The symbols of death or the fear of death can be: Sunset; evening; a crossed river or falling in a river; a skeleton; snarling dogs; sleep; anaesthetic; grave stones; cemetery; blackness or something black; an old man or woman, or father time with a scythe; ace of spades; a fallen mirror; stopped clock; a pulled tooth; an empty abyss; the chill wind; falling leaves; a withering plant; an empty house; a lightning struck tree; coffin; struggling breaths; the dead animal in the gutter; the rotting carcass; underground; the depths of the sea – the VOID. What lies beyond death is conjecture, but the archetype of death we are considering is not completely about physical death. It is about our observation of it in others; our conceptions of it gained from our culture and our impressions gained from seeing dead animals, rotting corpses; the feelings which generate around our experiences and thoughts of it; our attempts to deal with our own ageing and approach to death – PLUS – what material the deeper strata of our unconscious release regarding it. It is about how our sense of conscious personal existence meets the prospect of its disintegration. Unless we can come to terms with what is behind the haunting images of death we meet in our dreams, we fail to live fully and daringly; we are too haunted by death lurking in the shadows of injury and the unknown. Images of death and the associated emotions, carried within for years, can have a negative influence on our health. Coming to terms means the courage to feel the emotions of fear or chill and discover them for what they are – emotions. They are certainly not death, only our feelings about it. The differences shown in the two following examples illustrate the avoiding and the meeting. The first can be called an experience of the ‘death pit’. Example: Disturbed by an unusually vivid dream last night – unable to sleep afterwards for almost two hour. I went out for the evening to see some friends. Golden beer spilled as one of my friends doubled up and the room sprang open with a Death’s Head shrieking behind him. As if a skin had been peeled back to reveal the bones of life crackling in a gigantic electric chair. It burned my brain. With a great effort I managed to wall up the apparition behind the bright fabric of the evening, leaving only a blurred afterimage of the hole, like the torn edge of a strip of wallpaper that has been ripped and glued back into place It happened again. At first it was the result of a form of irritated curiosity, like picking at a scab, or scratching an itch irresistibly, in spite of the inevitable pain. This hurt far too much though. My whole frame shuddered, as if my bones were lines being ridden by a hundred express trains, or an electric current, a force field of limitless indifferent energy. I sealed it up again, but the wound had been weakened by my curiosity, and burst open at the slightest agitation: as soon as I tried to lose myself in the happy group, my laughter triggered the catch, and I saw my friend’s faces twisted by laughter, with their own deaths crowing scornfully behind their backs. As if Death couldn’t wait to show He had the last laugh, pointing it out obscenely, obvious as a schoolboy’s joke. I was denied the temporary relief of friendship by the hideous mockery that was audible to me alone. When I realised that I couldn’t control it, I was speechless and dizzy with fright and pain. I couldn’t stand properly, and vainly tried to stop falling against people and things like a drunk. Either my appearance of something I was unaware of saying had upset V., as I could see her crying, and from the snatches of conversation I caught, I realised that I had spoilt everyone’s evening. Eventually I was picked up and carried out by the bouncers, and left on the opposite side of the street. As I struggled, I became vaguely aware that I was dreaming, a fact which glimmered like a pinprick of light seen from the foot of a mine-shaft. I groped desperately towards it, even as I realised that the multifarious shapes of memory and imagination were materialising in the very street around me. I averted my gaze as a squat, malformed figure limped by, unwilling to acknowledge it as the progeny of my own brain. I clawed my way desperately in the shaft, as I felt visual imagination solidify into sound, and the threat of touch. Liquid splashed on the ground behind me, as if a bucket had been emptied from a half remembered opening in the building above. With a desperate convulsion of mental energy, I deliberately tore my way out of the dream. I opened my eyes with relief, to see my room unchanged and still lit by the street lamp outside, opposite the school where the children would arrive in a few hours time. In spite of the heat of the June night, I was not even sweating, and felt surprisingly calm, apart from a raging suspicion about the means of my escape from my own imagination and its absurd but terrifying creations. A. J Example: “Suddenly I was in a huge underground cavern. It was hundreds of feet high and as wide. It had two great statues in it, both to do with death. The whole place overpowered me with a sense of decay and skeletal death, darkness, underground, earth, the end. I cried out in the dismal cave, ‘Death, where is your sting! Grave, where is your victory!’ I immediately had the sense of being a bodiless awareness. I knew this was what occurred at death. Fear and the sense of decay left me.” Andrew. Summarising these and many other dreams, it is not only the accumulated images of death, but also bodilessness and loss of power and identity which bring so much fear. There are two antipodes of human experience. At the tip of one is focused, self determining self consciousness. At the tip of the other is unfocused void without identity. Strangely enough we experience both each day in some degree. The first while awake – the second when we sleep. Yet to face the second with consciousness feels like all the horrors of death and loss. But facing it is important, especially to the second half of life. Although the unconscious carries the dark images we have of death, it also provides what feels like certainty to those who experience it, an awareness of existing eternally, as part of the very fabric of life. Those who dare to confront the dark images find this. The symbols of rebirth are: The cave; an egg; spring; the tree; the cross; dawn; emerging out of the sea; the snake; the bird; a seed; arising from the earth or faeces; green shoot from a dead branch; phoenix; drinking alcohol or blood red wine; flame; a pearl; the womb. Rebirth is as difficult to face as death. It holds within it not just the memories of the struggles and difficulties of our own physical birth and growth, but also the challenge of becoming the unknown future, the dark possibility, the new. The dream of Andrew in the underground cavern, in the section on Death above is an example of positive rebirth. After realising himself as bodiless awareness he emerges from the cave, and finds himself near a tree. Example: “A tremendous jolt of power poured into me from the tree. I saw that we had arrived at a place where a line of trees, about a 100 yards in length, stood very close together in a slight semicircle on the top of a bank. The trees had great spiritual power and the place was a holy temple. Two spiritual beings were there – an ancient Earth Being, and Christ.” Andrew. The next example is of a dream typical of meeting memories of physical birth. As can be seen, the experience is powerful enough to cause physical shaking. Example: “All I can see of what I enter is a very narrow space with a light showing through. But immediately I enter I realise I have made a mistake for I am being forced swiftly through a dark, very narrow tunnel. I feel pain as I am dragged along and I hear loud banging noises which frighten me, but although they are loud they seem to come from inside my head. I feel terrified and breathless and very relieved when I wake before reaching the end of the tunnel. In fact as I write this account I am shivering.” Female. Anon.