In her book, On Dreams and Death, Jungian psychologist Marie-Louis von Franz shares the nearing death dream of a woman who did not believe in the existence of a spiritual reality:
I am standing, quite confused, inside a courtyard. There is no exit. On one side of the yard are garbagemen who say that I cannot get out of the yard because it is a machine for demolishing cars. Another man thinks there is a revolving door through which he could get me out. But I am afraid that it might be a trap, so I remain in the yard and walk in circles along the walls. I behave like the others, like a pedestrian, but inside I am tortured by the fear of not being able to find my home. [p. 63]
The dreamer feels trapped and wants to find her home. Psychologically, a home conveys a sense of belonging, a place where you feel centered, most fully and deeply yourself. Consciously or unconsciously, we are all trying to find our home.
Sometimes people dream of trying to find their way out of a building. Perhaps you have had such a dream? There may be many corridors, rooms and stairways, and you don’t know how to get from point A to point B. You feel lost. You wander around, often anxiously, struggling to discover your way through a life-size maze. Some dreamers locate a way out. Others don’t. Such dreams reflect our efforts to discern our path in life, to solve the riddles behind the issues that plague us, to find our way home.
Garbagemen tell her that she is in a place where cars are demolished and that there is no way out. What is it that entraps her? Probably, as von Franz suggests, it is a worldview that does not allow a spiritual perspective. She points out that a car is often a symbol of the body and that the woman, therefore, sees death as a garbage dump. The body goes to the garbage dump. But if we are nothing more than our bodies, what happens to us? The logical conclusion is that we cease to exist along with our bodies. This is a very materialistic view of human life. Its mechanistic perspective is amplified by the machine-laden imagery of the dream—cars and a car-crushing machine.
In addition to the body, a car can also symbolize the ego and the conscious beliefs and attitudes that form our worldview. From this perspective the dream also implies that her current belief system must be demolished. To cling to her current worldview is to remain trapped.
The woman is not alone here. There are other people in the courtyard who walk around confused, trapped, and unable to get home. This may suggest that the encounter with death can be especially difficult for individuals who equate their being and consciousness solely with their body. The dreamer and those with her see physical death as a finality, the end of their being. But if her belief system accords with reality, why is she having such an emotionally agitating dream as she approaches her own death? Why is she still searching for her home?
It is sometimes said that the truth will set you free and, from a psychological standpoint, there is a lot of truth to this statement. The truth may not make you happy, but it can set you free of certain illusions you may be holding. It allows you to be more honest with yourself, to see reality more clearly, to be more informed and aware. It gives you the opportunity to see the truth about yourself, a relationship, or a life situation. And in this way it allows you to move nearer to your home.
The dreamer is trapped by the confines of her own worldview. A man thinks he can offer a way out, but she is afraid to risk passing through the revolving door. She is afraid it is a trap, a trick. She views the idea of a spiritual reality as superstition and wishful thinking. The dreamer views spiritual beliefs as a trap, but the dream suggests that the denial of a spiritual reality may be the real trap.
1) von Franz, Marie-Louise. On Dreams and Death. Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston.1987.
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
Excerpts may be used provided full and clear credit is given author with link to original article.