Electric Dreams

Exploring Dreams through the I Ching:


Hilary Barrett

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  Barrett, Hilary (2001 March). Exploring Dreams through the I Ching: Clarity.  Electric Dreams 8(3). Retrieved December 30, 2001 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

The Dream
The Wedding (Anon)

Nothing went right. The groom wasn't who I thought or wanted it to be. My bridesmaids were my cousins and the groomsmen was my ex boyfriend of two years, and all of his friends. They were all sitting among the pews with the family instead of up at the altar where they were supposed to be. My girlfriend was wearing a wedding dress too. I hated my hair but loved hers. I couldn't walk down the aisle because everybody else was. I was just really frustrated. I dreamed this twice. The first time I was up at the altar the groom and I blew out some candles at the altar, and
in the second dream, just himself blew out the candles.
The interpretation
Your wedding is supposed to be 'your big day': you look your best, you are 'radiant' and the centre of attention. You are united not just with a man but with a whole new way of living - before women had the option of living independently, marriage meant graduating to adulthood. So when you dream that your wedding day goes completely wrong, this reflects basic discord within you, and probably with your present way of life.

I asked the I Ching what was going on in this dream, and it replied with Hexagram 23, Stripping Away, moving to Hexagram 35, Prospering. The second hexagram represents the broader context - I think it accounts for the wedding imagery; the first one, Stripping Away, explains what happens to the wedding.

'Prospering, Lord Kang is given a gift of horses, uses them to increase the herd. He mates them three times a day.' The horses were a sign that Kang was in favour with the ruler - it was definitely his day. And rather than simply sitting on the gift, he made it fertile and multiplied it. This is like a strong, earthy version of the parable of the talents: when you have God-given gifts, go out and use them, and they will grow. It may be hard work ('Difficulty' is the nuclear hexagram at the heart of Prospering), but it will pay off.

The word for 'mating' also suggests 'receiving and reflecting onward': Kang was receiving the full light of good fortune, and he multiplied it and passed it on. Hexagram 35 shows the sun rising over the earth, and the growing plants responding to its light. This is what weddings are supposed to be about: full of vigour, advancing triumphantly into the light, positively shining with good fortune. Everything about this hexagram is brightness: it is 'daylight indeed', and the ideal person 'radiates her own natural light, clear bright virtue.' ('Virtue', by the way, doesn't mean 'being good' so much as 'being what you personally are meant to be'.)
All this is near enough the opposite of what happened in the dream. Instead of shining, you find yourself outshone and sidelined - and in the end, instead of reflecting light onward, you are blowing the candles out. What has happened?
Like you say, 'nothing goes right' in the dream - but surely the biggest problem is that you're marrying the wrong man! In a way, it's just as well that everything else goes wrong after that...

You are in the process of Stripping Away: things that no longer belong in your life are being cleared out to make space for something new. This can be an acutely painful process, as people, things and ideas that you have been attached to are cut away - the I Ching represents it as being skinned. Before the process of transformation can begin, you need to understand that it is no longer the time to concentrate on appearances: the time for Stripping Away comes when Adorning (Hexagram 22) is exhausted. You are dressed like a successful bride in the dream - but it's no use, your friend is, too (and her hair is better!). The dress can't make the wedding happen. As pretence and illusion are peeled away, the real you is exposed.
It is not the time for a purposeful advance to the altar: you are obliged simply to let things happen. As you felt in the dream, being so unexpectedly and completely disempowered can be very frustrating. In the I Ching, this hexagram is the opposite of 'Deciding', an active process of driving out what does not belong. At a time of Stripping Away, there may be many layers of old, inessential things to be removed, and all you can do is let them go. Dreaming of a failed wedding is part of this process of separation. 'The ideal person honours the dissolving pause, filling and emptiness. Heaven acts.' Allow time and space, and what is right for you will return. But first leave the wedding: don't try to be united with a past that's wrong for you. Blowing out the candles that illuminate the altar is the best thing you can do - you need a change of focus.
At heart, this situation is about becoming fertile ground for new growth, like the open, nourishing earth. You can't know yet what will grow in the new space, but you can make sure that it is clear and prepared before you try to begin to build again. The earth is humble, easy to overlook, but it is also the foundation for life - this hexagram shows how mountains rest on it. 'Generosity from above creates peaceful dwellings below.' Now is the time to give your attention generously to your own foundations, creating a sense of peace.

The imagery of the one moving line of your answer indicates that the process of Stripping Away has reached the critical, painful point. 'Stripping away the bed, at the flesh. Misfortune. Cutting close to disaster.' Your 'bed' is gone - the ideas and expectations you rest on, your sense of security, has all been cut away. Now the knife cuts into you, your confidence and identity, separating you from them right at the altar. It comes perilously close to cutting into some vital part of the psyche. The 'bed' here also suggests dreaming - how it can strip away the comfort of sleep and cut 'close to the bone'.

Stripping Away marks the beginning of an essential transformation - and so, I think, does this dream. Once you've gone through with this process, and you are freed from the old ideas and attachments, the bright light, vitality and gifts of Prospering can become a reality for you.

The I Ching has deep connections with Carl Jung. Many of the translations of the I Ching available in European languages today are usually reinterpretations of Richard Wilhelm's 1923 German translation and the later 1950 English translation. Jung wrote the forward to Wilhelm's book and has stated there and elsewhere that he was aware of and had used the divining side of the I Ching prior to 1923. The question is, how deeply was Jung's development of his theories influenced by these works?

See Wilhelm, Richard (1931/1962). The Secret of the Golden Flower, A Chinese Book of Life. Commentary by C.G. Jung.

The I Ching is the ancient Chinese oracle of change. For a hundred generations, it has been answering people's questions, from dream interpretation to career decisions, across the whole spectrum of human experience. I have been learning from the I Ching for many years, and founded Clarity, a dedicated I Ching consultation service, to make the oracle's help readily and simply available to all who need it.

Hilary Barrett.
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