Oneirosophy: the Esoteric Interpretation of Dreams

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As there is a “oneirology” or a “science of dreams”, based on a reductionist and rationalistic approach (among which Freud’s famous psychosexual approach stands out), there is also one based on a holistic approach, which includes both the soul aspect that spiritual. In this way I will provide a dimension of esoteric dream knowledge in my interpretations. The dream is in fact a metaphor for an initiatory journey, or rather the stage at which the individual arrived during his biography.

To this end I will use Jung’s theory of archetypes as a basis, but only as a useful plot, as I will describe the reality of the spiritual worlds acting in our dream world. The approach of Jung, in fact, although holistic (and not reductionistic) remains all in all in the rationalistic sphere. Jung’s approach makes use of concepts (individuation) and theories (archetypes), preferring to leave the direct experience of the spiritual world in the background. On the contrary, the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, the “wisdom of man” also called “science of the spirit”, is instead entirely aimed at the experience of the spiritual worlds and will therefore be the key to interpreting those parts of the dream that unequivocally show spiritual communications to dreamers. For a comparison between Steiner’s psychosophy and Jung’s analytical psychology and the role of the dream in the biography, I recommend consulting the book “Jung and Steiner: The Birth of a New Psychology” by Gerhard Wehr.

For this reason this will be the beginning of a new approach I call “onirosofia”, or “the wisdom of dreams” derived from the union of onirology with anthroposophy.

First of all we see the relationship between sleep and dream. Sleep represents about 1/3 of man’s life time on Earth, it is the state of consciousness that corresponds to current plants, while man normally possessed this state of consciousness during the metamorphosis of the Ancient Sun, when he passed the plant stage itself. Sleep is linked to the circadian influences of the rising and setting of the Sun and therefore to the rhythmic functions of the etheric body. The dream, on the other hand, is the state of consciousness of the current animals, a state that was normal for man on the Ancient Moon, when he passed his animal stage. The dream is linked to the nocturnal influences of the Moon and of the other planets visible in the night, and therefore is connected to the functions of attraction and repulsion of the astral body.

Sleep also has a restorative capacity on subtle bodies, especially the astral body, whose boundary (the skin) wears out on contact with other astral entities. Angels patch up the astral body just as we sleep, and while other spiritual entities weave the threads of dreams into our subtle bodies.

For this reason this will be the beginning of a new approach I call “oneirosophy”, or “the wisdom of dreams” derived from the union of oneirology with anthroposophy.

First of all we see the relationship between sleep and dream. Sleep represents about 1/3 of man’s life time on Earth, it is the state of consciousness that corresponds to current plants, while man normally possessed this state of consciousness during the metamorphosis of the Ancient Sun, when he passed the plant stage itself. Sleep is linked to the circadian influences of the rising and setting of the Sun and therefore to the rhythmic functions of the etheric body. The dream, on the other hand, is the state of consciousness of the current animals, a state that was normal for man on the Ancient Moon, when he passed his animal stage. The dream is linked to the nocturnal influences of the Moon and of the other planets visible in the night, and therefore is connected to the functions of attraction and repulsion of the astral body.

Sleep also has a restorative capacity on subtle bodies, especially the astral body, whose boundary (the skin) wears out on contact with other astral entities. Angels patch up the astral body just as we sleep, and while other spiritual entities weave the threads of dreams into our subtle bodies.

Every living thing has a skin as a sign that is enclosed in the physical world. The etheric and astral bodies also have skins. When a man receives impressions through his senses, the skin, the outline of the astral body is broken and worn down; this manifests itself as fatigue. This skin is eliminated and replaced during sleep. We should try to become aware of this process before going to sleep. To think that you are going into the spiritual worlds in which the astral body is renewed thanks to spiritual beings of the realms of the harmonies of the spheres. We should go to sleep with feelings of gratitude for these beings and their divine powers; here we must feel the love of wisdom. Thus bad feelings will not be able to influence us.

– Rudolf Steiner, GA266, Kassel 26 February 1909

The etheric body instead stores and transforms the memory of the experiences lived during the day when we fall asleep, so that its activity is directly connected with the formation of the biography, whose parable follows precisely the development of the plant, from the seed to the fructification.

Several times Steiner reiterated the importance of the life of the dream in relation to subtle bodies (conference of 12 June 1909):

Why do we not perceive external reality in sleep, even though we are surrounded by the sensible world? Because the intellect is deactivated. And this deactivation is caused by the fact that two elements, the astral body and the I, which at night with sleep escape from the physical and etheric body, prevent the natural functioning of the sense organs. The ego and the astral go to another world. And why don’t we see that world? In reality we see it in part: dreams are witnesses to it. But we don’t see them with clarity and awareness, why? Because we do not have spiritual organs to be able to see and actively preside over the processes of that world.

The dream is therefore woven by the spiritual entities at the time of sleep. Let’s see what happens esoterically:

  1. The etheric body remains together with the physical body in the dreamer’s bed, so as to guarantee its vegetative functions, which are essentially the regeneration of the physical body. The tiredness of the physical body derives from the work on one’s own biography, and therefore from the equalization and creation of new karma (destiny) whether it be negative or positive. Sleep is therefore also an opportunity to weave the threads of karma thanks to the help of spiritual hierarchies (angels).
  2. The astral body and the ego travel outside the physical and etheric body. They expand in the macrocosm, progressively covering all the planetary spheres, from the closest to the Earth, the Moon, to the most distant one, Saturn, from which then the I and the astral body return at the moment of awakening. At that moment the angelic hierarchies of the planetary spheres weave the karma of the individual and at the same time suggest the next steps to be taken in the biography.

According to this new perspective we can say that, in general, the dream urges the dreamer to continue with his journey through life, although this message is all the more hidden the more thought and feeling are separated in the consciousness (I) of the person who dreams. The result is that excessively rational people will have dreams that more or less closely replicate reality and material situations, while excessively sentimental people will have dreams filled with fantasy. The dreams of excessively rational people are therefore under the influence of Ahriman, the spirit of materialism according to which the spirit is illusion; while the dreams of excessively sentimental people are under the influence of Lucifer, the spirit of spiritualism according to which matter is useless if not harmful.

The dreams of a person whose two faculties were in perfect harmony instead show more clearly the messages that reach the dreamer in an imaginative form. Imaginations are in fact representations of the action of the spiritual world. The Christ, the balancing spirit of the materialistic influences of Ahriman and the idealistic ones of Lucifer, can therefore manifest itself more clearly in this soul context. The next step is that of the initiates, whose faculties of feeling (forces of the Moon, Mercur of the alchemists) and of thought (forces of the Sun, Sulfur of the alchemists), reached the sacred marriage (hierogamy), thus opening the “third eye “(Ajna, the second chakra of Jupiter, the eye of the Lemurs), which allows not only to perceive the imaginations, but also to understand the esoteric meaning at the same time.

In fact, in Steiner’s words:

With the initiation, with the exercises, the astral body that makes the chaotic astral night astral world appear, is organized so as to have, in the astral body little by little, adequate organs of perception. To shape these organs it is necessary to develop an active inner life, through specific activities, called concentration and meditation. Work on symbols such as the Rosicrucian, build and configure astral organs that will allow us to see exactly in the spiritual worlds.

In most cases, however, a single dream shows an alternation of parts influenced by Arimanic narrowness and Luciferic fantasy, the influences of both spiritual beings aim to hinder the understanding of the initiatory message addressed to the moral and cognitive evolution of the person . However, through the exercise of the Christ balance between these two extremes it is always possible to recover the fully human meaning of the dream experience and thus to draw “sense” or “morality”. This message subsists in that, beyond the threshold of the material world, everything that exists as “thing”, “thought” or “idea” in space-time, becomes “being” outside of it, or spiritual beings are unveiled that dwell in the spiritual world. These beings speak to us during sleep and the result of these “nocturnal chats” with spiritual entities are dreams.

The images that appear in the dreams, the characters of which they are populated, are the dreamlike form of the archetypes, that is of the spiritual beings that reside in the spiritual world. These, when they descend from the spiritual world into the world of the soul, veil themselves with an image comprehensible symbolically to the human soul. This symbolic form is intended to stimulate the dreamer to penetrate the veil of sensitive appearances, the Maya, to go beyond the perception and representation to which we are accustomed in the physical world to understand the soul-spiritual nature of reality, the hidden meaning of things . Archetypal images are therefore the multiple appearance of archetypes. In the Jungian vocabulary, archetypes are the processes common to all humanity and accessible in the collective unconscious, while in dreams they are presented under multiple images.

Thus, every subtle body of man appears as a symbolic image in the dream. The physical body can appear in the form of a house or temple. When this is mortified it can appear as a ruined house or a desecration of the temple. Sometimes it appears as a corpse lying in a coffin or on an altar.

The etheric body, with its counter-sexual nature, appears as an image of opposite sex to the dreamer. The etheric body can also appear as a vegetable such as a tree. In the case of a man it will be a woman (which for Jung takes the name of Anima), while for a woman it will be a man (Animus). The etheric body, when corrupted by the Arimanic forces of materialism, can appear as a withered vegetable, on the verge of death or withered. The source of disturbance of the etheric body may appear as a vampire that sucks vital forces. Entering the forest, in a tangle of foliage, means entering into the etheric body.

The astral body, being androgynous, can appear as a being that presents characteristics of both sexes or as an animal. It can also look like a flower. When it is corrupted by the forces of Lucifer, by the obsessions and by the sensual craving, it can appear as a ferocious animal or a monster with many heads, which represent the deadly sins. The werewolf appears as a representation of the advanced corruption of the astral body. It is associated with images of other planets and stars, of the zodiac signs. The journey within the astral body is a journey into infinite space.

The ego, on the other hand, can appear in its aspect of the lower self or higher self. The lower self can appear as a traitor or as a stereotypical image, like a puppet of others (for Jung it takes the name of Persona). Its existence is entirely determined by circumstances and undergoes all conditions. It can appear in dreams as the labyrinth that makes one lose orientation with respect to the center (the Higher Self) and also as a human being with an animal head, such as the Minotaur. The higher self, on the other hand, appears instead as a child, often newborn, who brings the dream to the turning point or changes the balance of the dream’s plot, often with magical acts. Usually it does not have a recognizable sex. It can also literally be born from a woman who carries it in her womb, as Mother Earth who gives birth to a Sun or as the virgin who gives birth to her favorite child. This woman is the Divine Sofia-Virgin Mary, the Soul of the World.

The opposite of the ego takes the name of Shadow, for Jung it is the archetype of the opponent, of the one who wants to replace the ego by putting into effect what is contrary to it in essence. The Shadow appears as a sworn enemy, as a dark and indistinguishable being capable of suffocating or paralyzing the dreamer’s consciousness. It can also take on the appearance of a monstrous and terrifying animal, such as the dragon, the chimera, the spider, the basilisk, Cerberus, jellyfish etc. they are often mythological animals. In esotericism it is called Guardiano della Soglia. You must fight using a weapon, which is usually forged with the help of different elements of nature, such as fire, iron, gold and the Sun. When it is overcome, usually with a fight, you get a treasure , which represents access to the spiritual world.

The spirit, in particular the Spiritual Self, the astral body transformed by the Ego, appears in dreams as the Master, the one who teaches the way to go to obtain enlightenment and salvation. It can take on an asexual character or the same sex as the dreamer, but with timeless characteristics, like an old sage or a wise old woman. In other cases it appears as an angel, which gives a superior knowledge. They are often associated with a spherical object, such as the crystal ball, a spherical light or the Earth itself, or even a book in which cosmic wisdom is preserved.

In the oneirosophical field it is important to reiterate that behind each of these images, however fanciful they may appear in dreams, they always have an intelligible meaning both symbolically and in the biography of the person. But even more each of these images is nothing but a covering of a spiritual entity that presents itself to the dreamer in his sleep.

However the goodness of this approach can be understood only empirically, looking at dreams with new eyes: these are the eyes of the conscious soul that sees the spiritual meaning of things, when they are incomprehensible they are initially. There is always a meaning for the soul that seeks, what is found is only what was first sought. When we ask ourselves the right questions, the right answers arrive and with them other questions that guide us on our journey to know ourselves and the world.


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