The Mythological Aspect Of Dreaming

The Mythological Aspect Of Dreaming | Dream Encyclopedia

The mythological aspect of dreaming

Beyond the specific topic of lucid dreaming, the more general subject of interpreting and understanding dreams appears to be enjoying a resurgence of interest. New books on dreams appear monthly—volumes ranging from scientific studies to self-help books. A trip to any substantial local bookstore finds several shelves devoted to the subject.

At least part of the resurgence of interest in dreams is tied to the emergence of mythology as a popular topic. Myths are traditional stories that often relate fantastic encounters with gods and spiritual powers that occur in a visionary and “dreamlike” manner.

The contemporary connection between dreams and myths was established by depth psychology, particularly the school of thought initiated by Carl Jung. Jung found that the dreams of his clients frequently contained images that seemed to reflect symbols that could be found somewhere in the mythological systems of world culture.

He theorized that myths were manifestations of the collective unconscious, a part of the mind that acts as a storehouse of myths and symbols, and which he viewed as the ultimate source of every society’s mythology. According to Jung, the collective unconscious also shapes some of the images found in dreams.

In recent years, the notion of mythology as a positive factor in human culture has been popularized through the work of Joseph Campbell and other writers whose work flows out of the Jungian perspective. Thanks to their work, mythology, in the sense of “sacred story,” is now viewed as something worthwhile, and even necessary for human beings.

Campbell’s restatement of the Jungian view was that dreams are individual myths, and myths are society’s dreams. In Campbell’s own words, from his much publicized television interview with Bill Moyers:

“Dream is a personal experience of that deep, dark ground that is the society’s dream. The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got an adventure in the dark forest ahead of you.”

The Power of Myth, p. 40
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