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.

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