and we were zooming through some dark underground tunnel. The train came to a stop at some subway station that looked to me like it must be somewhere down town. I rushed to the front of the bus. There were two homely, dark-haired college girls in Halloween costumes waiting to get on. I remembered, "Oh, yes, tonight is Halloween." I figured a lot of Halloween celebrants would be out on the streets tonight. I asked the Unfriendly Conductor if this was my stop, but he glared at me and refused to answer my question. I figured my stop must be the next stop, so I found a seat close to the entrance, sitting on the edge, getting ready to jump up. The subway train pulled out of the stop and began zooming through the dark tunnel. As the doors slid open at the next stop, the Unfriendly Conductor growled back at me, "You missed your stop at the last one."

I realized this man was determined to mess with me, and that my best bet was to get off as quickly as I could, get up to the street surface, and find the theater as quickly as possible, although now I didn't know where I was, and it would take me longer to get there. I was experiencing growing anxiety that I wouldn't get there in time and that the theater doors would be shut before I could get in, and I would miss my family. There was no convincing the Unfriendly Conductor to back up and drop me off at the proper stop, in any event. 
I got off at a bleak, abandoned subway stop, dimly lit by a flickering florescent light. There was a single shady, shifty-looking man there who looked like he might be part of the city's criminal element. I looked around and didn't see any exit or stairs that might lead to the surface. I realized that my only option was to try to make my way down the tunnel to the next stop, where hopefully there would be an elevator or a stairway to the surface. The Shifty Man seemed to be studying me, calculating. I figured it would be best to get out of here as quickly as possible. I saw a sort of catwalk close to the walls of the subway tunnel that might lead on to the next stop. I followed it a way until I reached a section where some sort of ceiling cave-in had blocked the path. I didn't want to jump down onto the subway tracks... Too dangerous! I turned back. Avoiding the Shifty Man at the Bleak Subway Stop, I followed the catwalk in opposite direction, toward the preceding stop and found that this path was clear, all the way to the next stop. The way was very dark and frightening, and I was nervous about what might happen if another train passed while I was on the catwalk, as there was not much space in the tunnel. But I was making good progress. I finally made my way back to the stop where the Homely Halloweeners had boarded the train, the stop where I should have gotten off in the first place. I felt a sense of relief that I was making progress.

This stop was rather dingy and inhospitable looking as well. I searched around me for a likely exit. I saw a set of narrow stairs with a railing, leading up to a rusty metal door. Just as I reached the door, it opened by itself and a sexy young guy with black hair, wearing black eyeliner, dressed in black leather and a spiked dog collar emerged. He seemed slightly intoxicated and distracted, and passed me without seeming to pay me much heed. I asked him if this door was the way out, but he ignored me.

I went through the door and found myself in another dimly lit corridor. There was another young guy there. He was mostly naked, though he was wearing some sort of leather harness and some kind of a collar. His hands were cuffed with iron manacles. His hair was brown and bedraggled, about shoulder length. He had bruises on his body and he seemed to be limping, and there was an expression of great sadness on his face. I noticed he had a rather large penis. I asked him, "Are you all right? Do you need help?" Like the Black Leather Clad Young Man, he seemed distracted or intoxicated, and he ignored my question. I realized I was in a terrible place. I continued down the corridor and saw some kind of atrium. There was a table with various rusty chains and implements of torture. There was a coat rack where people had hung their street clothes, and there were leather costumes and outfits on another rack nearby. I also saw a pile of ebony black books. I picked up one of the books and examined it up close. In gold letters the words "Holy Bible" were embossed on the covers of these books. I wondered what these people would want with bibles. The corridor continued on into darkness. At the back of the atrium was another rusty metal door. I hoped this was a way out, so I went through it.

On the other side of the door was some kind of rough hewn cavern. I was standing at the head of an iron-railed stairway that led deeper into the cavern. Down below me I saw a crowd of people. There were two types of people below. There were older, fatter respectably-dressed people, men wearing suits and ties and women in respectable dresses. These people were all holding the same black bibles I had seen in the atrium, which they held in one hand. In their other hand they had implements of torture that they were using on the other class of people. The other class seemed to be enslaved, scantily clad or naked, manacled people. Some of the respectable people were sexually abusing the slaves, some were partaking of food or alcohol from serving trays presented to them by the slaves, some where using the implements of torture to sadistically hurt the slaves. I realized this was some kind of club for the wealthy, respectable people. I did not want to spend one second longer in this nightmarish place, so I immediately turned around and exited through the door I had come in.

I continued on, down the darkened hallway. I crossed what seemed to be some kind of a bridge with more iron railing that led over to another cave. There I saw another rusty metal door which I opened and passed through. I found myself in the Bleak Subway Stop where I had gotten off in the first place. I was desperate to escape, and thought I would follow the catwalk forward to the next stop, leaping down and running along the subway tracks if need be. The danger of being electrified by the tracks or being hit by a train didn't seem to matter any more as much as getting out of this place. However, to my surprise, I found that the catwalk was no longer blocked, and the way ahead was clear.

I finally made my way to a less dismal looking subway stop. All of the subway stops had white-tiled floors, walls and ceilings, and, unlike at the other stops, this stop appeared to have been well maintained with clean, new white tiles. This stop was well lit, and there was a kind-looking, gray-haired woman wearing a modest grey dress standing there, as though she had been waiting for me. She asked me in a friendly voice, "Are you here for the party?" I was about to ask her what party, and then I saw posters on the wall for the "Christians for a Happy and Safe Halloween." Suddenly I felt a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude toward these good, Christian people, and I realized I had misjudged them. Now I understood how it had been vitally necessary for them to put on an "alternative" Halloween party. I said to the woman, "Do you have a phone? It's urgent you call the police! I just escaped from a terrible place. You need to call someone and do something about it!" She looked at me with an expression of concerned empathy. "You mean the S/M people?" she asked. A bit surprised, I nodded assent, and she said, "Don't worry. We know about them. We're already trying to address that situation."

I asked her how I could get out of here and back to the surface. I told her I was trying to find and rejoin my family. She pointed toward the wall behind her. She said, "Any one of those can get you out." I went over to the wall she was pointing to, and saw what looked like a series of doors and portholes with glass doors and brightly colored thick, plastic trim. The trim of each was a different color of the rainbow. There was a porthole with bright purple trim above a porthole with bright green trim. I opened each and looked inside. I had expected to see some kind of small elevator, but they looked like washing machines. I considered crawling into one of them, but they seemed too small -- perhaps the right size for a small child but not me. It occurred to me that these washing machine/portholes would be the way young children would arrive at the party. To the left of the portholes I saw a large glass door surrounded by bright orange trim. I opened the door and looked inside and saw what looked like a large shower, with a place to sit, and with scrub brushes, soap and shampoo. This seemed too large and elaborate for me, and in any event I had been expecting an elevator, not a shower. It occurred to me that this one was for elderly people. Finally, I noticed another smaller glass doorway with plastic trim in the primary colors, yellow, blue and red. I peeked inside and saw a smaller shower with only enough room to stand, one that seemed just the right size for me. Also, it was bobbing up and down slightly, and I realized that it was both a shower and an elevator. I realized this was just what I needed.

Just as I was climbing into the shower, I saw another woman arriving to join the Gray-haired Christian Woman who had greeted me. I overheard them talking, and I realized that their "Safe and Happy Halloween" party had not begun yet, but was just about to begin. I realized that, since their party was beginning at just the same time as the theater presentation, I was not too late. I thanked the women and climbed into the shower and pressed an elevator button. The shower head went on, and water started raining down on me, and meanwhile water started rising up from the floor, flooding the enclosed space, rising up to the level of my pockets. To my relief, the Shower/Elevator also seemed to be rising like an elevator. I was finally escaping the subway tunnels. I had been hoping to keep my suit tidy and dry, but I realized this was no longer possible and it no longer mattered to me in any event. What counted was getting back to my family before the theater doors closed and I was locked out. When the Shower/Elevator came to a stop, the water had all drained out, and I opened the front door and found myself in a building toward the east end of Hennepin Avenue.

I passed through some glass doors and found myself out in the open air, on the street. I wondered if the theater managers would turn me away for having a wet suit. But it was raining out. Heavy rain was coming down and making everyone wet, and I realized that they would have to let wet people in or there would be no show. I wanted to call Göran and let him know I was on my way, and to save me a seat at the theater. I reached into my right pocket and fished out my cell phone. I wondered if the cell phone had gotten soaked and become inoperable. The cell phone seemed waterproof and dry, but when I opened it up, I was still having the same problem figuring out how to call Göran I had been having earlier. I gave up on trying to use the cell phone and ran toward the theater, which I knew to be just around the corner, in the same building ("the Exchange") where the Christian alternative Halloween party had been held. So I was sure that I would be able to make it in time. I could hardly wait to see Göran.


My first feeling upon awakening from this dream was a bit of disappointment, I had been so looking forward to finally catching up with Göran in my dream. Waking up had been anticlimactic. I wanted to be able to return to the dream and finish it, finding my family at the theater!

I also felt a bit exhausted by the rigors of trying catch up to my family and escape the subway tunnels. The unpleasantness of that part of the dream was making me want to forget about the dream, get up and go about my day. (I realize writing this now, that unpleasant dreams may be more likely to be forgotten, as our conscious minds prefer to get free of them.) But then I realized that the subways were not just a mode of urban transportation, but subterranea, a very important dream symbol, and it was recognition of the importance of that symbol that brought all the details of the dream back to my conscious mind with force. I realized this was a very spiritual, important dream, and immediately wrote it down in as much detail as I could remember.

James Hillman has argued that ancient Greek and Roman mythology about Hades -- the subterranean habitat of the dead -- was actually the product of dreams. In the ancient mind (and perhaps in our modern mind too) sleep and death were closely associated. In our dreams we often encounter individuals who have been long dead, and so it seemed self-evident to the ancients that dreams were a venue for entering and interacting with spirits in Hades.

But as Plato's "allegory of the cave" suggests, subterranea in dreams may actually be more symbolic of this life than of the after life. In Plato's allegory, a dark cave where our view is restricted to shadows from the upper world is symbolic of the limited point of view humans have here in mortality.

Clothing was very symbolically important in this dream. In this dream I encountered three types of clothing: formal dress typical of the American corporate world; subterranean "Halloween" wear that included sadomasochistic leather gear; and then the plain, modest dress of the Christian women I encountered toward the end of the dream. The first two forms of dress represented the oppressive class structure of a world divided between powerful rich and impoverished poor, the first form of dress symbolizing hypocritical conformity to standards dictated by wealth and power, and the latter form symbolizing enslavement and objectification of human beings by that power. By contrast, the simple, modest gray dresses of the Christian women at the end symbolized abstinence from that oppressive culture of wealth and power.

In the dream, the Bossy Lawyer is clearly aligned with that world of arrogance, greed and dominance. He treats everyone around him (including my husband Göran and me and his Mistress Secretary) as his personal slaves.

It was interesting to me that in the dream my family consisted of me, my (same-sex) husband Göran, and our two "precocious" children, a boy and a girl. Göran and I and our children represented a unity that was broken up by the Bossy Lawyer, and that I was constantly trying to recover in the dream. For what it's worth, the dream revealed my partnership between my husband and me as a procreative union, and as my ultimate happiness.

If the dark, dismal underground caves and tunnels were symbolic of this-worldly existence, the reemergence at the end into the open air represented the after-life. The fact that our end goal was a theater was perhaps symbolic of the fact that after we die and enter that new life we receive answers to all the questions of this life. It's maybe significant that we were planning to attend live theater, not a movie (which would have been, after all, nothing more than the projection of shadows, à la Plato's cave).

Much of the rest of the symbolism in this dream speaks for itself, for example, the fact that I became lost because of the perverse laziness of the Unfriendly Conductor, or the fact that my communication with Göran had to be in person and not by cell phone.

But the central symbol in the dream, perhaps the main point of the dream, was the contrast between the two churches. It was significant that the evil people in charge of the Torture Cave were respectably dressed, clutching a Bible in one hand and implements of torture in the other. The dream was a warning against false religion, which uses symbols of respectability, but that does not respect human beings, that deadens our sensibilities and alienates us from ourselves. It is important that in the dream the slaves were intoxicated, lacking self awareness and lacking ability to communicate with others.

Just as, on the one hand, the first (evil) church involved a kind of deadening of self awareness and an alienation of its victims, the other (good) church made no attempt to control or guide my behavior in any way. I was simply shown the means of escape by the modestly dressed, kind women, and availed of the opportunity to use it. They were aware of what was going on in the evil church and were seeking to address it, though I saw no signs that this might imply any sort of force or violence. The way out involved a requirement of baptism. I was struck by the Noachian symbolism in my dream of water raining down from above and flood waters rising up from below.

I have some ideas about the significance of the rainbow colors, or the fact that my way out involved entering a portal surrounded by primary colors of blue, yellow and red, or the fact that it was still raining outside when I emerged from underground, or that the name of the building housing the theater and the True Church was called "the Exchange." But that's enough dream interpretation for the moment.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Meeting Jesus Christ

A friend recently shared with me the following dream about receiving a priesthood blessing from Jesus Christ. (For the benefit of non-Mormon readers, a "priesthood blessing" involves receiving laying on of hands and a blessing from someone ordained to the priesthood. Mormons often seek such blessings at difficult times in their lives or for healing from illness or injury.)
Several years ago... I had a dream that I was being given a priesthood blessing by the Savior. Instead of being dressed as I often imagine him to have been dressed when he was alive, while giving me this priesthood blessing, he was dressed in a white shirt, a dark tie, and white slacks. Almost, he was dressed instead to have been baptizing someone. ...
It is literally almost 3 decades since I had this dream, and it was not until after I read your dream from March 4 that I even remembered this dream. While writing about it to you, it became very clear what my dream meant for me. Still, I am curious as to how YOU might interpret this dream and what it might mean to you.
The individual who shared this dream also shared with me the context of the dream. It came to her at a time in her life when she was dealing with extremely difficult emotions in therapy. She shared her dream with family members and, while some validated it, others (including her parents) dismissed it. They "asked how could someone like me... even dream that she was being given a priesthood blessing by the Savior."


It bears pointing out that even the dismissals of the dream were a form of validation -- a recognition of the power inherent in a dream involving deity.

Before approaching the question of what it means to have an encounter with Jesus in a dream, I'm interested in the significance of Jesus' dress in the dream. He appears wearing modern clothing. A white shirt and dark tie is the expected standard of Church dress for Mormon priesthood holders. The white slacks are, as the dreamer commented herself, the expected dress for performing a baptism (or for performing ordinances in the Mormon temple).

In ancient Christian writing (in the first few centuries A.D.), clothing was often a symbol of incarnation. We see this particularly in ancient noncanonical texts such as the Gospel of Thomas. "Putting on clothes" was a symbol for being born into the earthly realm, and "putting off one's clothes" was a symbol of death (i.e., the spirit puts off its "mortal clothes").

In this dream, Jesus' appearance in modern dress suggests Jesus' active involvement in this person's life today; not as a historical figure clothed according to the customs of the time and place of his ancient mortal existence, but as a real living figure who is actively involved in our world today. And the context of Jesus' involvement in the world today in this particular dream is specifically in the context of the Church. Jesus appears wearing clothing that is typical of priesthood holders in the modern-day Mormon Church.

This should certainly give pause to priesthood holders in the Church. It's a reminder of how sacred that role is. In essence, when we act "in the name of Jesus Christ" -- a typical, every-day act in the Church that occurs in baptisms, confirmations, blessings, ordinations, at the sacrament table, and even over the pulpit in sermons or prayers -- it is as if Jesus himself is performing that act. The dream lends a sense of urgency and power to activities that are easily taken for granted. At the very least it's a reminder of the humility required of anyone called upon to play that role.

For the individual who had this dream, the white slacks -- which she herself immediately identified with the ordinance of baptism -- is suggestive of all the symbolism that comes with baptism, namely death and rebirth. A break with an old, painful past, and entry into a new life; something that she was certainly trying to achieve through therapy and other work to deal with past trauma.

Jesus' presence in the dream is powerful. No serious dream analyst would dismiss the significance of this. There could be no blessing more powerful than from the hands of Jesus himself. And not just a dead, historical Jesus, but a living, resurrected Jesus, alive and at work in our day, in this person's life.

But the dream also presents a challenge of faith. Only faith would allow us to understand the dream as more than a yearning for validation. Faith would grant the individual who had the dream confidence to know that Jesus Christ walks with her in the particular challenges of her life, challenges that ultimately only she and Jesus can know. Faith might help her find courage she didn't know she had, or courage beyond what she, in some ordinary sense, has.

Her account of her family's reactions to her dream reminds us of something else important when it comes to faith. Her account of family members dismissing her dream, or suggesting that she wasn't good enough to have had such an encounter with the living Jesus, is tragic. But it also reminds us that true faith comes from within, not from others.

The lack of family validation is sad, but it makes this person's own faith in God and her own belief in herself that much more meaningful.

Friday, March 7, 2014


I had this dream last night after giving a lecture on Native American history. In my lecture, I pointed out how, when Christian missionaries were confronted with the choice of siding with Natives in the grievous wrongs that were committed against them or siding with their colonial masters in the process of destroying Native culture and forcing Natives into the colonial concentration camp system known as the "reservation system," the missionaries by and large sided with their colonial masters.
I had been on a long itinerancy, travelling from one city to another along the east coast of the United States. During my travels, I had been meeting with anybody who would speak to me, to deliver an important message on the impending doom of the nation. I had been working my way south on foot through the towns of New England and had just crossed a bridge, entering a mid-sized town on the outskirts of a large city (New York?).
When I had arrived in the town, local religious leaders sent for me and asked me to meet them in their offices at a high-rise building at the center of town. I arrived just before sunrise. I was escorted by security guards through the entryway to elevators that brought me to a polished conference room with lavish mahogany furniture and glass tables. There I was met by leaders of all the major Christian denominations in town and had been asked to share with them my lectures on American religious history.
I had my teaching materials with me in three black backpacks, two backpacks that I actually use in real life (one with my laptop computer, and one with my lecture notes and books), and a third black backpack that I don't have in real life but that had my scriptures and other supplies that I needed for my itinerancy. I delivered my lecture to these individuals, explaining to them that a revolution was coming and that the current order of things would soon be overthrown, and that they had best be prepared for it. They were very kind and respectful toward me and listened to my lecture with interest, and at the end they said, "You certainly have given us some things to think about."
At that point, I looked around me and saw a beautiful view through the windows of the highrise we were in, from which it was possible to see the entire landscape all around us, all the rest of the city, and in the distance hills and rivers, and the coast. The sun was rising and the sky was turning gorgeous hues of pink, orange and red.
Suddenly, an escort of security guards arrived in the conference room. Without saying a single word, the security guards placed a machine gun next to each of us, and then moved on. They appeared to be giving machine guns to everyone in the building. I looked at the gun they had placed on the table next to me with horror. It looked sleek and smooth, very expertly designed and balanced. Everyone else at the table looked at me, stricken with fear. They grabbed their machine guns and silently left the room. One of them motioned to me to pick up my machine gun and follow them. I realized that revolutionaries had arrived at the highrise and had entered the building. They were probably working their way upstairs, and we had been given the machine guns in order to defend ourselves. I had no idea how to use a machine gun. I was surprised that the security guards seemed to assume that I would know how to use one; or maybe the machine guns were designed in such a way that the method of using them was self-evident.
At first I did as I thought I needed to. I picked up my machine gun and started to follow the others. But then I realized, I had left my three backpacks behind. The others were keeping deathly silent, because they were afraid that the revolutionaries might be near and didn't want to give away their position. They signaled to me with hand gestures that I needed to forget about my teaching materials and come with them to some central location where we would make a last stand. They seemed to be gesturing to me that I could come get the rest of my stuff later.
I thought, if I leave my black backpacks, I can't complete my mission. I went back and grabbed the backpack that had my lecture notes and books and put it on. I was trying to figure out how I could pick up my other backpacks and still keep my machine gun, which was big and heavy, and seemed to require that I carry it with both hands. I realized that I had to choose between my other backpacks and the machine gun. I put the machine gun down.
In the meantime, in the few seconds I had been making up my mind, janitors had arrived and were starting to move the tables in the conference room around and stack the chairs on the tables. I realized they were getting ready for a siege. I was upset that they had moved my stuff from right under my nose. I began searching, and found the backpack that had my scriptures and other itinerancy supplies. The backpack was no longer black but red. I began searching for the other backpack that had my laptop in it, but now the machine gun was gone.
In my mind, that settled the matter. I found the third pack, grabbed it, and moved in the direction of the building entrance, opposite where the others were going. I realized it was time for me to leave the building.

To me, the meaning of this dream is all too obvious.

In my dreams, if the theme is the end of the world, my dream is almost always set in the North -- in north Minneapolis, in northern Minnesota, in Canada, in the Arctic. In my dream scape, the North is associated with the future, prophecy.

On the other hand, dreams I have that take place in big cities (including downtown Minneapolis), in the East (the eastern United States, usually in big cities like New York or Boston; or Europe) usually revolve around themes of corrupt political power and idolatry. In this dream, I was traveling from the North with a mission of doom, working my way south announcing the end of the world to the cities of the East Coast.

The three packs I was carrying with me on my travels also have a fairly transparent meaning. The pack with my scriptures represented my spirituality and my faith, including the prophecy we find in many world religions that the order of things as presently constituted will eventually come to an end, and we must repent before that happens. The pack containing my laptop was a symbol of my mental capacity. A computer I carry with me everywhere in a pack is basically my brain. It represents my higher reasoning faculties. The third pack contained my teaching supplies (my lecture notes and books), and obviously symbolized my sense of mission in life which is closely connected to my role as a teacher.

The highrise office building in my dream is not that different from "the great and spacious" edifice in the dream of Lehi in the Book of Mormon. It obviously symbolized the pride and power of the world, the powers that be.

In the dream, I was presented with a choice: to stay true to my mission, or to take up arms in defense of "the powers that be." It became evident to me in the dream that -- try as I might -- I could not do both. I could not carry both the machine gun that had been given to me by the building "security forces" and the backpacks that represented my spirit, my mind and my heart. So ultimately I abandoned the weapon and chose my soul.

In the dream, the red sunrise, the arrival of a revolution, and the interesting change in color of my spirit backpack from black to red all symbolized that crucial moment of choice that most of our lives must be some kind of preparation for.

Namely, they symbolized that moment we all face in choices large and small between what is morally right, and what is politically expedient.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

God and Sex

Sex is not an uncommon theme in my dreams. Probably in most people's dreams. Sex in our dreams often troubles us upon waking. It is often a source of embarrassment, though it shouldn't be. Like most things in our dreams, sex is symbolic of more than just sex, and sexual things that happen in our dreams are best understood in symbolic rather than literal terms.

This dream, which I had last night, was about sex, but it was also about God, and about the place of both in my life. It was one of those dreams I occasionally wake from where I felt a special kind of warmth or translucence in the dream. It was a dream that felt revelatory.

Göran and I had been making trips out to Utah and staying with my parents while we were out there. On the latest trip, an Attractive Young Friend of mine asked if he could go with us, and we agreed to take him. I enjoyed his companionship and thought it would be pleasant to have him along and also good for him.
The Attractive Young Friend -- it quickly became evident -- was sexually attracted to me, which surprised me because I figured he would think I was too old for him. Every time he and I were alone, he would come on to me physically. But I kept putting him off.
We arrived at my parents' home the day before I had to get busy with some kind of business related to Affirmation (LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends). It was in the early evening and we were relaxing in the living room, and I was working on a jigsaw puzzle with many thousands of pieces. The puzzle consisted of an elaborate, antique map of the world. Underneath the map was a portrayal of the cosmos, including all the various gods. And at the center of the portrayal of the cosmos and the gods was a portrayal of Christ at the last supper. I had assembled this jigsaw puzzle before, but it had been disassembled and put back into the box, and I was reassembling it. Others were watching as I assembled it. I was startled by how quickly and easily I was finding the right pieces and putting them together. I assumed that it was because I had done this before and I was familiar with the puzzle. Others also commented on how surprised they were that I was assembling it so quickly and easily. At one point, a friend of mine tapped me on the shoulder and showed me that he had been helping me assemble the puzzle. This friend was tall and wore a black suit and tie, a bright white shirt and was surrounded by light. There were beams of white light beaming from behind his hair. I noticed that he had assembled all the pieces of the puzzle portraying Jesus at the Last Supper. I thanked him for helping me, and carefully moved that section of the puzzle to its proper place, fitting it in and completing the puzzle. After that, everyone retired.
The next morning I arose early, before anyone else was awake. I had some errand I needed to take care of before a busy day of errands was to start. I was still naked, having arisen from bed. I walked through the living room area where we had been the night before, and my Attractive Young Friend was there in a sofa bed my parents had rolled out for him. He had another friend there with him and they had been talking. His other friend was thin, of small stature and a redhead. As soon as my Attractive Young Friend saw me enter the room, he nodded at this other friend, and his other friend got up and hurried out of the room leaving us alone. My Attractive Young Friend asked me to come close and sit next to him on the bed, which I did. He then proceeded to pull me under the covers with him. I noticed he was naked under the covers, and I was still naked, and he clearly wanted to have sex with me. I was very tempted. It felt very good for our naked bodies to be pressed up against each other, and I became aroused. But I resisted and pulled myself out from under the covers. I embraced him, with the bed covers between us, and I told him that I loved him very much but we could not do this. He demanded an explanation. He insisted that no one needed to know about us, and that as long as it was just between us, it wouldn't hurt anybody.
I told him: "You know what a terrible liar I am. If I did this, Göran would know just from the way I acted. It would have repercussions and it would have an effect on my relationship with him." I realized the explanation I was giving him was a very worldly explanation. I knew that the real reason I couldn't have sex with him was more spiritual. To be unfaithful to my husband would also make me something I didn't want to be. It would not just hurt Göran; it would make me an unfaithful person.
At the same time, I recognized that my sense of morality in this situation was contingent, an expression of a lower law. Under a higher law, it occurred to me, Göran and I might be selfless enough to share each other with others. Perhaps, I thought, this was an aspect of the higher law revealed by the practice of plural marriage. But I knew that even that being the case, there would be no justification in this situation for me having sex with my Attractive Young Friend, because I would first have to prove my integrity under the lower law before being capable of living any higher law.
As I was pondering this, we heard a door open from the garage. An associate of mine from Affirmation had arrived, and was going to meet me for the work that we had to do later that day. My Attractive Young Friend pushed me away from him. My Affirmation Associate entered a bathroom down the hall and started to take a shower. It was unclear whether he had caught a glimpse of us in the sofa bed. I asked my Attractive Young Friend why he had done that, and he said he didn't want us to be caught together in a compromising situation. I pointed out to him that was a sign he himself knew it was wrong and had a bad conscience about it.

This dream was fundamentally about conscience and about making moral decisions. The first thing I was aware of was that this dream revealed to me how moral behavior involves multiple layers (in this case, three layers) of meaning and motivation.

In this case, the most worldly level of moral behavior was the desire not to get caught. A higher/intermediate level involved a desire to be a good person and not to harm others -- especially those we have covenanted to care for. The highest level of moral behavior would involve letting go of ego -- letting go of what we individually want in a situation and being motivated purely by a desire to share and to give of oneself to others. In this case, the dream was certainly about sexual morality. But it was not just about sexual situations. It was also exploring moral principles that apply much more broadly.

The cosmic jigsaw puzzle in my dream was a vital clue to the meaning of the dream. The jigsaw puzzle was a map of the cosmos, including a map of the earth (showing the interrelatedness of all humanity), the gods, and The High God. The portrait of Jesus (as High God) in the puzzle represented him at the Last Supper, the most important symbol of his covenant with us. It is the Last Supper that I, as a Mormon, remember every week I attend Sacrament Meeting at Church. It was the moment when Jesus announced to his disciples his purpose in coming to earth, to die for our sins, and when he asked of us in return to remember him and to keep his commandment to love one another.

The other characters in my dream each symbolized important aspects of the moral discernment process. Göran, and my relationship with Göran, represented the highest commitments and covenants I have made in this life, the commitments and covenants that give meaning and context to the various moral choices I need to make. My "Attractive Young Friend" represented more selfish urges, yearnings and desires that threaten those commitments and covenants.

The "Tiny Redhead" was particularly interesting to me. Had he remained present, he would have deterred the seduction, and he therefore symbolized "conscience." Conscience and consciousness are closely related words. To have a conscience is to remain conscious of the ramifications of our actions. The willing departure of the Tiny Redhead from the Attractive Young Friend represented the departure of conscience or the abdication of conscience in order to give way to lower desires or urges.

The "Affirmation Associate" was a symbol to me of the work I am about as a person of faith right now, and the fact that he took a shower before we could begin our work for the day reminded me of the importance of retaining pure intentions and keeping "clean" in order to do the work God has for me to do.

The "Tall Man in the Suit" who was surrounded by light represented the Holy Spirit. It was significant that I did not piece together the section of the puzzle portraying Jesus Christ by myself. That part of the puzzle was assembled by the Tall Man in the Suit, who then presented it to me and allowed me to put it in its proper place, at the center of the portrayal of the cosmos.

In the dream I was assembling this puzzle in the living room of my parents' home. It was also in the same space -- in the living room -- where I faced a temptation to infidelity, and where I engaged in a moral discernment process about that temptation. My assembling of the jigsaw puzzle and my wrestling with the moral issues related to being sexually unfaithful were the same fundamental activity. Both of them involved "piecing together" my understanding of the nature of life. The fact that this dream took place in my parents' home was a reminder of my place in a larger scheme of things, in a context of family, perhaps my "eternal family" that includes all humanity.

The moral choices we are presented in life, in other words, are opportunities to add another piece to the puzzle, to come closer to making sense of the fundamental meaning at the heart of life.