By Douglas McElheny
Recently, after I posted my latest blog, I was thinking about what my next post might be. I had two ideas and started writing a little bit for each one. Then one night as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I heard a voice say loud and clear, “Modern mythos.”
This is a theme I’ve touched on over the years in my writings, how all the different characters we’re exposed to in modern media serve as a modern mythos for our dreams to draw on for symbols. And since there can be a lot of variation in the characters we’re exposed to, because of what part of the world and what generation we grew up in, the modern mythos can be quite customized you might say per individual. When I grew up I was steeped in not just movies and television, but was also an avid comic book collector and know a lot of comic book characters, particularly Marvel comic book characters my dreams can use to show what’s going on with me the same way Greek and Roman gods and heroes would have been used by the dreams of people in those times.
Since the line ‘Modern mythos’ seemed like guidance I decided to write a blog post sharing and exploring a couple of these types of dreams. There was nothing really recent though in my dream journal that I could use, so it seemed possible to me that perhaps the dreams for this new post were yet to come. That proved to be the case, and two nights later I remembered two suitable dreams, both of which I will share as an examples of this type of dream. I’ll start with this one:
I’m with Darth Vader, but he’s actually my ally and we’re going to attack the Emperor. I’ve done something that has gotten the Emperor on the ground face down, and he seems to be unconscious. I want to stab him through the heart and kill him, but I have to leave for a moment to get someone to do something for me. When I come back the Emperor is awake. I stab him in different places with my lightsaber, but I can’t get him in the heart, and my attacks don’t seem to be doing anything. But then the Emperor changes into something like a big piece of plywood, and I’m smashing it with a hammer and telling people to take the pieces and burn them. While this is going on someone is organizing all the comic books that are here in the room in order to store them somewhere. The only one of the comic books I remember seeing was an issue of Daredevil, who’s on the cover dressed in a suit as his alter ego Matt Murdock. He’s with a woman who’s his girlfriend and who has stretching powers like Mister Fantastic.
The main part of this dream I think could be viewed as showing something universal in the sense that it demonstrates the plight of anyone struggling with their nature, shows how the spiritual warrior is dogged by hostile opposition in the process of purifying and converting all the parts of himself. The Emperor would seem to be some kind of hostile or anti-divine force opposing the spiritual endeavor or maybe the vital part or parts of us that are subject to that influence or perhaps all of those things. Darth Vader, in this dream at least1, would stand for a part or parts of one’s being that are in darkness, but are turning toward the light, a part that is being converted. That makes sense because Vader turns back to the light before he dies. Then there’s the character I play, the hero in the sense of the spiritual warrior, fighting the battle against one’s own nature and the forces of darkness that oppose.
Since this first part of the dream does seem to show a universal situation you can see how the three main characters could be swapped out with others. For example someone who was growing up in the first part of this century when Harry Potter was all the rage could have this same dream using Severus Snape in place of Darth Vader, and Lord Voldemort in place of the Emperor. The dreamer might also regard himself as Harry Potter or perhaps just play himself like I did in my dream: I didn’t regard myself as Luke Skywalker. And of course in the Harry Potter scenario the hero would be wielding a magic wand rather than a lightsaber. Here though we’ve reached a point where my dream steps outside the Star Wars mythos and starts using more mundane objects for symbols. My lightsaber, with which I was fighting ineffectively, becomes an ordinary hammer and the Emperor becomes something like plywood. Now what could that mean?
Donny feels that wood in a dream often represents something vital. That certainly fits here and would confirm that the Emperor is showing something in my vital that is under the influence of or has its buttons pushed by hostile forces. I’m not sure what a hammer might represent as opposed to a lightsaber, but a hammer is usually used to do work so maybe it signifies a labor I have to undertake. It’s also a very blunt instrument and certain types of hammers are used to break and destroy things. In this dream I used it to destroy the plywood, and then the pieces are taken to be burned. Donny said this movement suggested to him the idea of destroying something utterly, of burning it down to ashes, and that that could represent thoroughly rejecting whatever the Emperor/plywood represented, of giving it no quarter. Fire might also represent the fire of spiritual aspiration and tapas being used to burn up this particular wrong movement.
It’s interesting that the Emperor was vulnerable and seemingly unconscious at the beginning of my dream. Maybe whatever he represents could have been completely defeated at that time in my life, but the opportunity was missed. I wouldn’t bet on it though. It’s not easy to get rid of these things.
So now let’s examine the last piece of this dream: the comic book cover. Daredevil’s epithet is the ‘The Man Without Fear’, and rightly so since he literally has no fear and can resist fear toxins used by super villains. The other thing that makes Daredevil cool is he’s blind, but has enhanced senses including an additional radar sense he can use to negotiate the world. Given this Daredevil could perhaps represent occult powers or senses that can perceive beyond our normal five senses. I could see how a dream might highlight that feature of the character, but in this dream we find him as his alter ego Matt Murdock whose profession is a trial lawyer. This seems to me to be the key to interpreting the symbol at least as far as this dream goes.
Now a lawyer’s weapon is his mind and not his fists, and Donny also pointed out that a lawyer is an advocate, someone acting on your behalf for your wellbeing. Now at the time of this dream I was having a particularly rough go of it with the chronic pain I’m afflicted with in both my lower back and my knees. One problem I have regarding the chronic pain is the fear about it and the gloom and doom thoughts and feelings that can come up in reference to it, especially during a difficult period. So perhaps the dream is urging me to be ‘The Man Without Fear’ in the sense of being my own advocate and combating the fear, not just by rejecting it, but also by using my mind to reason with the vital and calm it down the same way a lawyer uses reason to present his arguments and win a trial. Or maybe the dream was showing me that some helpful force or entity was acting on my behalf to bring me courage, an intervention that might have been represented in the dream of an ancient Greek as the goddess Athena or perhaps by a hero like Perseus. I don’t think though that these two ideas are mutually exclusive, if you’re being guided to do something that would indicate the power or capacity would be there to help you do it.
So with that idea in mind we can take a look at the character of the girlfriend with the same elastic stretching powers as Mister Fantastic. This could simply be showing the capacity of being flexible, and since this character was a woman maybe it’s in the vital that I need more flexibility. What that might mean though in terms of some kind of action or effort on my part I’m not really sure. Maybe it has something to do with not resisting the fact that there’s chronic pain since resistance is something inflexible and unyielding that just creates more misery. That’s admittedly just a guess though, but not one that seems totally ludicrous. I’d add that fear and resistance do go hand in hand a lot of the time.
The second modern mythos dream I had that night features the iconic American television show Gilligan’s Island. This was a show that was getting a lot of airtime in reruns when I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s and one I would watch frequently. Here is the dream.
I’m with the Skipper and we’re on Gilligan’s Island. We’ve managed to get a hold of a working radio and have called for help and are talking to someone. Just as we’re about the give our coordinates, we lose the connection, and we figure we’ll have to try again later. The radio has changed into a book now, and we want to put it in the Professor’s hut for safekeeping because we know there’s one castaway that’s a bit crazy and doesn’t want to leave the island and who will try to sabotage our efforts. I’m trying to put the book in between some other books under the Professor’s desk. The Professor doesn’t seem too concerned about this crazy castaway, but I am.
This dream also seems to me to depict something universal about the human condition, and that is that we’re all basically marooned consciousness-wise in a small, cramped, miserable type of existence. And while we may have the aspiration to get out of it, there are still parts of us that don’t want to change and are sabotaging our aspiration at every step.
So from this outlook the radio suggests to me the idea of one’s call or aspiration to the divine as well as one’s receptivity to the divine power and influence, but it’s not easy to keep that call and that receptivity going all the time. The crazy castaway seems to be illustrating the fact that we’ve all got parts of us that sabotage our efforts whether consciously or unconsciously. The Professor would seem to represent the mind or something mental and perhaps is showing in the dream how we can be unconscious of these things that are sabotaging us. I’m not sure what the Skipper might represent, but he’s to some extent the de facto leader of the group as well as a good-hearted mama bear who takes the care and safety of the other castaways very seriously. Given this, could he represent the higher vital, or as Donny suggested, due to the fact that he’s the leader, the ego? It’s hard to say.
The fact that the radio turns into a book is interesting. Perhaps as Donny suggested it simply has to do with my daily reading of spiritual literature, which for the most part is the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and the effect that has on the consciousness. At the time of the dream I was noting how reading Aurobindo’s The Life Divine would sometimes noticeably raise my consciousness and elevate my thinking for short periods of time.
One question I have, since I had both these dreams in the same night, is do Darth Vader and the crazy castaway represent the same thing or part of me? If that’s the case that would show how this part is still pretty mixed up, still stuck in a middle ground between conversion and following its lower bent. I often see swings in my dreams regarding Darth Vader where sometimes he’s my enemy and sometimes my ally. In fact while writing this article I had a dream where Anakin Skywalker was fighting with Yoda and other jedi masters. So because of this and also because I had these two dreams on the same night it seems logical to me the two symbols could be connected. And I think together these two dreams compliment each other in terms of painting a complete picture of where I was at and what I was facing at the time.
Before I wrap up here I’d like to point out that like with my Star Wars dream you can see the potential with this Gilligan’s Island dream to swap the main characters with different ones from other tv shows or movies and the dream would still carry the same message. For example, if you were a fan of the show Lost, that aired in the first part of the century and which also featured a group of people marooned on an island, your dreams could use those characters. The same essential scenario could also be shown using the storyline and appropriate characters from shows like Lost in Space or Star Trek: Voyager since the characters in those two shows are lost and trying to find their way home.
Now in closing I’ll admit there isn’t really anything earth shattering or unusually revelatory in these dreams, but they are good examples of modern mythos dreams and show how our dreams can take these cultural figures and use them to communicate with us. I hope to have more to say on this fascinating subject in the future.
Notes and References
- I think it’s possible Darth Vader might just represent a hostile influence in some cases, such as the dream I shared on my post ‘The Emperor Has A Scheme’.