A dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most
secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche
long before there was any ego-consciousness...
The dream found me in all my distraction and worry; it found me in the quiet
night. I didn't know that I was being penetrated by an unseen, unwanted partner.
I was in charge of my life, and I was doing a damn good job of it! So what if
there were moments of longing, feelings of emptiness, and almost memories, of
some other time or place. I must have been happy and at peace once, in a very
different way, otherwise, why did I feel something missing? Why did I sometimes
look out at my face and not recognize me? Why did I gaze through foreign crowds,
looking for someone? Foolish thought, no one is looking for me.
The dream came in the middle of the night, invading my being and it kept
The ocean beat a rhythm on the distant shore, the breeze danced softly on the
open lanai. As I stirred I noticed a form huddled near the screen door. From my
view in bed it seemed a male figure, all stooped over and clothed in brown and
black tones. I felt a cold sweat on my upper lip, knowing I was alone in the
house. An intruder had entered my quiet. My heart beat harshly against my
breast, help me, help me, help me.
Sitting up in bed I'm aware that no one is there. A dream, only a dream yet I
felt the presence, my heart still beating, my palms still sweating. I toss and
turn in the large king-size bed, feeling so abandoned and vulnerable and knowing
its four hours till dawn. Only a dream and yet I fear returning to the same
dreamscape should I fall asleep again. I wonder what my colleague, a very
intellectual psychiatrist will say about this in the morning. I try on several
of his interpretations, a shadow figure, my animus, definitely a fear of my
masculine nature. I'm awakened by the garbage truck clanging in the street
below, relieved that it's time to shower and dress. Unaware that I've been
invited to commune with another self, I interpret that dream at breakfast and
dismiss it, but the experience of it can't be dismissed. This is the beginning
of my journey to uncover the secrets of this night intruder, and the beginning
of my stepping out of time.
I had this dream in the 80s and I still remember the cold sweat, the heart
palpitations, and the extreme anxiety; the anxiety feelings permeated the next
day and the next. This was not an ordinary nightmare!
At the time of the dream, I was very involved in private practice and
training in Psychosynthesis, a transpersonal approach to psychology, and
Focusing, with an excellent therapist in Los Angeles. Concurrently, I was
discovering integral psychology. My professional life was advancing and I had
been invited to Europe to introduce other professionals to these processes. My
personal life was very gratifying: a new marriage with a husband who understood
me on a soul level, and a beautiful new home, high on a mountaintop overlooking
Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. To top it off, I could walk to work to a new office
within one mile of my home.
From my perspective, it seemed that the trying times of graduate training and
a very painful divorce were in the near past. I felt launched in my new life,
able to confront any difficulties, and secure in my personal self. Moreover, my
beloved daughter was a student at a local college and every morning we'd walk on
Kailua Beach and commune with nature and one another, an intensely satisfying
experience for both of us. We'd always been close and now we could share our
innermost thoughts and feelings in that magical setting. Neither of us
understood why my dreams appeared to be ominous threats from a hostile intruder.
The Intruder Came Back!
The intruder came back! We had moved from our townhouse to our new home
recently. It doesn't matter. He found me! He's outside on the bedroom deck. The
black sky is studded with bright stars behind him as he crouches beneath the
screen door. Still, very still. He's not moving. I'm having difficulty
breathing. How did he get here? How did he find me? My confusion is intensifying
my fear. I'm helpless! God! How can I protect myself?
The morning after this dream I felt so vulnerable and frightened that I
sheepishly asked my husband how to use his handgun. He's a pilot, often gone on
long trips, and I was feeling almost paranoid, about being alone at night.
Delighted with the opportunity to teach me something, my husband procured the
gun from his drawer and proceeded to give me a long lecture on its care and
maintenance. Because I had not recovered from my evening visitation, I wasn't
paying much attention.
Am I awake or dreaming? How can I seek to protect myself from a nightmare by
learning to use a gun? Am I losing my grip on reality? Thank God Marlan never
asked me why I wanted to know how to use a gun. Nonetheless, I put that handgun
in the dresser next to my bed and I did feel a little comforted about my ability
to protect myself.
I certainly didn't discuss how my dream life was interfering with my daily life.
I was embarrassed about the gun and concerned about the interface that dream
reality was having with waking reality. When I hesitantly tried to mention this
dream to my colleagues, their interpretations seemed to reveal more about how
they viewed reality than about my nightmare. I had Jungian interpretations,
Freudian interpretations, biblical comparisons, primal approaches, and
philosophical discussions, but I could not dismiss that haunting dream.
Something unusual was happening. What?
My reality started to crumble. Without noticing the connection, I registered
for Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's seminar, "Life, Death and Transition."1 Elizabeth
suggested that I begin working with A Course In Miracles, and I bought a copy at
the seminar and promptly placed it in the same nightstand with that gun.2 (I'm
amused now by the juxtaposition of those two symbols of protection.) A Course in
Miracles philosophy speaks to the illusion of this dimension and the awakening
process, giving up protection of the personal self to awaken to the reality of a
greater Self. The gun was the greatest protection that the personal self could
find. My Higher Self must have a sense of humor. Of course, at the time I had no
inkling that something was getting out of focus.
All I could feel was the tightness in my throat and pounding heartbeat. The
more my heart pounded, the more frightened I became. Couldn't he hear my heart
pounding, crouched out there on the deck? Am I dreaming or am I awake? Beads of
sweat build up along my breasts and back. Fear fills the air around me. And then
I remembered the hand gun. Relief floods me as I quickly reach for it in the
drawer beneath me. Cold steel clutched in my hands. Oh, no! I don't know how to
take the safety off the gun. I can't move; I try and find I can't move. I'm
paralyzed with fear now. No one's here to protect me and that strange ominous
figure on the deck wants to murder me. I try to shout! My mouth is too dry and
the words don't come out.
I waken trying to speak, staring at the empty screen door and the black night
beyond. A dog is barking in the distant rain forest, the sound echoes in my
room. The night-time intruder again! Checking to see if my gun is still in the
drawer, I find it hard to believe that the drawer is closed, and I begin to
weep. Still tremulous with fear, I'm weeping with relief. I feel so vulnerable
and exposed. Someone has penetrated the boundaries of my psyche. Sitting up in
the tangled mess of sheets and pillows, I feel heavy with defeat as I turn on
the light. There will be no more sleep for me.
It didn't matter to me that others had gone through this, that there was a
tradition that could have helped me. I wanted this nightmare to stop. This was
the third visitation from the night intruder. I was beginning to feel like I
Through that day's work, seeing clients from 8 A.M. till 6 P.M., the dream
came back in flashes. The night ahead, loomed ominously before me. Because my
husband was on another trip, there would be no protection and probably no sleep.
I felt a deep sense of fatigue as I drove home with other nightmares from
childhood and early adulthood intruding on my thoughts. By the time I arrived
home it was dark, and I was feeling a degree of discomfort. The house looked
dark and foreboding. Even the twinkling stars and the last pink and purple
streaks of sunset did not comfort me. Dawn was an eternity away.
As I reflected it seemed that survival had always been the focus of my
awareness, with the greater part of my consciousness protecting me, but I knew
that buried deep within me was another self, a precious person that I
occasionally glimpsed. I remember the day when I lost her at a garden party on a
bright summer afternoon. She stooped down to observe a tiny creature in the
grass in a sparkling world that reflected the light in her soul. Her heart felt
near bursting with the color and the sound of life. "Vicki," her aunt called out
angrily and slapped her, "get out of that mud this instant! You're getting
filthy." This wasn't mud. This was an unfolding mystery. While she had been awed
by the world, her aunt had been angry. What did her aunt see? What happened?
Fear! Fear entered her life. How had it happened? There was no sudden storm, no
flash of lightning. There were only the sounds of people, her aunt, and a crowd
of family members milling about, but suddenly she felt different, different in a
way impossible to understand and difficult to share. They must never find out or
she would be in grave danger. How to keep the secret? How could she protect
herself? The fear grew into a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Perhaps by sharing nothing of herself, nothing of how she loved the world and
what she saw there, she could be safe. If she only focused on the others and
didn't ever, ever again say anything she felt or thought, especially anything
that touched her deeply, she'd be safe. So the little one buried her connection
within herself, she only remembered that something had been lost. Soon she lost
that memory as well.
The little girl within me began living for others, never feeling quite at
home in the world. There was always some whisper of danger but no indication of
the nature of the danger. She tried to become whatever she believed that others
wanted, and that left her at great risk. She attempted to use her mental
faculties to understand them and so she developed powers of discrimination and
analysis. Of course, she became a psychologist so she could understand others
and better protect herself, but the price she paid was the loss of some part of
her essential nature.4
Top-notch student, helpful sister, co-operative daughter, good wife,
nurturing mother, therapist, educator, and healer, only my audience shifted the
performance remained the same-Protector-Helper. As I reflected that evening I
realized that I only appeared to be protecting and helping the significant
others in my life, what I was really doing was protecting the lonely, frightened
child within me.
Now at forty-two my dreams were bringing me pictures that exposed my wounding
and betrayals, dreams that revealed that a frightened child still lived within
me. This child, in an effort at self-protection had erected a force field around
herself but the dream was penetrating that field.
My personal self's myth of Helper, Healer, Nurturer, had forced me to value
self-protection above all other states. Protection of myself and others had
become my ritual existence, forcing me to live the shadow side of protection as
well, and the shadow side of protection is destruction. I was betrayed into
harming myself and others. Protection had built an energy field about me so
powerful that only a great nightmare could penetrate it. As a psychotherapist I
was well aware that life events could cause a crisis that precipitated a
significant transformation--a devastating divorce, the loss of a career, and a
death of a loved-one often led to growth and expansion of the psyche. Even a
positive life experience could throw one out of balance and foster change but, I
didn't realize that a dream, a nightmare, could have that same transformative
Alerted by the crisis in dreamtime that something in my psyche was unbalanced,
this dream exposed wounding that had been storied from primitive times.
In the cool breeze of early morning trade winds, I'm tossing amidst the pillows
and sheets. Beneath closed lids, I feel an uneasy presence in the room. Looking
up I see the Intruder again at the door. Always stooped over, always painted in
browns and blacks, face hidden in the crouching posture. My pulse quickens my
breathing coming in gasps, as I reach toward the gun, moaning softly, "My God!"
Sweating, shaking and shivering, I grasp it in damp fingers, fumbling for the
safety. I'm reassured because I've been practicing with my husband. I've
actually fired the damn thing. With a violent movement I turn toward the screen
door and then I'm stopped. I don't want to harm him, merely to frighten him
badly and banish him entirely. Is this another dream or is this mythic visitor
from the dead actually here? Has he come to invite me to join that ancestral
Looking about for a target, I think, "No not the window." That'll smash and
make a mess I'll have to attend to. What about the carpet? Not that, it'll have
to be replaced. The dresser! I don't want to destroy the dresser. There's
nothing in the room that I'm willing to destroy through my violence.
My destiny had caught up with me, all the unanswered, unresolved questions of
my life, now confronted me from my inner world. "Oh my God I am heartily sorry
for all my sins..." As I continued my act of contrition, the gun dropped from my
paralyzed hand...suddenly that cosmic stillness was broken by the strains of
Stars are streaming by in the blackest sky I have ever seen. They are rivers of
stars and they disappear and reappear as though volumes of galaxies are being
opened before me. Flick, the pages of stars flick over in an ancient text. This
is "all that is!" The melody of the dream penetrates the space of it. There are
strings plucking at my soul, the color of the ancient harp painting a nebula as
it looms before me. I'm Home! I'm Home! This harp struck by a celestial guardian
will ever guide me home. My sound, my space, this is my being! Another sensation
is pervading the sound and the sight and space of all that I am. Gazing to my
left is the most beauteous of faces gazing back at me, holding my hands the
entire time. Our faces, our hands, our bodies are a symmetry. A double, a double
me, fashioned in masculine form, no larger, no smaller than me. We are the same!
My love, loving me. My being, being me. The same indescribable oneness, one with
the sound and the light and the vision of me.
Weeping, weeping for the joy of it, tears spilling off my cheeks and onto the
bedclothes beneath, ordinary light streaming in the windows, ordinary colors
fading the light of...I've been dreaming! The sound of it is still playing me.
This is the sound of home, and I'm weeping and desperately trying to clutch that
fading strain. I'm losing it.
I encountered death that dream night in 80s, and some part of my
consciousness never returned. Another aspect of my being was incarnated in the
same physical body. The emergence of the Higher Self in the dream had flooded my
being with love. I was straining with the tension of eternity and resisted
returning to the absurd, lackluster passivity of my daily abandonment.
While I celebrated this dream for its deeply personal and emotionally potent
force, I could not conceive how I could again connect. My double existed in
mystery, while my mortal self appeared condemned to the mundane. However, that
brief communion with the dream was urging me to partnership with my greater
nature. I was feeling and listening for the images of that dream, yearning to
catch that strain in contemporary music. Seeking that loving energy I followed
more closely, a sweep of color or a cascade of emotions. My training in the
depths of the psyche had not prepared me to understand the heights, and it was
years before I could speak about this experience. I held it close to my breast,
tried to penetrate its mystery and awaken to its presence.
The concluding dream, not only introduced the guide but it charted a
direction. It pictured an exhilarating opportunity to develop the potential
described in the dream, but that potential was both startling and terrifying.
How could I give up protection? Because I was such a sensitive little being
growing up, I had sought a way to protect myself without harming others. Being a
nurturer seemed perfect. I could hide behind the armor of protecting others and
I would be well protected myself. Of course, it didn't work. Childhood solutions
and interpretations for survival seldom succeed. They are buried with old toys
and outgrown clothes and we forget that we once chose this rusty armor.
Seeking to be protective, I was forced into strained situations and
artificial relations. It certainly didn't work well in my clinical training.
When I'd open my mouth, fellow students would make sounds like an ambulance
arriving on the scene. "Here comes Victoria to protect the client." "Good
therapist" was not going to fit the lineage of good girl, good student, good
wife, and good mother. I finally had to pretend to give up the supportive role
to get through the practicum course in counseling. The aggressor role was a very
uncomfortable suit of clothing for me. I never saw the path that the dream
intruder had illuminated in the final dream, the path between the way of the
protector--and the course of the aggressor--the way of the harmless. Because the
harmless have totally given up control, they are protected. Had I seen the
middle path earlier, I would not have recognized it in any case.
Concurrently, I explored the dream images. I asked my secretary, a practicing
Catholic, to write out the Act of Contrition for me. My daytime memory could not
produce the entire form of it even though I had recited it prayerfully in my
dream. The images of my early childhood training in the rights of "The Church,"
had been painfully repressed. But, I loved the ritual of that early experience
and wanted more ritual in my life. Not knowing how I could move in the direction
that the dream outlined, which seemed improbable for most and impossible for me,
I began to direct my attention more to my protective hard-shell. My daily prayer
became, "Above all else let me do no harm."
It was years before I identified the dream guide as an element of my Higher
In Psychosynthesis, a form of psychotherapy that I had been studying, the
personal self can be contacted by the Higher Self. Not looking for that kind of
devoted guardianship, I had to be hit over the head to awaken to the guidance,
care and loving direction from dream guidance. The dream process introduced me
to a spiritual connection that illustrates how we in ordinary reality can be
penetrated by the divine. The dream was the vehicle. Actually there are many
vehicles and the communication goes both ways.
We can ascend to the greater nature or it can descend into our life and even
our dreams Roberto Assagioli suggested many ways to approach the "Self" but he
hadn't discussed that the Self would descend from the dream world.
Roberto described the Higher Self as a center of unconditional love and a
distinct part of the personal self. The greater nature includes the qualities of
intuition, inspiration, creativity, ethical impulses and heroism. As the
personal self "quiets down" the Higher Self can emerge. It my case, the
emergence required a nightmare. It appears that I seldom quieted down. It only
required my surrender to emerge in conscious life but the dream guide had to
cause a crisis, to interface with ordinary reality. The final dream became a
vehicle for awareness of the superconscious state and an introduction to
Assagioli calls this process identification. When we identify with the
consciousness already within but resonating at a higher frequency, we are one
with it. The resonance between self and Self causes the emergence of a new
pattern, a template of greater consciousness, similar to the manner in which a
laser of a certain frequency causes an image to emerge from a multiple image
hologram. This dimension of being was revealed in my dream series because it was
always part of my existence, but a part that I dismissed in my early days. But
it remained, contained within my inner being as Assagioli suggested. The
alignment with the Self can bring breakthroughs into personal life, mystic
connections, and holistic experience. We can climb the ladder to the farthest
reaches of human nature by journeying within.
My fascination with the world of sleep had led me to question the world of
awakening. Which experience was more real? Certainly the phenomenal dreamscape
was more real than my ordinary life. The mystery that seemed essential to this
process was forcing me to grapple with daily life and struggle to find meaning
in my total life experience. I discovered that my dreams were intricate and
complex works of beauty, much like works of art and drama. They had meaning on
many levels simultaneously. As I played in dreamtime, I recognized that my
creativity expanded. I was stepping out of time.
Apparently, by being willing to enter the doorway to death in dream state, my
focus was being shifted from protection in ordinary reality. Those who report
near-death phenomenon state that experience of death alters consciousness.
Modern medicine rescues increasingly large numbers of individuals from the
throes of death. Frequently they recall the experience as they are resuscitated.
Intrigued by the near-death descriptions, several psychologists and physicians,
most notably Raymond Moody and Kenneth Ring, published the results of these
studies. Moody's popular books, Life after Life and Reflections of Life after
Life, detailed the same phenomenon that had been described almost 100 years
before in Richard Bucke's classic Cosmic Consciousness. The near death
experience, described in length in both the 8th century Tibetan Book of the Dead
and the 2500 year-old Egyptian Book of the Dead, is a universal experience, and
one that is becoming increasingly widespread. Compelling evidence from nearly 8
million adult Americans who have experienced an NDE, confirms the ancient
descriptions. The territory of the Otherworld is suffused with light more
brilliant than any incarnated on earth, celestial music emanates from welcoming
spirits, whose mellifluous tones harmonize with the prismatic light, and love
reaches out to embrace everyone in serenity and peace.
The crises of life when we are threatened with great loss, especially the
loss of life or the loss of loved ones bring us to the brink of the Otherworld.
That world, which had once seemed so nebulous, suddenly becomes more vivid.
It now appeared that the Otherworld could descend on us in ordinary
consciousness and transform us through transpersonal dreams or cosmic
consciousness, or we could rise to meet it in near-death experiences and altered
states. The traffic went both ways. These transformative dreams can often come
after periods of crisis, cycles of confusion or extreme physical pain.
Apparently, the shift from the habitual causes the personal self to relinquish
its hold to some extent. Then the Higher Self can come knocking at the door.
The surrender to death in that twilight state of consciousness, the dream
state had much the same effect. Survival was no longer the force of my
awareness, the large part of consciousness that had protected my survival was
released to experience other states of being. I had been initiated into a dream
process as ancient as man, and I was carried beyond, into realms of
consciousness that were familiar to early man. He storied these realms. He
painted them on cave walls and animal skins. He preserved these descriptions for
eternity. Many of these gifts from antiquity are still with us.
The death that I feared from the intruder had only brought me face-to-face
with the transcendent, the symbolic; the sacred had become undeniable. Many
Eastern religions believe that the world is illusory and only the spiritual
planes exist, 5 I had been bred on materialism and nursed on objectivity. My
paternal grandmother, fingering her rosary before the virgin shrine, lived in
the illusion of the ethereal. Perhaps she was in resonance with infinity, while
I was only on the playground with impersonal forces. There I had been found,
trapped in the dogma of science and there I had been introduced to the numinous.
Eventually, I discovered that unique dreams like mine continue a dialogue
across the centuries and over great distances. The tradition penetrated the
depths of the ice flows and the deepest jungles of a primitive planet. It spoke
from every major religious document and spiritual tradition and it permeated the
myths of every major civilization.
Those who lived within this tradition befriended a powerful unconscious force
and became partners with the transcendent, with the Higher Self. Those who
denied the tradition felt themselves victims or martyrs, abandoned on the edge
of the universe and controlled by forces they neither understood nor supported.
Their story is told and retold through the centuries and conveys the alienation
of the human separated from the sacred. Each of us journeys with the night-time
Shaman to encounter archetypal themes, consciously or unconsciously. Should we
leave the engagement out there in the twilight zone, or should we begin to live
out these themes consciously, bring them to the surface and step out of time.
1. Peck, M. S. (1978). The road less traveled. New York: Simon & Shuster.
2. Phillips. A. (1981). Transformational psychotherapy. New York: Elsevier
3. Keen, S. & Valley-Fox, A. (1989) Your mythic journey. Los Angeles: Tarcher.
4. Kubler-Ross, E. (1980) Hawaii Seminar.
5. Anonymous. (1975) A course in miracles. Tiburon: Foundation for Inner
Victoria A. Gamber, Ph.D., is a transpersonal psychologist, Associate
Professor of Psychology at Ottawa University. She maintained a private practice
in Colorado and Hawaii where she was the Director of the Focusing Network of
Hawaii, and former Director of the Transformational School of Hawaii. In
addition to supervising degree candidates in psychology, serving as a consultant
to the medical and business community, she facilitates of a variety of seminars
and workshops on transpersonal psychology.
She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in counseling and
pursued graduate work at the University of California (Berkeley) in philosophy,
and at Duquesne University in phenomenological psychology.
Victoria Gamber [firstname.lastname@example.org]