Over the course of my life, there have been a number of nights where I have dreamt of my own death. Psychologists claim that dreaming of your own demise is a sign that you are about to change. I believe this is at least partly true, but might argue for serious intent rather than actuality. The story I am about to recount occurred during a period when I was recovering from a nervous breakdown and in the midst of learning that I was a type one manic-depressive. The dream did precede the abrupt cessation of mystical behaviour that had tormented me for many years. However, the change did not stick.
In the dream, I died a sudden death in a train wreck when the locomotive engineer took a curve too swiftly, toppling the train from its tracks into a forty- or fifty-foot-deep ravine. Death came on impact with the ground below. Just before the fatal accident, I remember leaning from a coach window and seeing, not far ahead, the engineer doing the same at an opening in the diesel engine’s cab. He did not seem to be paying much attention to his driving duties.
Shortly after this dream, I tore my then current oracle book to shreds and tossed it in the garbage! What is an oracle book? Being half (or wholly!) mad at the time, I had for years associated sounds with the time of their occurrence, and then looked up the number thus generated as a date in a diary or as a page number in a book to see what might be written there. The feeling that some significant message awaited me on the page haunted me. I was compelled to look. Not unlike a personalized version of the I Ching, you might say the setup was a synchronicity exploitation scheme. The trouble with this idea, at least as I experienced it, is that you encounter a lot of seemingly pointless self-criticism and pestiferous self-nagging. What I found on the page seemed always to be critical. Synchronicity made me the hapless target of endless “cosmic” sniping. I suffered horribly while being repeatedly distracted from my real and pressing duties!
The original idea arose from the belief that consulting an oracle was a means of releasing material, via projection or externalization, from the unconscious so I could see and deal with it. When I began the practice – when I let the genie out of the bottle – I was badly repressed and desperately in need of some way to get past the numerous blocks that had isolated me almost totally from my authentic self. The oracle scheme provided me with a crude tool. Once in therapy, I was astonished and infuriated to find my practitioner swiftly moving in to use the compulsion in precisely that way! As it happened, I had the right idea. I just did not like what I was finding out about myself, which, of course, is why I repressed the stuff in the first place.
In the weeks before the train-wreck dream, consulting an oracle seemed to have outlived its usefulness. The petty self-squabbling apparently now involved material already fully conscious and well understood. Liberating myself from the habit looked like a good plan. (Hmm, “outlived its usefulness”; now there is a revealing turn of phrase!) I soon discovered that I was wrong, and just a few days after the death dream, the oracle habit resumed. Remarkably, it continues in a less acrimonious way to this very day providing me with a method of dialoguing with my unconscious. I suppose Protestant Christians would say I am talking with God. However you choose to conceptualize the situation, it contributes to a psychologically stabilizing and spiritually satisfying way of life. Along with all my hard-won self-knowledge, I also have an unconscious “gloss” on whatever I am doing at the moment.