Inside the Field of Dreams with a Poet, Priest and Psychologist

I am at the Jung Center in New York City listening to an analyst who happens to be a Buddhist priest talk about field theory. Rumi the Persian poet enters the room. I’m not quite sure who is speaking: the priest, the poet or a voice from the past who used to know Rumi by heart. He was the first person who advised me that the wound is that place where light enters you. And my task is not to seek love but to remove the barriers I have built against it. I think that this could also be Jung speaking, reminding me of those feeling-toned complexes that rage inside of me and are capable of ruining love, learning, and life.

The Buddhist priest remains at large, understated and a little prickly with a penchant for admitting “I don’t know.” He delicately places Rumi and the Buddha in the Persian’s field where the ideas of wrong doing and right doing exist side by side in a delicate dance. I think of the Whirling Dervishes and wonder whether I am on the right continent and in the right myth.

The instructor takes us into that imaginative field symbolized by that endless knot of philosophy, life and learning. Fields are everywhere, underfoot and in the air. The ancients thought of ether as a field, but the modern crowd found this far too metaphysical and would happily settle for the electro-magnetic field that took root and bore offspring. The priest reminds is that there is a field between patient and psychologist as they both strive to make darkness visible. The dream also takes us into a field where we look for links and correspondences in an effort to untie the knot that we are in.

All of this is prelude to the archetypal field, where Jung produced his meaning and magic. This field can be seen as an X-axis, where four psychological functions, image, thought, affect and action, play out. Jung places the healing power of the image at the center of his psychology. For him, an affect, or a kind of primitive feeling, gives rise to an in-body, unfocused Titan effect. The instructor said that we can’t indulge in raw affect all the time. We must grow up, learn words that address feelings, and take righteous action. The priest reminds us that archetypes are not real; they only exist in relationship to how it works. Dreams present a good and tricky opportunity to engage this imaginative archetypal field. The instructor showed us pictures of iron filings randomly distributed and those organized by the bar magnet. The first picture resulted in chaos; the second in configuration. That night, I entered this territory.

I am sitting with two thirty-something guys in a booth at what feels like a bar. We are shoulder to shoulder rather than across from each other. I sense that they are married. One talks about getting the right papers, doing the work, making everything level. I respond that in America anything is possible, adding that I had worked in Romania and Russia and knew how difficult it was to accomplish such things. There was no overt talk of gay marriage; it was just in the air.

At this point, a woman from out of nowhere leans into the conversation, mentioning strong women and, I believe, Gertrude Stein, as well as the rise of feminism. I said that I hope I live to see the last vestiges of the repression of the feminine.

Then some guy pokes his head into the conversation. He looked a little like Groucho Marx. The man said something to the effect of “Was all of this for my benefit?” He seemed angry. I respond, “Yes, it was. This is a little drama we prepared and practiced just for you.” I was being lighthearted.

But the man wouldn’t let it go, saying “Do you think I’m going to be lectured by some pipsqueak pussy like you?”

I stood up and hit him (and another guy who appeared) over the head with what I felt were clown chairs that broke apart on impact.

I left the place, hoping to get a taxi back to the city before the police arrived. I knew that there would be repercussions. However, my walk was unhurried.

These details are right from my dream journal. Such transcriptions are never exact and no words can capture the essence of a dream, especially as the fog of day enters the picture. Dreams can be considered useful fictions.

I don’t know if there is any relationship between the dream and the earlier class with the Buddhist priest. Certainly the dreamer is in an archetypal field where image, affect, thought and action are on full display. Jung cautioned about personalizing dreams and giving the “I” too much attention. In that spirit, the dream is indeed something of “a little drama,” where gay marriage, feminism and opposition to these developments can play out. At times the dreamer seems too good to be true and that might raise an eyebrow. We play roles even in our sleep.

Within the structure of the dream the “affect” is more comic than Titan-like. Words dominate and when action is taken, it is with a clown chair that breaks on impact. The dreamer feels some responsibility for his actions but his walk is unhurried.

The Jung instructor said that human beings have a pre-disposition to experience “field-ness” as an archetypal completion. He said that the operative questions are: does the model work? Is it heuristic, a type of education based on agreed-upon rules and principles? An archetype only exists in relation to how it works. The Buddhist priest suggested that understanding the relationship in our personal psychological fields between image, affect, word and action is a well-proven way to healing and self-understanding.

This doesn’t mean that our fantasies, reflections and dreams cannot be riotous and at times unfathomable, with Groucho Marx showing up for good measure. The world often seeps in at night, sometimes in a clown car.