One might say that the dream goes on with the “explanation” of what is happening in the square space. Animals are to be changed into men; a “shapeless life-mass” is to be turned into a transfigured (illuminated) human head by magic contact with a reptile. The animal lump or life-mass stands for the mass of the inherited unconscious which is to be united with consciousness. This is brought about by the ceremonial use of a reptile, presumably a snake.

The idea of transformation and renewal by means of a serpent is a well-substantiated archetype. It is the healing serpent, representing the god.

The “shapeless life-mass” immediately recalls the ideas of the alchemical “chaos,” the massa or materia informis or confusa which has contained the divine seeds of life ever since the Creation. According to a midrashic view, Adam was created in much the same way; in the first hour God collected the dust, in the second made a shapeless mass out of it, in the third fashioned the limbs, and so on.

But if the life-mass is to be transformed a circumambulatio is necessary, i.e., exclusive concentration on the centre, the place of creative change. During this process one is “bitten” by animals; in other words, we have to expose ourselves to the animal impulses of the unconscious without identifying with them and without “running away”; for flight from the unconscious would defeat the purpose of the whole proceeding. We must hold our ground, which means here that the process initiated by the dreamer’s self-observation must be experienced in all its raimfications and then articulated with consciousness to the best of his understanding.

This often entails an almost unbearable tension because of the utter incommensurability between conscious life and the unconscious process, which can be experienced only in the innermost soul and cannot touch the visible surface of life at any point.

If reason is not to be outraged on the one hand and the creative play of images not violently suppressed on the other, a circumspect and farsighted synthetic procedure is required in order to accomplish the paradoxical union of irreconcilables. Hence the alchemical parallels in our dreams.

“Not a few have perished in our work,” we can say with the author of the Rosarium. The dream shows that the difficult operation of thinking in paradoxes–a feat possible only to the superior intellect–has succeeded. The “transfiguration” and illumination, the conscious recognition of the centre, has been attained, or at least anticipated, in the dream. This potential achievement–if it can be maintained, i.e., if the conscious mind does not lose touch with the centre again–means a renewal of personality.

Since it is a subjective state whose reality cannot be validated by any external criterion, any further attempt to describe and explain it is doomed for failure, for only those who have had this experience are in a position to understand and attest its reality. “Happiness,” for example, is such a noteworthy reality that there is nobody who does not long for it, and yet there is not a single objective criterion which would prove beyond all doubt that this condition necessarily exists. As so often with the most important things, we have to make do with a subjective judgment.

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