Dreamed 1994/9/2 by Chris Wayan
What started it all was James Hillman's book "The Dream and the Underworld," on all the shadows this culture denies: death, instinct, madness, fate, dreams... Even Jung, he says, explored the abyss with a nice safe rational flashlight. But the ancestral depths swallow us all, at last.
After my own comic-book view of the Other World as a colorful place, wider and lighter and wiser than our gray little Earth, Hillman seems chilling--the voice of a grownup telling you it's getting dark and it's time to come in, you can't play any more.
But I wonder what my dreams think of all this? How does the so-called abyss see ITSELF? Not to mention its explorers! So... I asked.
And I'm answered.
I'm walking on a shortgrass plain, with occasional reedy water-ditches and pools. The sun's setting. The moon's too big. And blue. With swirling clouds. Oh... Then this must be...
On the horizon, which is curiously close, are low, round, flat-topped mountains, or maybe craters of some kind. I find a long stick, crooked at the end, but a good walking stick. The air's pretty thin so I like having something to lean on.
I start singing a song by the Police as I walk along: "Giant steps are what you take, walkin' on the--" and then I hear a faint crackly voice ahead. A strange insectile spacecraft has landed on the grass. A man in a space suit just stepped off the ladder onto the field; he plants a flag showing a simplified mandala--a quartered circle--the ancient symbol for Earth. He says "One small step for a psychologist, one giant leap for mankind." Ground control crackles "What do you see, Jim?"
It's James Hillman--first psychologist on the moon!
The sun's setting. Our shadows are long. I'm lightwards of the man in the pressure suit, so he doesn't see me. But he does see my shadow: it stretches past him, into the limited view from his faceplate. He sees the looming shadow of a tall, cadaverous figure with a long, bent stick...
"It's the Grim Reaper!" he yells. "This is the land of the dead!"
"ABORT!" roars Mission Control.
"I am NOT!" I protest. "A little grumpy sometimes, maybe, but not gri--"
But Hillman's leapt up the ladder and through the hatch, head first. As he dogs it, Ground Control sings out "Commence firing sequence!"
I back away from the lander and watch from a distance as the upper half fires with a painful roar and a messy wind...
You know, in MY shamanic traveling, the places and creatures I meet are usually a lot more sensible, AND more fun, than these pressure-suited experts who warn us how HEAVY the other worlds are...
Oh, well, sun's down, show's over. I'm sleepy. Ah, there's my starship. Just a little plexiglass egg with a bed inside. Good old cosmic egg...
Still, it's a fascinating book. Hillman is a good guy... but he too is of his culture. One that believes you need a certain sort of expert to handle the demons you may meet on the other side. A culture that sees its own Shadow and runs in panic back into its burrow. Like the groundhog of American folklore.
There's a second reason I saw Hillman as a groundhog. I grew up reading Heinlein's stories, like "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and "The Menace from Earth"--tales in which settlers on the moon call Earth people "groundhogs," not just for the deep gravity well they're trapped in, but their cultural insularity and conservatism--so scared of their own shadows, they're afraid to come out into the universe of possibilities...
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