Sunday, November 18, 2012

Guest Post: Dreams of Life after Death

Susanne van Doorn, a dream worker from the Netherlands, contributes today's post. She has gathered and analyzed dreams about death, and she is sharing this research with us in advance of its formal presentation. You can visit her on Facebook

Now, here's Susanne:
In answer to my request for dreams of lost loved ones I received 114 surveys from 3 countries: America, Germany and the Netherlands. This post is about my interpretation of these dreams as  dreamers' views on life after death.

The dreams in my survey fall into several categories: precognitive dreams of facing the impending death of a loved one; dreams about the transition to the “other world”; what life is like on that “other side” according to our dreams; guidance dreams of help from a deceased loved one; dreams that console; and dreams that help the dreamer come to terms with her own inevitable mortality.

"We need the coldness of death to see clearly. Life wants to live and to die, to begin and to end. You are not forced to live eternally; but you can also die, since there is a will in you for both.

Life and death must strike a balance in your existence. Today's men need a large slice of death, since too much incorrectness lives in them, and too much correctness died in them. What stays in balance is correct, what disturbs balance is incorrect. But if balance has been attained, then that which preserves it is incorrect and that which disturbs it is correct. Balance is at once life and death. For the completion of life a balance with death is fitting.

If I accept death, then my tree greens, since dying increases life. If I plunge into the death encompassing the world, then my buds break open. How much our life needs death!"

— Carl Jung, The Red Book

Facing the death of a loved one
 There are some pretty convincing precognitive dreams in this survey. One of the most powerful and consoling dreams is told by JL:
Hawk Appears as a Messenger I am standing in my yard and I notice a red-tailed hawk flying overhead. I can see the pattern on his feathers. He is beautiful and has the most luxurious fur. His wingspan is enormous. He is not even five feet above my head. I am transfixed by his beauty. Then he lands in my yard. I am on the porch sitting in a chair, watching. He morphs into a human-sized man/hawk. He still looks like a hawk other than his size, but I know that he is half hawk/half man. He walks closer and closer to me. I can almost touch him now, but I dare not lest I frighten him (HA! Frighten this giant hawk man, I don't think so!). He looks into my eyes and I look into his. I know those green eyes intimately. They are the eyes of my first husband Gene, who died of cancer 14 years ago. He, Hawk/Gene, eventually lifts his enormous wings and flies away. Harold, my current husband, comes out on the porch. I am very excited, talking fast, “Honey...a hawk...BIG...I think it was Gene...I could have touched him, but didn’t because I was afraid to scare him off. You just missed him. I know he is blessing us in some way. (EOD)
JL says about this dream:
 I believe this dream was a message from my first husband Gene, who died of cancer, that my then husband Harold was going to die of cancer, too. Shortly after the dream, Harold was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died 18 months later. I also feel that the dream was a message of encouragement from Gene that life goes on and that he'd be there for Harold when he passed. I intuitively knew that Gene would have loved Harold had he met him and approved my marriage to him. One other point...Gene loved red-tailed hawks while he was alive. They seemed to follow him everywhere. After his death, we formed a large circle of friends and loved ones outside in our yard for Gene's memorial. At the end of our remembering and sharing, a red-tail flew overhead in the sky directly in the middle of the circle, as if Gene were saying his final good-byes to everyone!

In this powerful dream we see the Hawk acting as a totem animal: the Hawk will learn to confront your difficulties and to face them head on. The Hawk is a messanger. Also here there is a form of shapeshifting going on: Hawk/Gene.

Another beautiful precognitive dream is told by Lindsey who dreams her grandmother is dying while her grandfather calls her to tell Lindsey her grandmother is going to die in a few days. This gives the dreamer the oppertunity to go and visit her grandmother before she passes away.

Elaine Drew tells this about a dream foretelling the death of her brother:
I have received medical news that my days are numbered. I try to deal with it, both internally and externally. For myself, I work to accept the reality with some sort of equanimity. For others, I worry about how much trouble my condition will cause. I feel very much “the other,” as one with a death sentence hanging over my head. I think of my friend Don who had pancreatic cancer and how—at least in public—managed a robust cheerfulness, an ability to keep living.
Then I contemplate what life would be like with no death, and I realize that life would lose its sweetness, its poignancy, in some way.
Entering the Gate
In our dreams about lost ones sometimes they have to enter a gate or they are behind a gatway to symbolise another world or state of being. Sometimes this is symbolised by a mirror like in the dream of Yvonne:
I am looking at a big, rectangular mirror (just like the one I have in my own bathroom) and suddenly, in the right corner of the mirror, the image of my dad appears! He looked so handsome (seemed to be in his 30's, though he passed away when he was 69). He is thin and smiley, wearing a blue, sportive shirt, similar to one that I once gave him as a present. I am soooo happy to see him! No words are exchanged, but we saw at each other's eyes and smile at each other. His smile was one of assurance, love and support.
Susanne also sees her departed in the mirror in a bathroom:
I am looking in the mirror and behind me I see my dad. He is dressed in a yellow shirt and a light blue jacket. I immediately recognise him by the combination of the colours, he was so proud that he was the only man he dared to combine colors in the Netherlands... So I know he is dead and I desperately want to hold on to him so I turn around and catch him but he transforms into bubbles of light or water.
This last dream seems to indicate the old believe that after a passage of time the deceased transports into another world of being. There is a time to recouperate from the experience of death and than one has to move on to another form of being. The Tibetan Book of the death speaks of a 49 day Bardo, a transition period between one life and another.

Life after death according to our dreams
Well then, what do our dreams tell us about life after death? Some dreamers experience their loved ones taking classes like Burch:
I am on a vacation with my parents. I have walked down a long dirt road to a charming farmhouse set among pastures and fields of crops. I know that I do not recognize the setting but realize it is one of my parents’ residences. I feel there are many. I easily locate my parents and join them in a car. There is a jolly driver; we are all in the back seat; and my father is giving directions. He is so pleased that he has his own driver. As we journey we stop first at an enormous lodge where all kinds of instruction appears to be happening. My father takes me around and introduces me to everyone and is particularly excited about introducing me to a small pixie-like sweet-faced young woman who tells me how much progress my father has made into “my things.” Quickly I understand. My father is studying early religions, spiritual concepts, and dreaming. He shows me huge charts of the heavens and begins to point out stars and constellations, giving me lengthy and exciting explanations about the influence of the movements of the heavens on our lives and thence on our dreaming. I see a jumble of stars which he says he has just discovered. Humans have not been able to see them yet because they are too many light years away; but he is working with someone [on earth???] who will soon develop the technology to see them.
Then we are back in the car and he is showing me the rest of the countryside and introducing me to people in little shops along the way. There are books in these shops and he is very excited about these books, but I have difficulty understanding any titles or authors. The primary purpose seems to be for me to understand the kinds of shops they are—spiritual development/wellness shops. My mother is doing other things and does not come in with us.

Then we return to the farm. I am standing in a small bedroom, and my father comes toward me, and I back away at first because I don’t understand why he has such a huge smile and why his arms are open. My father rarely hugged people and then only with much awkwardness. This is not like my father but then I realize it is like my father now. He gives me an enormous hug and tells me he is going away for now but I can still get in touch with him if it is important. He leaves. My mother runs after him at first and tells me to get into the car to go looking for him. He has vanished completely, but suddenly my mother seems fine with him being gone. This too is a giant step forward. She instead asks me to help her pick up a lawnmower from a neighbor because she needs to tidy up the farm. I am helping her put the lawnmower in the car and tell her good-bye. She waves to me and she is smiling.
Giving or receiving guidance
Most dreams about the deceased are about the guidance they give or sometimes need from us. Robert Moss tells how his father adviced him to take care of his mother:
A month after his death, my father visits me in a dream and tells me it is urgently important for my mother to move from the home they shared to a sheltered community. He tells me to call her and ask her to contact a man named Rodriguez. I don't know who this is, and it does not sound like a likely name for someone in the part of Queensland where they had retired.
Follow-up: I did as my father requested. When I called my mother in Queensland (from New York where I was living) she knew this man Rodriguez. He was a local real estate agent. She heeded my father;s advice and Ron Rodriguez helped her to move home to community where she was happy and safe for the last years of her life.

Sometimes the deceased needs us for some guidance as in this dream of Paulette:
I was walking along chatting with Uncle Paul, it seemed we had done this before and it was quite casual, yet personal. Then all of a sudden Uncle Paul said, "I haven't seen the kids for awhile." I was stunned, and quickly replied, "Uncle Paul, don't you know you're dead?" He was in total shock and looked at me incredulously. He said, "I need a drink."
Coming to grips with the loss of somebody.
Nicolew received this “explanation” after the loss of her cousin:
My cousin, who was a few years older than me, had decided to end his life. He carefully laid himself down on the tracks of a night train, and was run over.
This shocked me of course, even more so because the religious side of our family had always told us that people who commit suicide go to a dark sad place after their death.

A few weeks after the funeral I saw him in a dream. I was happy to see him and we laughed, hugged and floated through sunny fields. After a while he was ready to say goodbye, but from the back of my mind came the realisation that there was something important I needed to know. I said: 'wait, hang on, I need to ask you a question. Why did you do that?' He immediately knew what I was talking about, but he seemed unconcerned. He said, in a don't-worry-about-it tone of voice: 'Oh, that? Ah, that was a mistake'.
Another coming to grips dream is the one of a widow G who dreamt that her lost husband and she were walking in the woods and all of a sudden her husband took another road. He left her behind, mad and feeling lost but upon awakening she felt the dream had led her to a quicker acceptance of her new path in life.

Accepting your own mortality
Finally the dreams we receive about the lost loved ones help us to come to accept our own mortality. GM dreamt about his own death:
I lie on my back in a square room. The room is closed on all sides. This is death. I do not have to fear, this is it, it is already here. I relax and look into the empty space. I hear the spund of wings, clapping. Above me there is a butterfly-like creature, its wings are leaves of flowers, fragile, white and green with a yellow head, a flying flower, Than a second flower appaers. Those creatures scare me a bit, they are so quiet and yet strange, not animal, no brains, no nerves, no awareness?
Or as Jung says in his Red Book:
The knowledge of death came to me that night, from the dying that engulfs the world. I saw how we live towards death, how the swaying golden wheat sinks together under the scythe of the reaper like a smooth wave on a sea beach. He who abides in common life becomes aware of death with fear. Thus the fear of death drives him toward singleness. He does not live there, but he becomes aware of life and is happy since in singleness he is one who becomes, and has overcome death (267).


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful variety of deepening quotes and actual examples of death and dreaming here you folks have compiled here. Thank you for the wide breadth of examples and truly, what a helpful resource for allying with death to feed and serve life! All the Best, Travis W

Anonymous said...

Thanks as well, Susanne, for this post. These are beautiful examples of life/death dreams. I can see you writing a book about your studies. You probably have already read Marie von Franz' s book "On Dreams and Death" or Patricia Garfield's "The Dream Messenger: How Dreams of the Departed Bring Healing Gifts". This is such an important topic, and truly shows the healing function of dreaming. Thanks for posting this, Carla! Emily

Carla Young said...

Thank you, Emily, for recommending some books on this important topic.

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